Remembering my grandpa
While reading a story on one of Stars and Stripes community websites, Robert Winters recognized the aircraft the story talked about. In fact, he had a photo of his Grampa posing with the aircraft while in Japan during the Korean War.
Wanting to share his discovery, Robert reached out to Stars and Stripes and offered to pass us the photos. During the email discussion, it was evident that Robert had a deep connection with his Grandpa, who died in 2005.
Here’s a grandson’s take on a Grandpa who served his country and family proud.
Name: Robert K. Winters, Jr. (E-4)
Years served: 2002-2006 USAF Security Forces and 2008-2014 Oklahoma Army National Guard Military Police
Where were you stationed: Osan, Nellis, Bagram
What do you do now: Full-time jailer, part-time armored truck driver
Grandpa's name: Jimmie D. Tribble (MSgt.)
Year's served: 1949-1975
Where stationed: Various bases in the U.S. and Asia, to include service in both the Korean War and Vietnam War.
Q1. Reading that story on our website and seeing the aircraft must have brought back a lot of memories of your Grandpa. Tells about him and the connection with the aircraft.
A. My uncle posted a photo of my grandpa that I'd never seen - or don't remember seeing. All we knew is that it was in Japan during the Korean War. Later, a former supervisor identified it as a Kawasaki Ki-61 "Hien." Doing some more image searches, I found a couple more with the 17 on the tail. From an article by Jun Oizumi, I now believe it to be the same one (as it matches the time frame) from 1000aircraftphotos.com.
Here are remarks by Jun Oizumi: "This Ki-61-II Hien (Swallow) is the sole Ki-61 survivor except for the Ki-61-I currently being under restoration in New Zealand. The Ki-61-II was surrendered to US forces in August 1946 at Yokota AB and it had been on display as a gate guard of Yokota AB until December 1953 when it was returned to the Japan Aviation Society. The Society lent this plane to amusement parks and department stores in various parts of Japan for attraction of local pageants for many years. It had been badly damaged by souvenir hunters during tours. In December 1962, it was delivered to the USAF at Tachikawa AB for restoration, which was completed in March 1963 and subsequently it was officially returned to the Japan Aviation Society at the Air Fair in Tamagawa amusement park in Tokyo. The plane had been preserved in Gifu JASDF base until 1986 when it was loaned to Kamikaze Peace Memorial Hall in Chiran-city in Kyushu where it is still on display."
Q2. Your Grandpa must have been pretty proud of you when you enlisted. What advice did he give you?
A. Yes, my Grandpa was a proud man, but his family was the main thing he liked to brag on. One would have to pry to find out he was a high school heavyweight state champion wrestler or a jiu jitsu black belt, obtaining the highest degree! He told me to try to learn something new every day. Before I went into basic, he told me it's just 10% physical. 90% of it is mental. That was his serious advice. He jokingly told me (as was his personality most of the time) not to volunteer for anything! I've passed both on to junior service members.
Q3. He showed up at your graduation with his old uniform on. How proud were you?
A. Since I was a little kid, I was fascinated with both my Grandpa's military service and related decorations, patches, photos, etc. My Grandpa Winters (USN, WWII) had passed away 2 days short of his 78th birthday the fall I was starting my freshman year of college. I hit the "pause" button on college after 9/11 and enlisted in the spring of 2002. To see my Grandpa Tribble in a uniform he put together just for my graduation made me proud beyond words.
Q4. Tell me more about your Grandpa.
A. I wrote this 5 years after he died. His name is in bold - first letter of each sentence. This will give you an idea of my feelings.
Just been a few years since that solemn day
In my mind it seems like hours away
My Hero had left, but I was still here
My question was how would we persevere
I saw a whole church crammed full to the brim
Ev’ryone there had been touched by him
Despite first impressions, deep down you knew
Trust was his motto and loyalty, too
Respect for His God and fam’ly was first
If you disagreed, then you’d see his worst!
But there’s more to him than these little lines
Be thankful we shared those coveted times!
Lord, tell us again what You’d have us do
Each day ‘til we leave to join him and You!
– Robert Winters, Jr., 1 May 2010
Q5. What was your favorite moment during your enlistment?
A. While I did enjoy working TASS at Osan, the Area 2 Armory at Nellis, and a deployment to Afghanistan, my favorite time serving was after a tornado cut through Moore, OK, and we were activated to secure neighborhoods and assist fellow Americans.
Q6. You must have read Stripes when you were stationed overseas. Why do you still check out the websites?
A. This is a positive way to feed my occasional military withdrawals. For all the cynical humor, I've joined several veterans' groups online. I miss the people and the camaraderie. I know Grandpa did, too.
Q7. Robert, anything else you’d like to add?
A. Thanks for your interest in my Grandpa and this aircraft. In the same way the Chiran Peace Museum has restored this plane to honor their brave pilots, I like to think that as people read this, part of my grandpa lives on…
Photo: Retired Master Sgt. Tribble and A1C Robert Winters at Security Forces graduation in September 2002