Max Raymond Carey was born in Fairbury, Nebraska on March 7, 1915. After graduating from the University of Nebraska, Max joined the Air Force as an aviation cadet. He graduated in June of 1941 and was assigned to Hickam Field in Hawaii. On December 7, Max witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor. About six months later Max’s unit was sent to the South Pacific where he flew over the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Battle of Guadalcanal.
Max returned to the US to serve as an instructor pilot on B17 Flying Fortresses, then commanded 300 crew members to England. Having completed his assignment and relieved as commander, Max spent three weeks exploring London while waiting for an opportunity to fly home. Having heard someone was needed to fly US Embassy mail to the US, Max volunteered. The task would take him on a long detour through Glasgow, Algeria, Cairo, Liberia, Brazil, and finally back to the US.
After the surrender of Japan on August 14, 1945, Max flew with a lieutenant from the Philippines to Yokohama in order to secure airfields ahead of MacArthur’s arrival on August 30. Max had a jeep, a sidearm, a few cartons of cigarettes and two stacks of yen notes, but neither an interpreter nor reliable maps. Nevertheless, Max’s official work went smoothly- most of the airfields had been deserted or were staffed with only a skeleton crew who were already prepared to hand over the base. In his free time Max explored Tokyo on his own.
During the five or six days that Max drove around Tokyo he visited markets and ate at restaurants, having no idea what he was eating. From a bridge outside the Imperial Palace Max peaked at the gardens. He roamed the halls of the deserted Imperial Hotel built by Frank Lloyd Wright. The residents stayed away from him- one can imagine their shock at the site of a uniformed American soldier casually walking their streets.
In Ueno Max ended up at a high-end department store (perhaps Matsuzakaya). The front doors were locked, but he found his way inside through a back entrance. He surprised a maid who rushed to get the manager. The manager, even now still immaculately dressed, introduced himself in English and invited Max upstairs into his office. The manager was apologetic as he explained that the finest merchandise had been hidden away in mountain caves in Kyoto, but if Max would only return in three days there would be something to show him.
Three days later, Max returned to the store and was again led upstairs. He was greeted with an array of items laid out before him- jewelry, fabric, paintings and crafts. Max chose things his wife would like: some silk brocades, paintings and a jade. Max had no idea as to the value of these items, whatever amount the manager asked for he readily gave from the stack of bills in his pocket.
Max is now 99 years old. Many adventures later, the items he purchased so long ago are still decorating his modest apartment.