I graduated in 1951 when my life of unwanted work ended at the age of 24. My life of hobbies and projects began the following year with a recall into the US Navy during the Korean War. I was in a private practice with an oral surgeon when recalled.
I was sent to San Diego, where another on-the-spot decision put me into a large Navy hospital in Japan.
I found that putting my fingers in patient mouths was a nice way to pass time. I focused on the easiest way to treat patients so this interest resulted in treatment that far exceeded what was expected of Navy dentists. This resulted in the first investigation on my activities. It was reported that my records did not reflect the truth or the quality was not acceptable. Many patients after leaving my room were secretly checked against my records.
The patient checks probably helped me land in Japan for better or worse. My friends were being assigned to ships when I realized I did not like ships. I asked my commander how to avoid ship duty and of course he asked why I joined the Navy. He said I could go to the administration office and request foreign shore duty that often results in immediate assignment to a ship. He mentioned that the secret check on my patients and records resulted in a commendation that might help.
At the administration office, I was shown by an old-timer a map of the world with all Navy bases that had dental clinics. I first selected Germany because I knew German at the time. He nixed it because the weather was bad at that base.. Spain was my next choice –then Hawaii. He nixed them too. I finally asked him where to go. “The Yokosuka Navy Hospital in Japan is the best duty in the world!!” So I said OK and shortly after I was in Japan. My first impression of Japan was “This is a crowded country”.
My life, ever since, has been based on interest in one project after another that fits with –or is ahead- of the fast-moving times I have lived in.
Dad’s influence has much to do with my lack of respect for nations and flags. Dad was allergic to flags because he felt that flags are waved by hooligans or people who don’t know better. He lived in a German community during World War 1. A large grain company took advantage of the dislike for ‘Huns’ by short-weighing their grain at delivery points called elevators. Groups also would come to the German homes waving big US flags After a tar and feathering episode the neighbors organized for protection with Indian-fashion smoke signals when hooligans marched toward a house. Beach was the only non-German name so Dad was appointed the head of a ‘Non-partisan League’ to stop short weighing and attacks by flag waving hooligans. In his role the large grain company identified him as a traitor to America. His local warm-hearted German neighbors were far more important than a nation identified with hooligans. During WW2 I never commanded my Navy company to salute the flag. During the late 40s I was labeled a communist for my antipathy to national rituals and mixing with Pinkos (not reds) against hot or cold wars.
At the end of the Korean War in 1953 I left the navy and returned to the practice in Oregon with the oral surgeon. I had gained much experience in surgery at the hospital where I often worked on a table for mouth and jaw surgery with an anesthetist and two table nurses. The table was in a large room with other surgeons. I had no interest in the money and possession ladders my dentist classmates were climbing. This was often associated with family tension. I missed the simple life in Japan where people slept and sat on the floor and could spend hours late into the night discussing ideas and plans outside their personal collections such as cars, houses, money etc. I wrote a letter to the admiral chief of the dental corps that stated I would reenter active duty with the condition of being reassigned to the Yokosuka, Japan hospital. I promptly received orders that stated I could go at my convenience within a period of 90 days. If not orders would be reissued. The clinic chief at the hospital was puzzled when I arrived because he was not notified in advance. He had never seen such freedom in navy orders. I guess that all the extra time I spent with fingers in patient mouths was noticed. .
Dentists spend much time drilling teeth for fillings and crowns. For 60 years they used slow turning cutters with heavy finger pressure. I noted in a research article that higher speeds could reduce the cutting time and pressure. This article set off a contest among companies to improve things for both patients and dentists. I asked a machinist patient to set me up. One problem –the handpieces would get too hot to hold so I needed an extra assistant to drop one handpiece in a pail of water while slipping another in the handpiece connector and my hand at the mouth. Another assistant held the vacuum and prepared filling and other materials.