A chopping experience ...

A true story told
by Leo Skelly

ONA Station Manager Yokota AFB also starring Paul Stark and Bill Parks

It happened due to their strong love of their homeland, far away from childhood soil, foreign air crews on mission in far away Japan. The noble thought dawned upon them to celebrate George Washington´s birthday, February 22, 1732. Now it´s February 22, 1969 Paul (World´s Greatest Navigator) Stark and F/E Bill Parks Somehow you figure with names like Paul Stark and Bill Parks F/E extraordinaire, and a night at the Kanto Civilian Club (our local watering hole), located on Tachikawa Air Force Base, that when I last saw them drinking with a bunch of Flying Tiger Pilots, I should have known that things were bound to get interesting.

February 22, 1732-February 22, 1969
I decided to head home and excused myself and after turning in at the Old Tachikawa Hotel. I was awakened by banging on the door and then the door being forced open and someone saying: - Come on, get up,we need you. Well, after all the Happy Hour drinks and post Happy Hour drinks, and essential Midnight Happy Hour drinks ... there was no way I could wake up. In other words I was uncouncious. Mixed drinks were $.15. You figure it out.
The next morning I got up and headed into the office to check on routine Sita traffic and messages from New York on aircraft movements and crew assignments. It was the middle of Feb 1969 and I had just taken over from Pineapple Bill Kononea, who was wise enough to get "incurable bronchitis" and ask to be sent back to Hawaii.
Pineapple Bill Kononea
Hail for George Washington in Tokyo!
Read Leo Skelly´s story!

Imperial Palace Tokyo

Hotel Korakuen, Tachikawa

So I'm sitting at my little desk in an 
office shared by other reps from Capitol 
airline and Saturn when an agent from 
Flying Tigers sticks his head in and says:  

- Skellysan, long distance phone call for you.  

We were handled by Flying Tigers both in Japan 
and Viet Nam. Thinking it was a call from 
downtown Tokyo I picked up the phone and 
identified myself.
A booming and very angry voice then asked me:
- Skelly ... what the hell is going on out 
Now I still think this is one of the pilots 
downtown so I say:
- Nothing. I just came in the office to check 
up on things.

There was silence for a few seconds and then 
the voice intoned ...
- Skelly .... this is Captain Starkloff, 
chief pilot. Too which I said:
- Oh .... when did you get into town?
- What are you? Nuts? We just got your cable!!
Still not understanding what was playing out 
before me I said:
- Okay.
  I used to send telexes all the time so 
what's he talking about?
So he says ....
- You don´t seem to understand, I´m in 
New York, not Tokyo, all the while getting 
louder and louder.

- We got your cable and you have this place 
in a f-----g uproar.

Now I experience a sinking feeling that there is something going on I dont know about. But Starkloff presses on. It was Friday night around 12 PM when you figure the time difference. And he says: - Let me refresh you memory ... here I'll read it. The following words were burned into my memory. Quote "Have urgent situation here. Nav.Stark and F/E Parks were apprehended in the Imperial Palace last night downtown Tokyo. They were caught in the act of chopping down cherry tree. When questioned by Japanese police their explanation was it was in honor of George Washington's Birthday. They are presently in jail. State Department here very upset. Military very upset. Please advise what I should do? End of MSG Skelly"
Now, I know we were all blitzed, but I knew I did not send it. So I said: - I didn't send that. Starkloff: B------T! Then God came to my rescue. - You said it was a cable? Why would I use a cable when I have the Sita/Telex machine right here in my office? Starkloff: So you didn't send it? Leo: No sir. Starkloff: Well, let me tell you something ... we´re getting a replacement crew ready to commercial out tomorrow morning and Hinckley has been on the phone to Washington for the last hour.

New Takanawa Prince Hotel, Tokyo
Flying Tigers
Leo: Oh. Starkloff: Where's Stark? Leo: As far as I know he's at the hotel. Starkloff: You have him call me at home right now, here's my number. Leo: ( ... and this was really a dumb thing to say) - What if I can t find him? Starkloff: YOU WILL FIND HIM! I hung up and called the hotel. - Let me have Mr. Stark´s room please, I asked the hotel operator. Now I´m starting to think, what´s going on? Stark´s sweet voice: - Hello? Leo: Paul, we're in trouble. Starkloff just called here and he told me they got a message that you and Parks are in jail for chopping down some G-- ----d cherry tree last night. What are we going to do? Stark: Oh my God .... you're kidding me. Leo: This is what´s happening ... New York is in an uproar, Hinckley is going crazy and Starkloff sounds like he's going to fire all of us. Paul, we´re in hot water. Stark: Why those s--- -- -------s Flying Tiger guys. We were all drinking at the C club. Like old times. Yeah ... drinking to ol´ George Himself. Great president,don't you think? Leo: Paul, have you lost your mind. He thinks I did it. But I told him I wouldn't send a cable but use the telex here in the office. Paul, he wants you to call him at home, here's his number. Paul, you're not flying for the next two days ... see you at the club tonight?
Paul: Well, I have to find the wheel barrow they used to bring me home, but I'll see you there for Happy Hour.

I later learned from Paul that when he called Starkloff, the conversation went sort of like this. (Note: it´s now 2 AM in NY) Paul: How´ya doing there Starkloffy ... what's up? Starkloff: Paul, I know you did it but I can´t prove it. Paul: Starkloffy, it must have been those guys at Flying Tigers. They do things like that.
Starkloff: (Thinks of the Caine Mutiny) - I know you did it, I know you did it!! Things were quiet for a while til Paul and the A Team (Bob Love, Bill Mogey, Parks and Stark) showed up the following month. Paul's new idea was to start painting nose art on the DC 8's. The first was RUETTL with a green Turtle. I later heard it stayed there until the aircraft went thru maintenance and one of the big shots inquired: - What the h--- is that? Take that thing off! And that´s how I remember George Washington´s Birthday celebrations in Tokyo in 1969.

Imperial Palace Tokyo