STARK & PARKS IN TOKYO
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
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.
YOKOTA AIR FORCE BASE
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
- 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
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
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:
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
"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.
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
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:
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
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
(Note: it´s now 2 AM in NY)
Paul: How´ya doing there Starkloffy ...
Starkloff: Paul, I know you did it but I can´t
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
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