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NEWS | April 29, 2015

Misawa Air Base Celebrates 70 Years of Bilateral Cooperation

By Dr. Richard Clark, 35th Fighter Wing History Office

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and the beginning of the strategic partnership between the United States and Japan.  In celebration, the theme of the 2015 Bilateral Enlisted Dining Out is "70 years of friendship."

The local bilateral relationship began in the wake of World War II.  The Japanese Imperial Navy established Misawa Air Base in 1938 as part of a plan to strike the west coast of the continental United States with long-range bombers.  The plan never came to fruition, and Misawa remained a sleepy outpost of the war until the U.S. Navy attacked the facility in July and August of 1945.  The August attack resulted in fires that destroyed approximately 90 percent of the base.

The first Americans at Misawa arrived under the leadership of Capt. Davis K. Stark, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  Stark received the task of rebuilding Misawa AB and beginning a relationship with the local community.  Initial tensions ran high in the area, and Capt Stark restricted soldiers to the airbase facilities.  Within a few years, the bilateral relationship with the local community had improved, and by 1948, the U.S. Air Force considered Misawa AB safe enough to host families with children.

The Korean War, which began in 1950, demonstrated the limitations of the United States' ability to both protect Japan and conduct combat operations in the region.  As a result, U.S. leadership encouraged the creation of an indigenous Japan self-defense force, and in 1954, the Government of Japan established the nation's air, maritime and ground defense forces.  The first members of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force arrived at Misawa AB in September of 1954 in preparation for Operation Sakura, the establishment of JASDF air control and warning operations at Misawa AB.

Meanwhile, Air Force leaders continued to build the U.S. military and Japanese civilian partnership.  In 1953, Misawa AB became the only combined military-civilian airfield in Japan when Japan Airlines began Monday through Friday stops at the local civilian air terminal.  The base community became increasingly integrated with the city beyond the fence as Misawa Soldiers, Airmen and families frequented local businesses and visited sites throughout the region.

In 1952, the U.S. Air Force established the 39th Air Division at Misawa AB, which was tasked with the command and control of all U.S. and Japanese air defense assets in the region.  In 1957, JASDF established the Japan Northern Air Defense Force Headquarters at Misawa to facilitate combined U.S.-Japanese operations.

Through the 1960s, the base's relationship with the local community remained strong, and both communities increasingly relied on each other.  In July 1960, Misawa AB and City firemen joined together to fight a fire that destroyed 14 buildings near the City Hall.  In the wake of the fire, the base community began collecting food and clothing to assist the 24 Japanese families displaced by the fire.

In January 1966, a cooking fire in a Japanese home near the front gate resulted in the destruction of 440 homes in the city's central business district.  Word of the fire quickly spread across base, and approximately 700 U.S. and Japanese military personnel left their duty stations to assist in rescue efforts.  Remarkably, there were no Japanese fatalities; city leaders attributed this fact to the rapid assistance of military personnel.  Only two U.S. Airmen were hospitalized and released as a result of injuries received while entering burning buildings to rescue civilians.

Operational cooperation between Japanese and American fighter aircraft have been a constant feature of Misawa AB since the 1970s and 1980s.  In 1978, JASDF's 3rd Air Wing relocated to Misawa AB bringing with it the 8th Tactical Fighter Squadron; the 3rd Air Wing also assumed command of the 3rd Tactical Fighter Squadron, which had arrived at Misawa in December 1971.  Eight months later, in November, 1978, Misawa AB hosted the first Exercise Cope North.  This joint exercise involved Dissimilar Air Combat Tactics scenarios between aircraft from the 3rd Air Wing from Misawa, the 3d Tactical Fighter Wing from Clark AB, Philippines, and the 2nd Air Wing from Chitose AB on Hokkaido.  It marked the first full-scale joint aerial exercise between the U.S. Air Force and JASDF.

In September 1981, and in celebration of the bilateral relationship, base leadership unveiled the F-86 static display at Risner Circle during the 2nd Annual Combined Japan-U.S. Air Show.  The aircraft had served with both U.S. Air Force and JASDF military forces, and the static display featured U.S. markings on the port and JASDF markings on the starboard sides.  Today, the USAF-JASDF F-86 stands as a reminder of the strength of the local bilateral friendship.

On June 6 of this year, Misawa AB will host a Bilateral Enlisted Dining Out at the Tohoku Enlisted Club Ballroom to celebrate 70 years of friendship.  Social hour begins at 6 p.m.  For ticket information please contact Master Sgt. Kimona Woodard at or Master Sgt. Thomas Capaldo at  The Dining Out organizers are Master Sgts. Simorrah Majors and Kevin Wasiewski.

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