Before The 16th PsyWar : The US Air Force at Deragawa 1955-60

In 2007, I received several e-mails (below) from Jack Sokol and Dick Himes concerning their tour at the Deragawa Communication Compound before its renovation and occupation by the 16th PsyWar Company in 1962. Both Jack and Dick were Air Force personnel as the site was built by the Air Force before it was inherited by the 16th. The compound during that time did not contain the newer concrete buildings (Barracks, Mess, Transmitter, Generator) used by later Air Force personnel and then by the 16th PsyWar Company. All is gone today, but the site has been relocated (See Deragawa Rediscovered in 2007)

In March 2009, I received e-mail from Alan Champagne who also served in the Air Force at Deragawa, but from Sept 1958 to March 1960 after jack and Dick had left the Island. This new information from Alan only leaves a two year unaccounted period ( 1960-1962) in the history of the Deragawa site. Alan's e-mail and group picture of personnel at the site and new mail and pictures from Jack will appear below the previous communications by Jack and Dick Himes.

Account From Dick Himes (2007)

The above photo was provied by Dick Himes who was stationed at the Deragawa (Tairagawa) Transmitter Base on Okinawa from 1955-1956. This photo shows the site was active prior to being inherited by the 14th PsyWar Battalion. The following is an explanation provided by Dick:

I have finally located my box of photos from Okinawa 1955-56 and am attaching one that I took from the top of the 'new' microwave tower just after it was constructed during the summer of 1956."

"This photo shows our transmitter quonset hut operating in full force. We had a number of transmitters, mostly on teletype, crypto, some SSB, very little modulated voice. I think the most powerful units we had were 5000 watts, but many were 1000 watts and less. Housing was then located where your motorpool is shown in 1963. Our powerhouse and generator repair facilities were located almost exactly where your new barracks and mess hall were eventually constructed.

Two Accounts From Jack Sokol (2007)

Hi Tim..

To the subject of mutual interest. I don't know where the name Deragawa came from, but it may be the village of Tairagawa which was and still is about two miles from where the site was located. You will note that in speaking these two words, it would be easy for someone to assume that the name of the location began with a "D" as opposed to a "T". Personally, I think Deragawa and Tairagawa are one and the same place. You may remember when you left the site area by vehicle, you took that long somewhat winding road to the highway where if you turned right, it would take you to White Beach . If you turned left, you would go a short distance and then turn left again onto a main road which at that time would take you to Kadena AB. Well, as soon as you turned onto that main road, the village of Tairagawa was right there.

When I was there, it was the closest village where a G.I. could go to find the bars. As a matter of fact, sometimes we would walk back to the site after curfew taking the "short cut" thru the rice patties, hoping to have a full moon that night to light our way. "Toddy" evidentially became " Papa San" upon the withdrawal of the Air Force from the site. Yes, he was an Oriental Flim Flam man. He was provided with electricity when I was there, in fact that was one of Dick Himes' responsibilities as one of the two "Dinky Men" we had. He also had several vacant rooms where he lived in his little compound that we all rented from time to time for "entertaining" guests. Regarding our mission, we were the part of the 13th Communications Squadron, which was based at Kadena. The 13th was part of the 313th Air Division, which was part of the 5th AirForce.

At the site, we had circuits into Taiwan , Guam , Japan , the Phillipines and a few others. They were CW (Morris code) some voice transmission, and a few teletype (crypto) circuits. Of the twenty two assigned to the site, 17 of us had AFSC's (same as MOS) directly related to this function. The rest were the two "Dinky Men", and three Food Service personal. There were no other duties performed other than the usual daily military routines. I don't have a roster of personnel, but if you would like, I can communicate with some of the other guys, and maybe we can come up with most of the names from that time. Let me know.

I don't believe any of my group could shed any light on the "occupation" of the site in the mid sixties. As I believe I stated before, we were all gone by Fall of 1957. Hell, by 1965, I was already married and had two children. I'm trying to put together an album of pictures and artifacts from that time for our reunion in November. I have no problem trusting you with these most precious of memories, but it might be better considering your time constraints right now to wait until I return from that reunion. Any concrete or permanent type building that you saw or lived in when you were there, was not a part of our experience. I believe your web site referred to the excavation of an area at the site which revealed the remains of several Japanese soldiers from WWII. I had often wondered if the Japanese had used the site for the same purpose as we. Well, I think I've typed myself out for now, hope all of this helps you in your research..........

Hi Tim,

Glad to share more info regarding the transmitter site. Yes, I did see the photo of the compound from Dick Himes. As a matter of fact, Dick was one of our group at that time. Dick and his wife Mary came to see me this past Memorial Day weekend, and he will be one of the attendees at our reunion later this year.

It was our understanding back then that "Hauntabaru" meant "house on a hill" in Japanese or Okinawan. It was not the official name of any place to the best of my knowledge. If you were returning to the site by taxi, most drivers would know where to go if you told them "Hauntabaru." I received an e-mail from Dick last week, and he indicated he has been tied up with some family problem. I've had some prior knowledge of this situation, and I know it has kept him very busy along with his other activities.

Our group was part of the 13th Communications Squadron out of Kadena AB. Our main radio transmitters were BC610, or BC10, I'm not certain. We had four man crews on duty at all times. Each crew would work three day shifts, then three mid day shifts, and then three night shifts. Upon completion of that cycle, we were off duty for the next three days. Sometime during the summer of 1956, a major typhoon hit Okinawa , and destroyed our six man huts and I believe we were then quartered in the not yet completed micro wave building.

It is possible that the Air Force did use the new barracks but nobody in our group was involved in that. By the summer of 1957 all of us had rotated back to the states. I do have some pictures which I'll be glad to share with you if you give me a little time to get some copies made. Also, e-mailing is fine, but direct contact is even better. There is a lot I could tell you about those years and the site in particular, so if you ever want to call me, please feel free to do so....

Another thought, the land that the site was on was owned by an elderly Okinawan who lived right outside the gate in a house that had a stone wall in front of it. We called him "Toddy" and he and his crew performed the grounds maintenance on the site. Dick Himes went back to Okinawa in 1996, four years after I had gone back. Dick told me that "Toddy's" house still stands and that a paved road runs right thru where the gate was and that some kind of small business (child care center)? stands in the place where the transmitter shack once stood.

Jack Sokol

EDITOR'S NOTE: Alan Champaign's account of his tour from 1958 to 1960 follows. Alan's group lived in the newly constructed barracks built between 1957 and 1958. They also utilized the new transmitter and generator buildings. He mentioned that prior to his tour, the site was "run strictly military". That must have been a short period of time of a year from 1957 to 1958 since Jack Sokol and Dick Himes said their tour at Deragawa was anything but "strictly military." They departed Okinawa in 1957. Jack had this to say in recent mail (3/2009) in response to Alan's Account:

Tim, funny you should mention the differences between your tour, Alan's, and mine at the transmitter site. I was thinking the same thing when I was typing my earlier e-mail . Actually, I believe that most of the guys I served with at that transmitter site would say it was a good duty station. Yea, we were"poor' in the sense that our living conditions were nowhere near what our brother airmen had at Kadena A.B. but it was the same for all of us, and that made it tolerable. We did eat well in my opinion, and we hardly ever had to salute anybody because officers rarely made an appearance at the site. I included a few more pictures for your use.

Account From Alan Champaign (3/2009)

Hi, I'm Alan Champagne and I was stationed at Deragawa Transmitter Site as a technician from 9-'58 to 3-'60, the site was operated by AF 6313th Commron Squadron and later by 1962nd AACS Squadron/Group.  There were about 20 transmitters, 600W to 2.5KW, and a large antenna farm, mainly delta match doublets and rhombics.  We shot to Philippines, Japan, Guam and Hawaii and had air-to-ground and ship-to-shore circuits. We used the Phico CLR-7 MW as backup to landlines because the weather radar interrupted the MW signal ever 11 seconds.  Our sister site was Awase Transmitter Site and the receiver site was on Ie Shima. I hope my 50 year old memory is some what accurate.  After leaving the service in '61, I worked in Alaska, first on the White Alice System and continued with RCA/Alascom after they bought it from the Air Force till I retired in '88.  I also remember the bull fights and the Christmas party for the kids at the gate. 

The attached photo shows the eight techs, all Airmen, and two NCOs that worked at Deragawa (3 shifts/4 tricks); the rest lived in the barracks but worked at Awase. I am in the back row second from the right .  The photo was taken as the 6313 Comm was being merged into the 1962 AACS.  The site was run strictly military before I arrived.  The old techs talked about weapons and drills.   But by '58 that had all past, we had carbines on site for about 6 months, but only the boss, who lived in Kadena, and the house boy had keys to the gun locker.  In fact the house boy taught me how to take a carbine apart since they didn't teach this at Lackland; and all the time I was at Deragawa the main gate was never closed.  Click For Photo.

The house boys keep the place clean along with the cooks which were all locals, + the house girls witch came twice a day to make beds and bring back the clean clothes they washed in the creek down from the site, their service cost one large box of Oxydol a month, about $3.  We still had ration cards and detergent was expensive.  Everything being relative a beer was 15 cents at Kadena and a fifth of vodka 85 cents at White Beach.  Was the tomb at the backdoor of the barracks still there in 2007?  I will look for more photos.

Alan Champaign

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