PARK CITY, Kan. (KSNW) — Ever since he could remember, Joe Hobbs loved motorcycles. His parents would ride motorcycles all over the country and were avid members of the Jeeps Motorcycle Club in Park City.
But growing up, Hobbs could only witness the action on the racetrack from afar as his parents wouldn’t let him have his own motorcycle, to his dismay.
However, in an unexpected twist of fate, it would take Hobbs joining the military to discover his love of racing on his own terms.
“I saw the recruiter, and I pulled over and stopped, walked in, took a bunch of tests, talked to him, took some tests,” Hobbs said.
Another lifelong passion of Hobbs’ is the military. His own father served during World War II. Like father, like son, Hobbs joined the military in 1965, signing up for the army while on his way to school one morning.
“Got back in the car, drove around the block to the, I was going to East High School, parked the car, walked into the office and said, ‘I just joined the army. I quit,'” Hobbs said.
After basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, Hobbs would attend military police school at Fort Gordon, Georgia, preparing for a special mission on the island of Hokkaido, Japan.
“Our main goal there was, it was a top-secret radio listening base, and we had two top secret compounds we had to take care of, plus, we had town patrol and roving patrols,” Hobbs said.
At just 19 years old, Hobbs (part of the now defunct Army Security Agency) would guard the top-secret base known as Kuma Station in Chitose, Japan.
“When you went to work, you went through guard mount, got in the vehicle. They took you out to the compound,” Hobbs said.
Inside, experts in Morse Code listened to enemy communications all day.
“Every time the Russians would fly jets over or send up a rocket, the guys that worked inside the buildings would scramble, and there’d just be a line of guys going inside, to, you know, just listen to the radio traffic and stuff,” Hobbs said.
Hobbs says the base was also home to what was known as “pole jockeys.”
“They had some people that done, had to climb telephone poles, signal port, and mechanics,” Hobbs said.
But for Hobbs, he had his sights on quite different technology.
“The only technology I was worried about was motorcycles,” Hobbs said.
Unlike most other bases, Kuma Station had its own motorcycle club and racetrack.
“You could have motorcycles on base, and I said, ‘Hmmm,’ so, one of the guys I was working with, he was selling him, so I bought him and headed to antenna field. Learned how to ride and started racing later that year,” Hobbs said.
With his Honda Scrambler, the then-racetrack rookie swiftly earned his stripes.
“We had about eight races through the summer, ‘cuz summer’s [a] short time over there,” Hobbs said. “The land in ’66 was the one I raced the most in of the GIs. I finished second in points for the season and third overall.”
Hobbs would then return to the states to serve at a military intelligence facility in Virginia. He volunteered to go to Vietnam, but his station would not let him leave. He would remain at the station for 18 months before leaving the army.
While his racing days in Japan were over, it was only the beginning of a lifelong love of taking to the track. Hobbs would go on to race for years and eventually saw his own son take on his love of racing.
“I’d do it again if we could turn back time,” Hobbs said.
Kuma Station closed in 1972. Today, it serves as the Japan Air Self Defense Force base.
If you would like to nominate a veteran for our Veteran Salute, email KSN reporter Hannah Adamson at firstname.lastname@example.org.