LIVING HISTORY: Historian chronicles base's past

Base Info
Yokota Army Air Base commander Col. Edwin Bobzien, center, attends a party at the Yokota Officers’ Club circa August 1946. Photo from the collection of Father Frank Mathy, courtesy of the 374 AW History Office
Yokota Army Air Base commander Col. Edwin Bobzien, center, attends a party at the Yokota Officers’ Club circa August 1946. Photo from the collection of Father Frank Mathy, courtesy of the 374 AW History Office

LIVING HISTORY: Historian chronicles base's past

by: Airman 1st Class John D. Partlow | .
374th Airlift Wing | .
published: October 10, 2012

YOKOTA AIR BASE – A dark room opens into a well-lit office where a man sits pouring over online documents and historical data. His office is scattered with old photos and keepsakes representing decades of the 374th Airlift Wing's history.

From its origins in Australia and Papua New Guinea in November 1942 during World War II, the Wing has existed for more than 60 years and has called Yokota home for less than one-third of its history.

John Treiber, 374 AW historian, is dedicated to his work, and he is the safe keeper of the Wing's heritage and history.

"I kind of wear a duel hat working at Yokota," said Treiber. "My primary job is recording and safekeeping the history of the Wing, but most times it intertwines with the history of Yokota."
Writing history for the Air Force also provides Treiber with one unique aspect to his job.

"Typically when you open an Air Force history work by any historian, you're not going to see much analysis in the periodic histories," said Treiber. "The reason being is that Air Force histories are submitted on an annual basis and tend to be concerned more with what happened rather than why."

Along with recording the Wing's history, the historian also assists veterans looking for a piece of the base's history from when they were stationed here.

"It happens enough that I consider it a regular part of the job," said Treiber. "It's really great to be able to do that, and I love being able to work with veterans."

Treiber's fondest memory as a historian was being a part of Operation Tomodachi, the operation that followed a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami on March 11, 2011, in Northern Japan.

"Being able to see everyone come together and work effectively was a big part of my job as historian," said Treiber. "I was actually living the history I was writing about. That will definitely be a lasting memory throughout my tour here."

Unlike service members who initially have a two- or three-year tour overseas, Department of Defense civilians, like Treiber, have three-year tours with the option of staying up to five years. The tour length suits the job, according to Treiber.

"Being here for five years helps me keep continuity," he said. "It's easy for military members to only look towards the future because they might not be here very long and they don't have time to dwell on the past. I have that luxury, and I am able to see things from a larger perspective."

Treiber's perspective is also greater than most because of his ability to view and analyze past events. Since arriving at Yokota in 2008, one of his long-term projects has been to copy and scan the old base newspapers in the history office's archive. His goal is to eventually digitize all of the newspapers, a collection that dates back to 1958.

"Sometimes veterans of Yokota or researchers will want to have a copy of an old Fuji Flyer, and if it is in digital form, I'm able to distribute them around the world," said Treiber. "I think the project has been very successful in achieving the goal of having backup copies of the old newspapers and permanently archiving them."

Keeping a part of history for the Air Force may seem like a daunting task, but if there's one thing Treiber has on his side, it's passion.

"I personally love the Air Force," said Treiber. "I love that I get to write about an institution I care about and believe in. I didn't know what a pleasure it would be when I first signed up for this."

Tags: Yokota Air Base, Base Info
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