When I first got to Yokota Air Base, just outside Tokyo, Japan, the squadron had three barracks: Buildings 108 and 110 for airmen, and Building 345 for NCOs. I lived in 110, which was next to a big field. The barracks had long hallways on both the first and second floors, on either side of which were accommodations for two junior airmen, probably 70 residents or more. The rooms were approximately 10 feet by 10 feet (roughly 3 meters by 3 meters) and one wall was taken up by two built-in wooden armoires side-by-side that served as clothes lockers and dressers. The armoires were also good sound buffers between adjoining rooms. The outside wall had a nice-sized window.
The rooms were furnished with two beds, which could be stacked as bunkbeds for more floor space, and one table with a chair and lamp – that was it. Actually, there wasn’t room for much of anything else. There were no washers or dryers, so residents had to use the base laundromat some distance away or take their clothes to the commercial laundry just outside nearby Gate 1. As I recall, nearly everyone relied on the off-base shop.
We did have houseboys, a term that would not be PC these days: Japanese manservants who shined shoes, made beds, cleaned the latrines, and kept the premises dusted. Because there were so many airmen in the barracks, there were usually four to six houseboys in the building. After performing their duties in each room, they would gather up the shoes and meet in the middle of the long hallway to talk as they took care of the footwear.
Two airmen that roomed near the center of the hallway where the houseboys would gather decided to have a bit of fun at their expense. Now, as some of you know, Japan does not allow its citizens to own handguns, and as some of you may recall, at the time Japan produced some remarkably realistic toy guns. So –
The two roommates staged a loud argument inside their room that included one shouting “I will kill you!” The houseboys all knew English well enough and without a doubt they heard the commotion and understood the threat – but they continued their work on shoes at their spot.
After more shouts, one guy threw open the door to dash down the hall toward one of the barracks exits. After slamming an armoire drawer, the other burst out of the room into the hall brandishing a Colt Model 1911 .45 caliber cap-gun. He spotted his fleeing roommate and fired off three caps, which made a very loud noise in the narrow hallway. His roomie tumbled to the floor upon hearing the bangs.
The houseboys looked on in horror as the shooter turned slowly around to point the toy gun in their direction and declare ominously, “And you could be next!” After a few moments of paralyzed silence, the guy with the gun burst into laughter and the fallen “victim” got up to join him, saying that it was just all in good fun.
The houseboys were not amused. Somehow, the Barracks Chief got word of this – the houseboys? – and he warned the guys that a joke is a joke but that had gone too far. Nothing like that ever happened again, but I don’t think the houseboys ever forgot – or forgave – the perpetrators for that stunt.