2016-01-27 / Families & Friends

President Nixon’s visit to China

By JIM CORNETT

In February 1972, President Nixon decided to take a trip to China. The base commander decided that since I was the senior administrative man and the Officer of the Day, I would man a command post to take care of the needs of those government officials who preceded him on this trip. The major decided that he would take the 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. shift, and I could have the night shift.

Col. Kelly briefed us. “Under no circumstances will you give them my home phone number. Two staff cars with drivers will be available for their use, and these cars will not be allowed to leave the base.”

As fate would have it, just about all the dignitaries arrived during the night. First came the White House staff. There were a few complaints from them about their assigned rooms in the officer’s quarters.

Most wanted me to give them a ‘non-availability slip’ so they could go to downtown Agana and get a motel room. I refused.

Some wanted a car. I refused again. One man came into my room and handed me his shoes. He said, “Here, shine these for me.”

I answered, “I’m not your slave. Shine them yourself.” He left mad.

They left early the next morning and I was glad to get rid of them.

Next came the worst ones, the Secret Service. The trouble started as soon as they got off the plane. A bus was sitting there to take them to their quarters, and each one of them wanted his own personal car.

They didn’t like their rooms and told me so. They wanted me to call the manager of the officer’s club and make them stay open all night so they could get something to eat and drink.

They asked me to call the BX manager and make them open (it was 10 p.m.) so they could buy some things to take to China.

After a noisy night, when they left the next morning I found out they had ripped the pool table out of the floor in the rec room and moved some tables together so they could play cards. Whiskey bottles were all over the floor. It was a mess.

The CIA came in the next night. All the demands started again. Every one of them wanted the phone number of the base commander.

They all wanted my rank and serial number (I gave them a fake number and name). I was threatened, and some of them got right in my face with their demands.

At 2 a. m., two CIA men came into my office. They stated that they had some top secret items to be wrapped before they were taken into China. I drove with the CIA to the office. They carried in four cases of whisky, which were wrapped securely and stamped ‘top secret.’

The classified men said they were going to report this to the base commander, and I told them to go ahead and submit the report.

I had a hard time getting them all up the next morning to stagger out and catch their bus to their waiting aircraft on the flight line. Their rooms were trashed and the houseboys who cleaned the rooms complained about the mess.

Col. Kelly told us that President Nixon was going to stay overnight in his house on Andersen AFB He went to meet him when his plane landed. The president got off of the plane and greeted the admiral from the Navy base on the other end of the island. He ignored Col. Kelly and got into the admiral’s care for the trip across the island. Col. Kelly was as mad as a wet hen.

The next morning the admiral brought the President back to the Andersen AFB where he got out of the car, ignored Col. Kelly again, and got on his plane and went to China.

We both hoped they’d take a different route back home, and they did.

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