Subscribe
1st Lt. Beth Welliver of Yokota’s 20th Operational Weather Squadron, standing at Mount Fuji’s Station 8 earlier this month, holds a new American flag on the famous landmark. The flag replaced an older version battered by years of exposure to harsh weather conditions.

1st Lt. Beth Welliver of Yokota’s 20th Operational Weather Squadron, standing at Mount Fuji’s Station 8 earlier this month, holds a new American flag on the famous landmark. The flag replaced an older version battered by years of exposure to harsh weather conditions. (Terry Welliver / U.S. Air Force)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Earlier this month, Air Force Lt. Gen. Bruce Wright led more than 90 staff members from U.S. Forces Japan and the 5th Air Force to the 12,388-foot peak of Mount Fuji.

When the senior U.S. military representative in Japan reached Station 8 — about halfway up the Japanese landmark — he found a troubling sight: The U.S. flag displayed there was a bit battered from years of exposure to the harsh elements.

Wright put the call out for someone to find and replace Old Glory — preferably before climbing season ended.

“I was proud to see the American flag displayed … but the flag was becoming very worn,” Wright was quoted as saying in a 5th Air Force statement. “With the number of people from around the world who come to the most famous landmark in Japan … I did not want our flag to be an eyesore.”

About two weeks later, on Aug. 13, first lieutenants Terry and Beth Welliver stepped forward.

The couple already had planned to make their second trek up Mount Fuji that night, but the commander’s request added some spice to one of Japan’s most popular outdoor quests.

“We knew the general really wanted the flag changed so we figured since we were climbing it anyway we could take care of it,” said Beth Welliver, with the 20th Operational Weather Squadron. Her husband is with the 374th Communications Squadron.

Starting from Station 5 about 10:30 p.m., the pair began the arduous, five-hour ascent — on a persistent lookout for the worn red, white and blue.

The weather hardly cooperated, she recalled.

“It was cold and wet, a little chilly. We were basically hiking through a cloud.”

Between the wind and rain, a few snowflakes appeared, but no flags flew at the stations along the trail.

“The whole way up, seeing there were no flags flying, we started getting really nervous we wouldn’t be able to find it,” Beth Welliver said.

Eventually, the couple decided to stop for a snack.

“Sitting there eating, huddled up against the side of the hut, I happened to look over and saw the burlap sack,” she said.

In inclement weather, she explained, flags are brought down and bagged for protection. The old U.S. banner was attached to a railing at the bottom of a flagpole.

The couple quickly made the switch.

“Had we not stopped to get something to eat there … we probably wouldn’t have even seen the flag,” she said. “We were very lucky.”

The Wellivers brought the flag back to Yokota and contacted Lt. Col. John Bird, the 5th Air Force’s executive officer.

“We … asked what we should do with the old one,” Beth Welliver said. “He said we could keep it. So now, we might get it framed.”

Officials are uncertain when the old flag was planted, said Maj. Eric Hilliard, a 5th Air Force spokesman.

In his statement, Wright said he appreciated the Welliver’s effort to plant a new flag.

“It’s a good thing we have U.S. forces officers who understand and respect the values and ideals that Old Glory represents … not just to Americans but to many nations around the world,” he said.


Stripes in 7



around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up