Ruins of the USAF base Camp Drake in Japan

MJG Haikyo, Military Installations, Saitama 341 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:

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Comments 341

  1. David I was in the 1967 comm sq and worked in the little pentagon from April 1970 to May of 1972.i worked in radio relay along with Microwave and Tech Control sections. The hospital was at North Camp drake and the radio station FEN was located at South Drake. If you were a listener, the main station ID was… “broadcasting from the heart of the world’s largest city, you’re listening to FEN the fa r east network, eight ten on your dail , Tokyo!” played some damn great music too.

    1. Danny, I was at camp drake 1968 till 1972 at UPS in the Switching center my name is Tim Burke. Lived at Grant Heights. Loved it there. Give me a reply at tjaburke48@yahoo. com

      1. Tim,
        I was at Camp Frake 1970-1972, stationed at communication center. Shift work at first then days doing CIM reports.

        Last few months lived in Hreen Park since wife was pregnant.

        Great experience.

  2. I was a medic at the 249th from june 1968 to jan 1970; had a great time in Japan while not working at the hospital……..

    1. Hello George. Just want to say hi and let you know that I remember you clearly. I just saw your post from last June. I wonder, if we passed on the street, would we recognize each other. How are you? Where do you live and how has life treated you since Camp Drake? If you can’t remember who I am, I was a corpsman in the ICU from 6/68 to early 1970. Just shy of 2 years. A mutual friend was Jack O’Keefe. I remember the trip we made to southern Honshu. I hope this reaches you and finds you healthy and happy. Sincerely, Virgil Olivas

    2. Hello George. Just want to say hi and let you know that I remember you clearly. I just saw your post from last June. I wonder, if we passed on the street, would we recognize each other. How are you? Where do you live and how has life treated you since Camp Drake? If you can’t remember who I am, I was a corpsman in the ICU from 6/68 to early 1970. Just shy of 2 years. A mutual friend was Jack O’Keefe. I remember the trip we made to southern Honshu. I hope this reaches you and finds you healthy and happy. Sincerely, Virgil Olivas volivas8557@gmail.com

    3. I was medivaced from VN to the 249th on the 29-30th of June 1969. Gunshot wound in my left side, rupturing my spleen, broke all ribs on left side, and puncture my left lung. Medical care was excellent! Saw a lot of soldiers in real bad shape and several pass away from injuries while there. Watch the moon landing on tv while I was there. I was there for 6 weeks and then sent to Korea for remaining time.
      Freddy Odom

      1. I was a little girl living on Camp Drake during the moon landing and my father was a surgeon at the 249th hospital there.His time there impacted him greatly as he saw so many terrible injuries and he became an advocate for wounded warriors.I stumbled across this as I was working up a lesson plan to do for my grandchildren while they are home from school during the corona quarantine which probably is nothing compared to the Vietnam war.

  3. I was at Camp Drake from 1966-1969 in Communications (ASA). I believe the bunker picture is the commo bunker. Though it has been along time, might be wrong. Good memories and friends.
    Joe Woods 72B20, Trick C

        1. Paul,
          You worked in the Terminal Section. I was the Terminal NCOIC during that time. Have you had any more trouble with your upper arm? Have you ever heard from Tommy Lang?

    1. JOE
      I was also at Drake from July 66-68 72B Comm center C trick SFC Stinson great duty do you remember
      Bob Marlow, Michael Martinson, Steve Wagner Bob Dearly
      Hope all is well

    2. Joe Woods, I do remember your name. I was at Camp Drake (ASA) from 1966-1968 as a TTY repairman. (31J20) or (341). I am fairly sure I was also on Trick C for most of my tour there. I was on the PM Team for a short time after arrival. Also, good memories and friends.

  4. I was stationed at the Owada RTTY receiver site that was collocated with US Army Dog company of the Signal unit located at Camp Drake. I was there from Oct, 1953-Oct, 1955. I maintained the Microwave repeater at Owada. There were about 28 AF and around 90 Army.
    Charles Spada
    Faar90@comcast.net

  5. I was in Camp Drake from 1968 to 1970. Radio-relay repairman. Slept in the old barracks, during seismic the bunk beds danced across the room.

  6. I was stationed at Camp Drake from about June of 1955 until August 1957. I was billeted with Hq & Hq Btry. First with the IX Corps Artillery then with 1st Cav. Div. Arty. I was in the IX Corps and then the 1st Cav Div Artillery Drum and Bugle Corps. To be terribly honest, I couldn’t recognize any thing of the photos except the possibility of the old guard shack.

  7. Stationed at Camp Drake 1971-1972; arrived just after hospital shut down.
    72B20 / Burkhalter and McCaughey were NCOs, Burkhalter promoted to WO while I was there, don’t remember their first names.
    Was one of the last ASA to leave when they shut down CUJ and the AF switch took over the circuits.
    Lots of memories.

  8. First off, Mike, thank you so much for the pics and your thoughts–it’s fun to see what it’s like at Drake today!

    I was assigned to Camp Drake from March, 76 – March 79. In those days Drake was pretty much completely shut down, so those assigned there were actually stationed at Yokota AB, about 20 kilometers away. The only missions there at that time were Armed Forces Radio and Television Service – Far East Network (FEN) Radio and the Bakery that served the commissaries and mess halls of local bases on South Camp Drake and the 1956 Comm Group’s AUTODIN switch (communications hub for all secure communications in the Far East) on North Camp Drake. The Switch complex included the main comms building (bunker-like building which you surmised was a commissary or mess hall) the UPS building that kept it going for 15 minutes (just long enough to shut it all down) when it lost public power and a couple of rooms that served as non-secure tech control in the old “pentagon” building across the street. Aside from these, everything else at Drake had already been closed down and had started to get overgrown in many places. Those of us who where assigned there were asked to wear civies to and from duty so as not to draw attention to ourselves as we took the 20 kilo trip through the Tokyo suburbs each day. Funny thing was, those who didn’t drive themselves took a big blue American-style Air Force school bus to and from–not that that would attract any attention!

    The reason for high security in that area (4 separate fences each with it’s own cypher-locked gate) was because of what the main comms building contained and what its mission was. Functionally, all SECURE military communications for the Far East was routed through that facility. About half the building was the “computer” that did the routing and a small tech control operation. The other half of the building (behind yet another layer of physical security) contained somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 KW-26 ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KW-26 ) and KG-13 ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KG-13 ) Cryptographic (encryption/decryption) systems–one set for each communication line. (notice the raised floor in the pic of the flooded building above. There was as much wire below that floor as there were machines above it!) The KW-26’s were pretty old-school–even at that time–as they were developed in the 1950’s and were extremely high voltage vacuum tube and core driven machines–transmitting at 75 (yes, seventy-five) baud! They threw off a tremendous amount of heat. The KG-13’s on the other hand where state-of-the-art… They used transistors of all things and transmitted at a blazing (for its day) 9600 baud. So that all this equipment ran properly, the Crypto room was kept at 57 degrees at all times. One of the buildings shown above contained the air conditioning systems that pumped so much cold air into that super-sealed building that its internal air pressure was about twice that of the outside. This necessitated the main entry/exit to the building be a double pressure door airlock system. If both doors were accidentally opened at the same time, rapid decompression–similar to what happens when an airliner blows a window–would occur. I spent my three years there in that crypto room, serving as an Electronic Communications and Cryptographic Equipment Systems Technician–AFCS 306X0. Most fun I’ve ever had at work, my entire career!

    1. I’m Al Harmon and was there From Jan 1971 until we were “early out” in April 1972. Lived in Grant Heights until they moved us to (?) for the last few months. Worked on KW-26 until I became TAMS clerk for last 6 months.

    2. JACK,
      Worked in 306X0 as well. Worked the MID Shift mostly from 1970 – 1973. Always wore our field jackets. Yes very enjoyable site to work at.
      Early on when passing by the Hospital it was kinda disturbing lots pain in that hospital.

  9. I just happened on this site tonight at work. I was stationed at South Camp Drake from 1961 to 1966 – some of the best times in my life!! I was an engineer with the Far East Network. We used facilities at North Camp Drake for chow, medical, NCO Club etc. Oh yes, I remember the Corner Bar – Toshiko was the manager/owner at the time. I had a couple of girl friends from there. Had a few others from some of the organizations also. I was engineer for our broadcast of Olympics in 1964 and as such got to go to many of the events along with Opening and Closing ceremonies – great memories. I had a Red 1966 Mustang GT and a small Boat that I took to some of the lakes and also took the river near Asaka down to Tokyo Bay. Had a Japanese friend that got me into many of the Membership Clubs in Tokyo and frequented the New Latin Quarter and the Mikado. Got to get back to work but will be back – I also want to look through all of the posts here to bring back more memories. People used to call me Dan back then. deburth@gmail.com

  10. I was wounded and sent to the 249 in 1970 had great care there I think cant remember I was there at least eight ten weeks then sent to valley forge another great care hospital thanks Don

  11. Paul,
    You worked in the Terminal Section. I was the Terminal NCOIC during that time. Have you had any more trouble with your upper arm? Have you ever heard from Tommy Lang?

  12. I worked at Csmp Drake from 1981 to 1983 we would ride a bus from Yokota Air Base. Only thing opened then was the Autodin switch & the Primary Tech Contol where I worked.

  13. Hi. I was stationed at Drake from 1966-68 Tech controller in Comm center 30750. Enjoyed reading all these wonderful memories from all your postings. Best 2 years I served

  14. Paul
    remember you and Bill, was there the same time, Talked to Bill and Shea not to long ago.Hope you are fine

  15. I was stationed at North Camp Drake from 1972 through 1974 in the 1967th Communications Squadron and worked in Tech Control. When I arrived onsite the base was very active, but by the time I left in 1974 things had started winding down, with many of the support facilities closed. I lived at Grant Heights and on the economy for the last year. I enjoyed my time there and would enjoy going back to see what it looks like now.

  16. Hi Everyone.

    I was stationed with the 500th INTC North Camp 1962-65. Remember it well. Would like to hear from others. Stay well all

    Dick Faucher

  17. @Tom Hawkins – Greetings from Dave Starkweather. When you left Japan, you were living in the following off-base apartment and you sold me the furniture etc that you were leaving behind and helped me communicate and rent the apartment from the landlord. Remember? Ha Ha! Can’t believe I remembered and recognized your name here!

    Aburiso Apts, Apt G, 10-38, 4 chome hizaori-cho, asaka city, saitama prefecture, Japan

    Dave

  18. Just a shot in the dark but I was a British teacher in Tokyo from 1980 to 1990, and I met a Jane Trinkle who was very big on the international scene, being an English language teacher and writer for the Tokyo Weekender magazine. Sorry to waste your time but I was taking a trip down memory lane and followed a few internet leads and found this (unrelated)post. Thank you anyway for your time!

  19. Charlie Johnson At Camp Drake 4/71 until closure of the Unit in late 72 if i recall correctly. I worked in the S2 and MP. Then on to Okinawa for 1973, again in S2, then onto Augsburg Germany for 4 years, in Command Group as Headquarters Commandant for FS Augsburg. What a life!

  20. 1961-1964 we lived at Grant Heights and I attended DeMolay meetings at South Camp Drake sponsered by Moriama (sp) Lodge #7. Golf course was a great place to lay back and watch the stars. Good times back then.

  21. I was stationed with the 249th General Hospital from arrival in November 1965 to 1968. Was a personnel Sergeant/Medical Records Sergeant. Lived at Grant Heights.

  22. I worked across the street at FEN, doing radio news 4 p.m. to midnight. Working next to a golf course and swimming pool was a wecomed change from Vietnam.
    Good memories. Crossed the street for movies, great food at the snack bar and club. Running battle with the Grant Heights officers wives over bringing our Japanese girlfriends to the pool. A little jealousy about the pretty natives in their bikinis.
    I remember watching Japanese high school kids paying Kendo after school and JSDF guys drilling fairly close to the golf course.
    There were some abandoned building close to FEN. I was told that area was a training school during WWII. There was also a large building, also adjoining the greens. I was told that it was some sort of headquarters during the Occupation.
    And I distincly remember that “running the Han” was one of our favorite passtimes.

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