My Life & Times at Detachment 18

848th AC&W Squadron, WAKKANAI, JAPAN

511th Air Group

This picture taken in about 1956, is of Detachment 18, as viewed from the road coming down from Nob Hill, at the back gate.

My name is Ray Raflik

I enlisted in the United States Air Force in October 1954, at the age of 19, after my brother Richard advised me to do so.  Richard had been honorably discharged from the United States Army, after serving 12 months in Korea during the Korean war.  While  en-route to Korea, the plane that Richard and other army personnel were on, crash landed on an island in the Aleutian chain.   A three week layover on an Air Force base near Anchorage, Alaska, convinced Richard that I should join the United States Air Force.

Although I requested Alaska as a place where I would like to be stationed, the Air Force, thought I would be better suited on an Early Warning Radar Station, twenty miles from the Russian island of Sakhalin, approximately 100 miles or so from the coast of Siberia.  This radar station was known as Detachment # 18, near Wakkanai, Japan.


   I was born and raised on a small farm in the community of Mill Creek, near Stevens Point, Wisconsin.  At the time of my enlistment in the USAF, I had never been out of the state of Wisconsin.  As a matter of fact, I had never been on a commercial bus, train or airplane.  Six months into my enlistment changed that.  I was sent on a Greyhound bus to Milwaukee, WI. for my physical, then flew to Parks Air Force base near Oakland, California for 11 weeks of basic training.  A train ride back to Wisconsin, then south to Biloxi, Mississippi, where I was trained as an Aircraft Control & Warning Radar Operator at Keesler Air Force base.  In other words, a "Scope Dope".  After just 8 weeks of training, our entire class were told we were all going overseas.  The Korean war had ended and we were in the middle of the so called, "Cold War".   Alaska was not a state at that time and was considered, "overseas duty".

My passion was hunting & fishing, so it was a no- brainer that I put in for Alaska.  The Air Force, however had different ideas.  It seems, those of our class that put in for Alaska, were sent to Korea, and those that put in for Japan, were sent to Alaska.  My orders were to Korea.  On the way over, there was a short layover at Hickim Air Force base in Hawaii, then on to Wake Island.  The flight from Hawaii to Wake Island took only about 6 hours,  We left Hawaii on a Saturday and arrived on Wake Island on a Monday.  (Totally losing a Sunday, due to crossing the international dateline.)   At Wake Island, we took on some cargo and were slightly overloaded.  Due to the short, angled runway at Wake, our pilot could not pick-up enough altitude to continue on to Japan.  He radioed back to Wake that he would try to make it back to Wake Island.  (I didn't like the way he said, "try to".)

We eventually arrived in Yokohama, Japan, where my orders were changed from Korea to Misawa Air Force base, in northern Japan.  I spent several weeks waiting for these orders to be cut, and when I finally received them, I was put on a slow train ride to Misawa, a city on the northern edge of the main island of Honshu.  After another long wait for orders and living at the transit barracks at Misawa Air Force base, I received orders that I was going to the northern most island of Hokkaido.  My orders read, Chitose Air Force base.  The hop over from Misawa to Chitose, was in a C-118 that theoretically is not suppose to get off the ground.  I guess that is why they had us wear parachutes.  There was another layover at Chitose, then  I received orders to go to the northern most outpost on the island of Hokkaido, an early warning radar station near a small fishing village called Wakkanai.  The site was called Detachment 18, and would be my home for the next 2 years. 

 My orders reached the Early Warning Radar site at 18, before I did.  There were less then 50 personnel at site 18, and many of these guys were waiting for their replacements to arrive, so they were constantly checking any new arrivals.  I was met in the orderly room in April 1955, by A/2c Robert King.  Bob King had been a class mate of mine at P.J. Jacobs High School, in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.  It was ironic that we should meet here on this small radar site more than 10,000 miles from home.  My introduction to radar operations on Hilltop, were to forget what you learned in school, because things are different here.  




I was born in this farm house, the 4th oldest of the 11 children of Stanley & Regina Raflik.

This is the train station or "RTO" as it was called at Wakkanai, Japan.

The main gate at Wakkanai Air Station.

I was the chaplains assistant, and brought Father Peter Takamiya to the base each Sunday for Mass at 4:00 p.m. .  I am pictured here between two friends.

The back gate.  This road leads up to Hilltop, Nob Hill, and 3rd Hill, radar operations.  

Radar operations on 3rd Hill

One of my volunteer jobs was plowing snow.

Drifting snow was common at Wakkanai

Weasels such as this, were used for shift change.



Three friends were sitting around the bar, each one smoking a big cigar, each one guzzling down a beer, each ones eyes filled with fear.  Each one had to go to war, to keep the commies from his back door, each one by some uncertain chance, had joined his choice, a different branch.

The marine arose on sturdy feet, his eyes filled with much conceit, "When the war's over we'll meet again, and tell the stories of fighting men."  The sailor smiled, "You guys will learn, when you hear of my return," the airman didn't say a word and looked as if he hadn't heard.  I'll neither boast nor brag my friends, until I'm sure I'm home again, then they made a farewell bet, one that they would never forget. 

The one whose story was the best, his beer would be paid for by the rest, the war was over and the boys were back; drinking beer in the same old shack.

The sailor arose before the rest, with all his ribbons on his chest, "I saw action on the seven seas, shot the Commies down like fleas, now beat that, Gyrene, if  you please".  The marine smiled and laughed a while, "Friends, I really saw a fight, in all of Europe day and night, but you would loose your appetite, if I really told you of my fight.  The airman didn't say a word, and looked as if he hadn't heard, on wobbly feet he tried to stand, "Boys, I've been stationed at Wakkanai, Japan".

The marine jumped up, and the sailor too, we both owe all the drinks to you, for they had heard and knew too well, that there sat a man who returned from Hell!



Detachment 18 had an insignia of an octopus with 9 tentacles.  Each tentacle held an object, and represented each of the 8 services on the base.  These were; Radar, Radio, Ground Power, Motor Pool, Cooks, Medics, Supply and Carpenter Shop.  The 9th tentacle held a bottle of Seagrams VO and represented the Bar.   This insignia was worn on our base ball caps that were considered, "Uniform of the Day".      



Life at Wakkanai took some getting used to.  First there was the smell of drying fish that were hung on long racks on both sides of the peninsula where the base was located.  The base was 3 miles from the town of Wakkanai and radar operations was a mile up on Hilltop in the opposite direction.  I remember trying to keep warm by the rectifier in operations while on duty.  Radar operations was in a canvas covered quonset hut.  The radar unit  was part of the radar system that was in Hawaii when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.  Needless to say, it was not very efficient.  The antenna was a mobile unit that had to be tied down whenever the winds reached 20 knots, and that was quite often.   The open bay, quonset hut type barracks, that I was assigned to, housed 23 men.  Each of them had received a "Dear John" letter from their girl friend or spouse within 6 months after arriving at Detachment 18.  I set a new record for the barracks.  I received my "Dear John" letter  in 10 months.  I was able to adjust to life on the base because of the personnel there.  Bob King was from my home town, Fritz Hediger, was from Neilsville, WI., Phil Jeske, was from Manitowoc, WI., Jerry Keever, was from  Milwaukee, WI., Jack Little and Stanley Gierut, were from Chicago.  A new radar site was built on Hill # 3, which was 3 miles up the hill from the base.  Shift change was made using 6X6's to carry personnel until the snow in the winter got to deep to plow.  At that point tracked weasels were used.  During the winter, because of the constant blowing snow, shift change was made at noon.  Visibility was best at that time.  We had 5 crews rotating.  24 hours on, and 4 days off.   Because there was nothing to do during those 4 off days, except collect Seagrams VO ribbons or stack beer cans at the bar, many of the guys volunteered to help run the base.  I volunteered in the Motor Pool, to plow snow with the 27 ton D-8 Bull Dozer and run other heavy equipment.  I also volunteered to show movies from the Far East  Air Force Motion Picture Service, which was a part of Special Services.  I also became a member of the board of directors of the bar.  After being at Wakkanai for one year, things changed dramatically.  The tour of duty at Wakkanai at that time was 24 months.  Guys were shipping out and there were no replacements.  Bob King was the Chaplains Assistant.  He was also in charge of the snack bar.  When Bob King shipped out, I took over those two duties.  When Jack Little of the Motor Pool, shipped out, I was asked to be in charge of Heavy Equipment, which included plowing snow and running the 5 ton wreaker whenever a train car load of fuel oil came in at the RTO.  I also took over the running of the base theater from Jack Little.  These jobs were in addition to being a crew chief on "Charlie Crew" in radar operations.  Leo Quinlan was very creative and started a Site 18 monthly newspaper.  Each month he interviewed a different person for the paper.  When my turn came up, Leo's headlines read,  "FARM BOY MAKES GOOD IN WAKKANAI" .

Jack Little, Fritz Hediger, Bob Marshall & Myself

Fritz Hediger on the 5 ton Wrecker

Here I'm changing a tire at the motor pool

Dick Waldron, who was at detachment 18 in 1952 & 1953, relates that this old barn was converted to a bar and theater in 1952.  It was appropriately called, "The Polar Bear Club".  During the winter, when the snow was constantly blowing and drifting, a long rope was tied between the bar and the main building so patrons could find their way back.  

The guy with fatigues, I believe is Smith of the Motor Pool.  behind him is Fritz Hediger, and the guy with the hat is Leo Quinlan.  

At the South Wakkanai Gym, a banquet was held in honor of the completed playground in which we bull dozed out a part of a hill and filled in a bamboo swamp area.  From left; Smith, George Kasper, Clark, Myself, Bruce White, Fritz Hediger, and Captain Ebey.  

"Cowboy", pictured here was a Japanese mechanic that worked at the Motor Pool..

George Kasper & Bob Marshall with school children from South Wakkanai Jr. High School.

Clayton Elswick, Robert Salinas, Joe Renteria, Stanley Gierut, Ted Dwelle, Leo Smalley & Bill Brooks

Phil Jeske, Bill Patterson & Jack Little

Bill Brooks & Dick Robinson

Detachment 18, as seen in the winter months.  At times the temperature would reach 30 degrees below zero with snow up to 17 feet deep.  With constant blowing snow I can't imagine what the wind chill would have been.  

Bruce White left and Ray Raflik developing a playground at South Wakkanai Junior High School

There are several things that I need to mention that happened while I was at Wakkanai.  One night while I was on duty the Japanese guard at the gate at 3rd Hill called operations and asked me to come outside quick.  I did, and observed a Russian B-26 type aircraft flying very low over operations, with one engine on fire.  The plane was heading to the Russian island of Sakhalin, and according to our radar, probably crashed about half way there.  The snow was so deep my first winter at Wakkanai, that the barracks I stayed in, was completely covered with snow.  We had to shovel steps down to get to the door.  There was an 80 foot drift, just outside the base, near the back gate.  On one snow plowing attempt to clear the road up to operations, Jack Little got the D-8 in a position that he could neither go forward or back, without sliding down a decline, that led to the edge of a cliff.  A 2nd Lieutenant asked Jack to tie a rope around his waist and to the D-8, so they can find him in the spring if the D-8 goes over the cliff.  Jack of course refused and the D-8 stayed there till the snow melted in spring.  Jim Adkins usually took messages from the orderly room, up to 3rd hill operations. On one occasion when driving down the hill, Jim lost control of the weapons carrier that he was driving and it went over the side of a cliff.  Jim was thrown free of the vehicle before it went over.  I believe that weapons carrier is still at the base of that cliff.  On one occasion, while driving a weapons carrier down a dirt road south of Wakkanai, after a snow storm, I met a Japanese Papa'san driving a horse and sleigh coming in the opposite direction.   The sleigh was loaded with boxes of fish piled about 6 or 7 feet high.  The road had been plowed with a large V-plow, and there was no room to pass.  The Papa'san could not back up and I would have had to back up about 2 miles.  I knew weapons carriers were built tough, so I rammed the 8 foot snow bank on one side to create a tunnel and let the horse and sleigh pass.  One summer there was a fire in Wakkanai, and 12 blocks burned.  Richard Robinson, who worked in the carpenter shop, was helping to fight this fire.  In the process, he fell in a large Honey Bucket Ditch, up to his neck.   Because we had little use for a D-8 in the summer, our commander volunteered our services to build a playground for the jr. high school at South Wakkanai.  Jack Little was driving the D-8 through town, and without getting the right information on street conditions, the D-8 went down through a water reservoir in the street.  The D-8 was down at about a 45% angle.  With block & tackle, and ropes made of bamboo, the Japanese got the front end up high enough by shimming, so we could back the D-8 out of there.  The only real transportation to Wakkanai was by rail.  There was no airport or sea port.  One time a navy ship anchored out in the ocean near Wakkanai.  On a barge, they brought a jeep to shore for transportation.  There also was an small army AAA unit about 15 miles south of Wakkanai.   Occasionally army personnel would go to Wakkanai to pick up supplies.  There was a major accident at an intersection in Wakkanai that weekend, between a Navy jeep, an Army weapons carrier, and an Air Force 6x6.  Our 1st Sergeant Goddard received a broken leg, riding in the Navy jeep.  There were also many good times at Wakkanai.  Having many volunteer jobs, not only kept us from becoming lonesome for the States and home, but it paid dividends also.  I received $35 a month to run the snack bar, and if I didn't like what was being served in the morning at the chow hall, I'd have Miyoko, the short order cook, fix me some bacon & eggs.  I also received a 3 day pass each month to go to the army base at Camp Crawford to order food and supplies for the snack bar.  At the base theater, we received 25 cents to show a movie and I received 75 cents to set that movie up for showing.   Of course being the chaplains assistant had it's spiritual value.  Another benefit, was volunteering to be mail carrier.  A G.I. had to accompany the mail going out from Wakkanai to Chitosi and then picking up the mail from Chitosi and bringing it back to Wakkanai.  This required a 3 day pass and everyone sort of waited their turn to be mail carrier.    Myself and several friends spent some time patronizing a place called "Miss Wakkanai".  This place was off limits to GI's, but Papa'san, thought we were a good group of Americans, so he let us go there as long as we didn't raise hell or be there when he was teaching dance lessons to the Japanese.  Papa'san's wife was a former beauty queen and had held the title, 'Miss Wakkanai".  Of course what he really wanted was our money.  With the money we spent there, he was able to re-model his place and create a special room that we could go to when Japanese patrons arrived.  Because Japanese fishermen patronized Miss Wakkanai's, we were often treated to lobster, shrimp and those king crabs.  Wakkanai was famous for it's King Crabs.  I've seen king crabs with arms as large as my arm.  The string of Japanese islands that included Hokkaido, was a natural flyway for ducks.  Being a passionate hunter, I was in my glory.  Bruce White of Vermont and I, would check out shotguns from special services, and shells from the so called P.X.  It was common for us to shoot 15 to 20 ducks a day.  We gave them to the Japanese who were very happy to receive them.  Occasionally we saved one or two, brought them back to the chow hall and while other guys were eating S.O.S. Bruce and I were eating roast duck.  Building the playground at South Wakkanai Jr. High School was a treat in itself.  When we got through working for the day and the kids were sent home from school, the principle and some of the teachers would treat us to all the Sapporo and Nippon beer that we wanted.  There were times when I don't know how I got the 6x6 back to the base.  When the playground was finished, the Japanese held a banquet in the gym.  Those of us that worked on the D-8 were the guests of honor.  We were presented with gifts.  It's a Japanese custom after eating at a banquet to go around all the tables and share a drink of Sake with everyone there.  After the speeches, any dignitaries present, got up and sang a song.  After the mayor of Wakkanai, and the school principle sang, our commander Capt Ebey was asked to sing a song.  Capt Ebey wasn't the type to get up and sing, so he asked us workers to sing.  To the delight of all present we as a group sang a song in Japanese.  We didn't know what we were singing but it was a song we often sang at drinking parties.  The 511th Air Group, which the 848th AC&W Squadron was part of, decided that 24 months was to long to a time to be stationed in a place like Wakkanai.  They changed the length of the tour to 12 months.  I had already been there 12 months so I received orders to report to an early warning site in Minnesota near my home state of Wisconsin.  Before I was able to leave, the 12 month orders were rescinded.  After spending a full 24 months at Wakkanai, my new orders were to an Early Warning Radar Station at Charleston, Maine.   The very same train that I was leaving on, from Wakkanai, had brought new orders from the 511th changing the tour of duty at Detachment 18 back to 12 months.  All things considered, Wakkanai & Detachment 18 were a great experience.

My trip home from Japan was on a ship called, the USS Breckenridge. It took 11 days to cross the Pacific. I had 2 back to back Tuesdays coming back when we crossed the international date line.  When reporting to Charleston Air Force Station, Maine, I found out that Charleston, Maine was only a Post Office. The people that I talked to at Bangor, Maine, just 30 miles from Charleston, didn't know where this place was. Now in the year 2003, I am retired as a Tool & Die maker from General Motors. My wife Alice & I have been happily married for 43 years. We have 7 children and 22 grandchildren. We are looking forward to the 511th re-union at Colorado Springs, Colorado in September, 2003.


The stories and pictures on this page are as I remember them.  Now at 68 years of age the memory may be starting to fade.  (My wife may disclaim that happily  married for 43 years part.) If you have any additions or corrections  that you would like me to make on this page, please e-mail me at;

A Special Thank You

I would like to thank Fritz Hediger, Phil Jeske & Bob Marshall for providing most of the pictures for this page.


511th 2003 Re-union