Olympiad – Military style
While some of the troopers continued to await the arrival of the good ole’ American jeeps to replace the coal-burning vehicles in Japan, General Swing was striving to make the occupation as bearable as possible. They had endured some horrendous hardships and accomplished more than anyone expected from them and he felt they deserved whatever he could provide. On his orders, a Japanese auditorium was transformed into the 11th Airborne Coliseum. The complex was large enough to hold a theater that would seat 2,500, four basketball courts, a poolroom with 100 tables, a boxing arena that held 4,000 spectators, six bowling alleys and a training room.
Aside from the sports theme, the coliseum contained a Special Services office, a snack bar, a Red Cross office and a library. I can just picture my father spending some off-duty time in the poolroom or bowling alley. When I was growing up, we had a pool table in the basement and Smitty would teach me how every shot was related to angles and geometry. My aim improved – once I figured it out.
In the fall of 1945, an Olympiad was held in Tokyo for all the troops stationed in Japan and Korea. Football became the highlighted game. The 11th A/B Division coach, Lt. Eugene Bruce brought them to winning the Japan-Korea championship. They then went on to take the Hawaiian All-Stars in Mejii Stadium with a score of 18-0. This meant that the 11th Airborne Division held the All-Pacific Championship. The troopers went on to win in so many other sports that by the time the finals were held for the boxing tournament at Sendai, the headlines read in the Stars and Stripes sports section:
Ho-Hum, It’s the Angels Again”
On the reverse side of the photo seen above, Smitty wrote, “This is the hotel where we are now staying. That dot in the driveway is me.” The 11th A/B commander had made his home here on 16 September. After the occupation, it re-opened for business as a hotel, but unfortunately was destroyed by fire on 2 March 1969.
The division had a reputation for mission accomplishment despite being nearly half the size of other divisions. This was often attributed to their somewhat unorthodox methods. This carried over into their occupation of Japan. General Swing converted an old Japanese factory and had it turning out American-style furniture for the troops. General Headquarters wasn’t very happy about the project because they wanted the Japanese to build furniture for the entire command. But Swing was not one to wait for all the red tape. After General Eichelberger inspected the better-than-GHQ- standard brick barracks under construction, he said to Swing, “Joe, I don’t know whether to court-martial you or commend you.” (Later on, he was commended Swing.)
Resources: “Rakkasans” and “The Angels: A history of the 11th Airborne Division” by Gen. E.M. Flanagan; Everett’s scrapbook; Wikipedia
Posted on May 6, 2013, in SMITTY, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged 11th airborne, family history, Gen. Eichelberger, Gen. Swing, History, Japan, Military, Military History, Pacific War, veterans, WWII. Bookmark the permalink. 32 Comments.