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Group Photo in Front of Donated Baseball Backstop

Photograph by Specialist Fourth Class David Robert Crews

One mighty fine, beautiful day on Okinawa, in 1970, the US Army missile unit that I was assigned to as a photographer - the 30th Artillery Brigade - gave each of three Okinawan civilian schools portable, three section baseball backstop each to. I went along to photograph the giving and setting up of the three backstops.

There wasn’t much to photograph at the first two schools, because all that happened was a tractor trailer truck with the backstops on its flatbed trailer pulled up to the school and a small crew of lower ranking GIs, from my Army unit, got out of an Army car, that I was riding in with them, and then they unloaded the backstop while the school kids stayed in their classrooms. We had a couple of U.S. Army officers with us who were riding in their own car, I believe that the highest ranking GI there that day was a major.

At the third school, the GI crew took the last backstop off the truck and set it up near the school building on the school’s field. There was a group of official Okinawan school administration personnel there to meet us and accept the gifts for all the schools. That group included a Japanese-English Interpreter.

As soon as the backstops were in place, the school sent out some kids to be photographed in front of it, along with all the school officials and the GIs. Those GIs were the two Army officers, and five enlisted men--one enlisted man had driven the truck, one had driven the car, and three who were car passengers, along with me, had helped the two drivers unload the backstops. That group of Okinawans and Americans all lined up in front of the backstop, and I got down on one knee out there about 40 feet away from them to take some photos of that international gift giving scene. I focused my lens on the group, set the exposure on the camera, said smile, brought the camera up to look through it and squeeze the shutter, but no one smiled. They all looked back at me with solemn looks on their faces.

I asked the interpreter how to say smile in Japanese, he told me and I said it in Japanese three times, then English one more time, I gave them all big, friendly smiles when I was doing this, but every face in that group stayed the solemn same. That just wasn’t going to work as one of my photographs. Not for this dedicated photographer it wasn’t!

An idea flashed across my brain pan; I instantly knew that either it would work like a charm or I’d look dumb as the dirt I was kneeling down in. I wasn’t going to be satisfied that day unless I got a certain great photo that I had seen in my head when I kneeled down there, and if I ended up only looking like a fool then that gamble had to be taken.

I looped my camera strap around my neck, placed the camera onto my chest in a position that allowed me maximum recovery speed of it, and I stuck my thumbs in my ears, wiggled my extended fingers up in the air, stuck out my tongue at them, and went, "Nyaaaah!"

It worked!!

I swooped up my camera in my hands and grabbed that great shot which I was determined to get. That’s this photo here on this blog posting.

Left click on the photograph to enlarge it, look at every face on the photo and you will see how well my idea worked.

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