Rebecca West: Words & Music

Arrival at K-13

by Bob West

My voyage from San Francisco to Yokohama, Japan, on the USS Breckenridge took 12 days. To do work that I was interested in (and to avoid KP duty) I volunteered to work on the ship's daily newspaper. The work was done on mimeograph stencils. I lettered and illustrated the masthead and a few other items myself using a stylus, and then I inserted cartoons and other items from a mimeograph press service. The ship's chaplain, his staff, and other volunteers wrote, edited, and typed the rest. (I am fourth from the left in the photo.)

Ship Newspaper Staff

Long, long discouraging lines of troops waiting to buy a cup of coffee, candy, or other snacks wrap around the wall of the ship in these photos.

Troops on ship deck
Troops on ship deck

As I write this over 56 years later, I don't remember much about the experience of traveling from Yokohama to Camp Fuchu. So, the following excerpt from my comic strip, "Over and Back, Part III, Land of the Rising Sun," which was done a few weeks after the fact, may have been cartoon humor. Then again, it may have been factual.

Excerpt Over & Back cartoon

The following two photos were taken at Camp Fuchu, Japan, on February 14, 1954. In the top photo my new friend and I are standing in front of Tent 723, where I lived while processing for our move to South Korea. (I am the one on the left.) Our processing included changing our American money into Military Payment Certificates (commonly known as MPC) and receiving combat winterized clothing. The other photo is of the tent area main street ("Mud Alley"). We are on our way to chow in a terrific downpour of snow.

Camp Fuchu, Tent 723
Camp Fuchu, Mud Alley

When our processing at Camp Fuchu was over, I boarded an aircraft and was flown to K-13, Suwon, Korea, where I was assigned to the Comptroller Drafting Department at 8th Fighter Bomber Wing headquarters. Our department was located in the quonset hut shown below.

Bob at work
Drafting Department quonset hut
8th Fighter Bomber Wing sign

There were three others working with me in the drafting department. Our most important job seemed to be keeping the charts in the Wing Commander's conference room up to date. But there were plenty of other art, drafting, and lettering assignments too. And of course there was also the new project that I had been thinking about from the time I left California.

In my spare time I prepared the art for the first episode of "Over and Back." Then I showed it to the editor of "Hobo Herald", the base newspaper that was published twice a month. I told him about my idea of doing a new episode of Airman Smith's adventures in Korea to appear in each issue for a whole year. He liked the idea and the cartoon series became part of my job. Soon it would also be published in other base newspapers in South Korea and Japan.

It was episode number six by the time Airman Smith got his assignment. I decided to make him a photographer, so I could use him anywhere on base in a variety of situations. Below is a portion of the sixth episode. I was still experimenting with technique. The series began with more of a slapstick cartoon technique, but at times I wanted to do something more realistic. In this one you may notice that Airman Smith's cartoon head doesn't quite go with the more realistic rendering of his body and the scenes in the background.

Excerpt Over & Back Part 6 cartoon

All of this time Sylvia and I were writing to each other every day. Some days there would be no mail. Other days several of her letters would arrive. And then one day she told me something I wasn't expecting!

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