W.F. Bellais II
(Note: This is a continuation of stories from A Boy’s Adventure.)
Three ornamental feathers adorned their black berets pinned into place by a brass badge centered on the beret proudly depicting the armorial heritage of the Royal Irish Fusiliers completed their insignia. A regiment of the British Army from Northern Ireland the Irish Fusiliers filled the British Common-wealth order of battle in Korea.
On an adventure to Tokyo the boy found the Maple Leaf Club when he wandered the exotic streets of the Ginza District. There, hanging over the sidewalk a small sign on which a red maple leaf glowed out of all the visual distractions of the Ginza District along with the words, “Members of the U.N. Forces in Asia Welcome.”
The boy thought, “That’s me. I’m a member of the U.N. Forces in Asia.”
Under the sign were steps leading to the second floor. A very attractive blond woman wearing a Red Cross military-style brown uniform greeted the boy at the top of the steps. She smiled and invited him into the main canteen. In the room tables and booths gave the room the look of a local café. Along with the United Nations and American flags the banners of the Commonwealth nations providing
forces to the United Nations Command in Korea decorated the walls. A large color photograph of the young Queen Elizabeth II added decorum to the place and her gracious smile cheered the room. However, the graciousness of the Canadian Red Cross women leant more warmth to the Maple Leaf Club than a royal photograph. The boy, after discovering the Maple Leaf Club, visited every time he had liberty. In fact, he had visited it so often he had made friends who would plan to rendez-vous at the club and then take off to see the sights of the Ginza and greater Tokyo.
These Fusiliers, four of them, had been drinking Carlings Red Cap Ale in the Maple Leaf Club in Tokyo’s Ginza District most of an afternoon. The Canadian Red Cross club served Commonwealth troops on rest and relaxation, or R&R, from Korea. Usually in the club one would find New Zealanders, Australians, Canadians, Scots, Welsh, and Englishmen. American soldiers, airmen, and marines found a home there also. The Americans caroused with Commonwealth comrades, who are the best carousers ih the world, traded war stories and drank ale or beer until they collapsed. Australians, New Zealanders, Brits, and the Irish were especially better suited for long term drinking than Americans, regardless of their branch of service. Because of orders he had the boy knew this to the last evening at the Maple Leaf Club. The Irish Fusiliers were drinking when he arrived and because the boy was a U.S. Marine and marines had a reputation for being tough and heavy consumers of alcohol, they invited the boy to join them.
In Irish brogues they shouted in unison, “Marine, hey thereMaine, come have a pint with us!”
Being the only marine in the room the boy knew they meant him. In fact, the invitation flattered him. He liked being with Commonwealth soldiers and he had never met men who spoke as they did. He sat down at the booth, shoving in on a bench that already held two men and asked, “What do those feathers stand for?”
“Bravery under fire,” one joked. Another said, “The number of pints we are allowed to have.” Then another said, “The altitude we fly when we are airborne.” Finally, one added, “Stupidity times three.”
The boy realized they were jibbing him and he asked, “Where are you guys from and what accent do you have?”
One of the Fusiliers asked, “Where do you come from and why is your accent so
“I’m American and I have a standard American accent.”
“A standard American accent; I thought you had a U.S. Marine Corps accent,”
one of them joked.
The Fusilier sitting next to the boy said, “Join us for this Canadian excuse for ale,
why don’t you?”
The boy agreed but told the group he had a train to catch and had to have some-thing to eat before he left. They assured the boy he would not miss his train and he would be their guest for a good meal there at the club. They polished off liter after liter of Carlings Red Cap Ale and the Fusiliers became more and more intoxicated. The boy also began to feel the effects of too much ale also. Nevertheless, the boy kept some of his wits alert and he reminded himself several times that his train departed the Tokyo Railroad Train Office (the RTO) precisely at eight thirty in the evening. However, every time the boy attempted to leave the group they, in drunken stupors, insisted he stay for one more pint. By six thirty that evening over eight bottles of ale sat in front of him. Four remained full and had not touched his lips.
Finally at eight he said, “I’ve had a great time, chaps. I have to go now, my train
leaves in thirty minutes.” By this time the berets had fallen off the Fusiliers’ heads and feathers littered the floor. The boy struggled to free himself from their insis-tence to “have another pint” and succeeded.
Racing to the street level of the Ginza, the boy found a taxi. He asked the driver to get him to the Main RTO as fast as possible. He closed his eyes and kept waiting for the crunch of metal as the cab raced through the city missing automobiles, rickshaws, and trolleys by inches. The driver never broke a sweat but the boy felt perspiration drip from under his arms and down his forehead into his eyes. He looked at the station clock—ten minutes after eight. He could still make it.
Never without a crowd to jam the main waiting area and the platforms of the RTO had the push of people slowed the boy down. He thought, “More people than I experienced before; must be some sort of holiday.” Pushing on he found the steps leading to platform for the train taking him back to Gotemba. Actually, it would be a train to take him to a connection to the steam train to take him to Gotemba. People and more people filled the stair case of twenty steps; some going down but most going up. A train had just arrived. The boy attempted to weave through the crowd going opposite to his direction. He stumbled, pushed a small child back-wards, then a woman in kimono, and finally caught himself on the shoulders of a young man. Breathlessly he arrived at the bottom of steps. On stepping to the platform floor he saw his train depart; the time, precisely, eight thirty in the evening. Japanese trains always leave on time; never a second earlier or later.
The boy stood there exhausted. The effects of Carling Red Cap Ale had dissipated and he faced sober reality. The sober reality of the possibility of being absent with-out leave (AWOL) meant maybe an Article 51 and reduction to PFC. An Article 51 punishment came without a courts-martial and the loss of a stripe meant embar-rassment he could not fathom. All of these potentials needed immediate solution. He thought his first task to be finding out when the next train would leave. If it left in the next two hours, there would be no danger of any sort of punishment. Then he realized disheveled condition of his uniform, Marine Greens, could mean trouble also. Describing his uniform as disheveled did not accurately tell the story. Stains of Carling Red Cap Ale were barely apparent, he had his “fore and aft” cap, and he word his green jacket and trousers correctly; the problem, his Marine Corps insignia had been given away to the Fusiliers. No insignia on his lapels and on his cap meant he faced the charge of being “out of uniform.” He looked around for military police, seeing none he felt relieved. Nevertheless, his problems remained unsolved.
Finding someone at an information center, the boy needed to know when the next train departed for his destination. A man in a black uniform told him the next train departed at two in the morning. Now the boy knew he faced a dilemma. He needed to be in the barracks by five; a train leaving at two in the morning meant he would arrive late and would be AWOL! A train departed in three hours for Numazu a town south of his destination. He planned to take that one then catch a train to Gotemba and arrive on time. However, he did not know if a train for Gotemba connected, but assured a connection could be made he relaxed.
So, what to do for three hours became the next question. He looked about for military police again and again seeing none he decided to go to the Main RTO to look for something to eat.
The boy had never eaten at the RTO dining room. He had stayed in the RTO hotel, which had its own dining room, but this one catered to passengers not guests. He entered the dining room and immediately a small man in a black suit greeted him. He spoke some English but clearly not as much as the boy needed him to speak. Now the boy felt embarrassed for not knowing Japanese. Nevertheless, the greeting, cheerful, made it impossible for the boy to walk out. Directed to a table, he sat wondering what he could eat. The maitre de apologized for the lack of a menu in English but the boy indicated that he did not need one. He waved for a waitress to come to the table.
The boy said to her, “I would like a bowl of rice with milk and sugar.” She said, “I am sorry, sir, I do not speak English.” The boy said, “Rice, milk, sugar.” The waitress went to the maitre de for help. He came back to the table. He said to the boy, “Sir, she does not understand; you want ‘rice, milk, sugar?'” “Yes, a bowl of rice with milk and sugar.”
By this time several of the staff had gathered around the boy’s table. They began to giggle when they finally understood what the boy had asked for. The maitre de said, “Putting milk and sugar on rice is unusual, sir, but we will do it.”
A few minutes later the waitress returned with a bowl of steaming rice covered in
butter, milk, and sugar. She asked if he wanted tea, and he replied he did. As he began to eat everyone in the dining room looked on.
When the maitre de returned to the table the boy said, “I suppose I asked for the
wrong thing.” “Oh, no sir; we have not ever served rice with milk and sugar.” “How much does it cost?” “Sir, we have enjoyed watching you eat. There is no cost.”
The boy still had two hours to kill before the train to Numazu departed. As he sat in the station waiting he promised himself, if there ever was to be a next trip to the Maple Leaf Club, he would avoid the Irish Fusiliers.