4. Encounter with Dr Takuya Mineta

In 1955 I carried my “higher speed” handpiece to Tokyo to demonstrate to a dentist who might have interest in Japan.

Another happening- At the main Tokyo train station I looked around and spotted a dental clinic on a high floor of a building. The receptionist introduced me to Dr. Takuya Mineta in the clinic group of dentists. He not only spoke English but also had strong feelings about improving dentistry in Japan. I learned much about Japanese views from him.

Dr. Takuya Mineta, one of best friends

His death years later was linked with a dark side of Japan where sponsors of city ‘developments’ were linked with gangsters. From 1955 I purchased high speed handpieces, high-volume vacuum and other new technology that had not been adopted by the military. The navy sent me to air force and army bases to demonstrate. From there I went to Japanese dental schools and Southeast Asia for demonstrations. In Southeast Asia I demonstrated in outdoor conditions where I first seriously noted that I had better finger control with patients lying flat on tables. This later had a profound effect on my life. A first step back at the hospital was to lie the navy dental chair flat that then required a reset of the rest of the equipment and cabinetry. Everything had to be reset to Navy standards for the weekly clinic inspections.

Engineers from five Japanese companies were asking me to appraise their engineering developments centered on powered instruments. In addition to my direct contacts with schools the companies prepared many meetings with local dental associations. I was given many gifts but I had no space for them in the small rooms I have lived in most of my life so I would hand them to another person the next day.

Navy life was good at the hospital but one day someone asked if I would volunteer to go to Vietnam. I have much respect for aspects of Navy organization. It is sad that it is wrapped around weaponry and patriotism.  My navy friends seemed to favor this conflict but I was against it. I could see that my warm relations would become cold. Vietnam would have been the 3rd war in my navy career before the age of 35!! Vietnam was the reason I finally left the Navy in 1958 after a total of 8+ years of active duty.

The founder of one of the original 4 dental schools in Japan, Dr Sato, attended my demonstration of higher speeds on patients. He was in his 80s, when he decided to send some faculty members to the Navy hospital to ask me to teach in Nihon University shortly before my transfer to Las Vegas, Nevada. I decided 2 years of teaching in a Japanese dental school would be interesting so I said OK and promised to return to Japan in a few months. I went back to the USA on my first ship ride after 7 years in the Navy. We were sailing in and near a typhoon for several days. The captain said it was the worst he experienced in 30 years. I had one patient in the middle of the typhoon with an abscessed tooth. The small ship was bouncing around but the woman was in misery so I decided to remove the tooth. I locked one arm around her neck and head so that we would be swaying as a unit, injected anesthetic and extracted the tooth. She was SCARED and grabbed my shoulders which further locked us together. I now know how to perform dentistry in outer space.   After release from the driest Navy base in the world in a Nevada desert I went back to Japan. The reason I was sent to Nevada was based on a serious investigation on my activities that stemmed from 2 senior officers who felt my activities did not fit the Navy mission. They got carried away and reported me as stealing Navy supplies for the Japanese demonstrations and as a Russian spy. The Navy secretly had 2 Marines tail me night and day. Their report ended in a letter of commendation handed to me by the top admiral of the West Pacific. He had 2 comments- “I hope you will remain in the Navy because you are either going to end in jail or become an admiral and I would like to see which”, “Also the Navy does not waste its money and your investigation cost so much we decided to give you a top secret clearance which we will use. You are going to a top secret base in Nevada. The base turned out to be an atomic bomb test center.

I spent almost every night in Las Vegas with base information on minimum risk slot machines and free shows. Later the clinic commander decided to put me on a 2-day work week because the clinic treatment records would drop drastically after I left so then I spent most of the time in Los Angeles.  From Las Vegas I went back to Japan to teach dental students.

Some further comments on my personal life and hang-ups as an adult. I am allergic to ownership. I have never owned a place to live. I stopped driving cars at the age of 32, after deciding car care and driving with increasing numbers of traffic lights obstruct freedom. I knew I had better not try to own a wife after being raised with 5 strong-willed sisters. I have never envied my classmates who became trapped with their big cars, airplanes, speed boats, big houses and whatever else. Freedom from ownership is important to me. Of course this is a problem with family life. Fortunately a son and a daughter matured into elegant adults because of their mothers who took responsibility for them. Anyone would be proud of them, but at least I kept them from starvation.