Time Machine: Nick Zappetti talks about the early years in Japan
This interview with Nick Zappetti, the central figure in Tokyo Underworld, focuses on his activities in the years 1945-1956. First in a two-part series.
1945 - Omura, Nagasaki, “Geisha House”
Nick Zappetti: I went into a Marine fighter squadron. I was the first sergeant of a headquarters squadron on Okinawa. In the end of May 1945, the Japanese landed a kamikaze airplane on that strip. Like a DC-3. One or two. And these guys were wearing silk pajamas. Greens. Yellows. They tore the base up. Because it was a suicide mission. They were eventually all killed. Or captured. Or something.
The war ended and we flew up to Omura, Kyushu. What they called Air Base Command. Omura, Kyushu, is near the Sasebo Naval Base. Omura’s where the airport is now. Well, it used to be a big grass mat, back then. That’s all it was. And it had hangars. They were all perforated. Bullet holes all over them. Inside the hangars there was nothing but big torpedoes. Planes. You name it. But they had no gasoline. They couldn’t fly the airplanes. And all the propellers were taken off the airplanes, because the Japanese had given up, the war was ended and they were ordered to take off the props of the planes so they couldn’t be used. And I remember there was a Japanese admiral there. I guess he was the commander of the base. He had his soldiers lined up to turn over the base. But we not authorized to touch him because we were … I was the highest ranking guy there and I was only a staff sergeant.
We flew up in B-25s.Oh, I imagine there must have been about 20 or 30 of us. All Marines. Enlisted men. A few officers. I was a first sergeant. First sergeant is always in charge. The officers were not administrative officers. They were pilots. And that’s when they had FOU’s. You know, the Corsair. And the objective was to fly low over the neighborhood and terrorize the Japanese with the sound of the airplane. This was after we landed. A little later after Aug. 15 or 16, when the war ended.
Robert Whiting: And so you landed, and these guys were waiting to turn over the base to you?
A: Yeah. But we couldn’t touch it. We had to bring in another person the same rank they are to do that. That situation only lasted a couple of days. Then some wheel must have come in and taken over the base.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Robert Whiting's Japan to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.