Pictures taken in September 1953
Kobe, Japan

To see More Kobe pictures, copied from Helena Cruise Books, click HERE.

In September 1953, the USS Helena CA-75 visited Kobe, Japan. It was my first visit to this Japanese city, and the high hills rising from the city aroused my curiosity. Prior to our first liberty call, we were informed of the "Out of Bounds" areas of the city. The hills that beckoned to me were "Out of Bounds".

I was determined to see what there was to see, so I walked the main street toward Osaka, Japan, until I neared the base of these hills. Glancing in all directions and noting no Shore Patrol or other Americans, I took a sharp left onto a side street which took me to the very base of the hills. A slight way up the hill was a small Japanese shrine. I walked that far. I could see thick overgrowth all the way up the side of the hills, but I also saw a well worn path. That did it!!

Now I knew I must see whatever was on top. But there was one problem: I was wearing my Navy white uniform. A walk through the heavy grass and undergrowth would certainly stain my whites. If this happened, I would be in big trouble when I returned to the ship. So I made a plan as I retreated back to the city of Kobe.

Since I always carried a camera bag, I decided to take some chances. The next day, I folded a set of my dungarees and placed them in the bottom of my camera bag. I then covered the work uniform with my cameras and flash equipment. Seldom did the OD check such bags. Soon I was again on my way to the foot hills of Kobe, Japan

Upon reaching the small temple I had located the previous day, I changed into my dungarees. I carefully folded my whites and placed them under the small temple. I figured I was taking a chance doing it this way, but on both days the area seemed deserted.
This picture was taken on
another day when I again
made the trip to the "park",
this time with my good
friend Fred Greene.

This is the temple where I
stored my white uniform.

Fred Greene
Kobe, Japan September 1953

Dave Brouchoud
Kobe, Japan September 1953

At last I was on my way up the hillside. Shortly after I left the temple, I came upon four Japanese boys, out having fun like any of us would do as boys. The eldest boy was only two years younger than me. He was 16 and I was 18. The first thing I noted was that one boy was carrying the largest slingshot I had ever seen. He was picking off small birds and was very good at it. I laughed and sort of joined them as we climbed the path toward the top of the hill.

The grass and undergrowth became taller and taller, to the point where I thought I would become lost. So I stopped climbing and decided I had better turn back. The boys who spoke no English wanted me to follow them. I spoke no Japanese, so by using hand signs I tried to explain to them that I was a sailor and needed to return to my ship by sundown. I pointed to my uniform and then to the ship, which we could see tied up on the waterfront in Kobe. (It looked like a little speck from our distance). I then pointed to the sun and then to my watch to show what I needed to do and when. They all laughed and shook their heads to signify that they understood. So we continued to climb.

Upon reaching the top, I was amazed to see what we would call a State Park. It was a most beautiful place with tall trees, well-worn walkways, benches to sit and rest, and a number of small shrines. I also saw some Americans out strolling, which concerned me as I was certainly out of uniform. I did not recognize the American men who were dressed in civilian clothing, so I assumed they were not from the Helena. (Officers were allowed to wear civvies while on liberty in Japan--those enlisted were not allowed to even have civvies on the ship).

Soon the boys and I came upon a vendor with a small pushcart. He was selling soft drinks. It was doubtful the boys had money, but I did. I am sure I made friends for life when I purchased sodas for all.

Then we came upon a huge bronze bell. Hanging from two chains, next to the bell, was a log that when swung, it connected with the bell and made a deep sound. Beautiful!!. The visitors to this area each took a turn at "ringing" the bell. The boys wanted me to ring the bell. I declined as I did not know the meaning of ringing the bell. But they insisted and soon some of the Japanese folks standing nearby also urged me to give it a try. I guess I thought it required strength, so I gave the log a mighty heave. When the log struck the bell, it was so loud that folks came running from some distance to see why the sound was that loud. When they arrived, all joined in having a laugh at the silly American who did this thing. At first I thought I was in trouble, but when the laughter started, I knew I was okay.

If I ever see another Japanese bell like that one, I now know that one gives the log a gentle shove. To this day, I never did learn what the ringing of the bell means.

As the sun started to set, I again showed the boys my wristwatch. They understood, so we went to the path taking me back down the hill. I found my white uniform exactly like I left it. So I changed into my whites and headed back to the ship. What a day!! I was really tired, but at age 18, I managed.

The following pictures are from that wonderful adventure so many years ago.

The photos measure 2 1/2" X 2 1/2" and are faded. Each has been slightly enhanced by adding contrast and focus.

My friends and the "Bell"

To see More Kobe pictures, copied from Helena Cruise Books, click HERE.

Brouchoud Collection

B & W Index