Striper Spotlight: Robert Brennan In His Own Words

Robert J (Bob) Brennan
Pacific Stars & Stripes, 1971-73

Background: Born 1948
Hometown: Mount Carmel, PA
Education: Penn State University, BA Journalism
Fairfield University, MA in Corporate and Political Communication

My Story:

During the spring of 1970, with my academic studies at Penn State winding down, I won the lottery. But there was no celebrating nor was there any money involved, just a one-way ticket to a destination of Uncle Sam’s choosing. Rather than spend two years as a draftee bound for parts unknown, I decided to roll the dice. I visited my local Army recruiter who promised to do his best to recommend assignment to a military journalism slot if I signed up for three years. I did, and Uncle Sam came through.

Following basic training and a stint at the Department of Defense Information School in Indianapolis, I was elated to find out I had been assigned to Pacific Stars & Stripes in Japan. I arrived in February 1971 and would remain until my discharge in August 1973. I’ll never forget arriving in-country and travelling from Camp Zama to the Stripes facility in downtown Tokyo. I was mesmerized by the different sights and sounds and scents so alien to a Pennsylvania boy from Anthracite coal country.

My first assignment was on the East Asia desk writing copy about events in the military community and editing stories provided by base information offices throughout the Far East. Eventually, the editorial department was looking for someone to fill in as weekend night news editor. I quickly volunteered. The challenge of making initial nightly news edits from the major wire services and from dispatches from the various Stripes bureaus appealed to my journalistic sensibilities. When the position opened full time, I jumped at it! I loved the solitude of the night hours – nobody barking orders nor looking over your shoulder nor questioning your judgements. The night staff in the Stripes building included myself and Terry Takesue. Terry-san was the local Japanese teletype operator, and a good one. Each evening, as our shift began, he would brew the coffee and I would bring pastries from a German bakery a few blocks away. It was a match made in heaven. I enjoyed watching the news unfold each evening as the teletype machines spit out reams of paper, which sometimes covered the wire room floor when Terry-san retreated to the back to catch a few winks. The “clack, clack, clack” of those teletypes, and the occasional “ding” that signified a breaking major story were music to my ears. My work tools were a sharp #2 pencil, a bottle of rubber cement and an inquisitive mind. I strived to be as meticulous as possible in selecting, prioritizing, and updating the night’s developing news stories for the civilians working the morning editorial rim. Those guys were true professionals for whom I had the utmost admiration and respect. I didn’t want to disappoint. I like to think I gained their trust in my efforts to provide them with sound news judgements and concisely edited news stories in an easy-to-decipher format for their morning editorial workload. I learned more about the hands-on journalism business from my interactions with them than I ever did during four years of undergraduate study.

Each evening, as I reported to work, I felt I had a front row seat to watch history unfold. There were many memorable events that I recall passing before my eyes on those teletype machines – the Munich Olympics massacre, the Paris Peace Accords, the Watergate break-ins, the antiwar demonstrations back home, President Nixon’s visit to China, the North Vietnamese Easter offensive, American troop withdrawals, just to mention a few.

My years at Stripes played a key role to my personal growth. However, my time there was certainly not all work and no play. One advantage of working the night shift was that my days were free to do as I please. I’ve always been a gym rat and soon discovered a fitness center near Tokyo Tower owned by an ex-Minnesota Gopher gridder. The fitness center became like a second home. I found myself rubbing elbows with diplomats, business executives, entertainers, TV personalities, sports figures, movie celebrities, visiting dignitaries, and an assortment of eclectic characters – one of my favorites being “The Destroyer,” Dick Beyer, an American professional wrestler who competed under a mask in Japan and who could really spin a yarn. Lots of tips about the Tokyo city scene and night life came from those interactions.

Some of my favorite memories during my Stripes years:

  • Discovering beer vending machines in the back streets near the Stripes building, which became defacto social centers for many a young GI.
  • Watching giant sumo wrestler Takamiyama (Jessie Kuhauluwa from Hawaii) quiet two inebriated, overly boisterous Marines during a show at the Sands Club in the Stripes building.
  • Appreciating the tranquility of Meiji Shrine during the New Year holiday.
  • Marveling at the magnificent cherry blossoms in Spring.
  • Detecting the sweet fragrance of incense during morning runs through Aoyama cemetery.
  • Playing on the Stripes baseball team which competed against, and beat, the large base teams.
  • Embracing the controlled chaos of the Tokyo subway system.
  • Reading the brilliant prose of Stripes own Hal Drake.
  • Accompanying fitness guru Jack LaLanne to a sumo training stable.
  • Wandering into the Kodokan for a judo lesson, which kick-started a 30-year competitive journey in the mat wars.
  • Barnstorming through Greater Tokyo as a member of an ex-pat basketball team that ran roughshod over the competition – until being humbled by the 1972 Japanese Olympic team.
  • Reveling in the camaraderie of the Stripes family – military, civilian and Japanese associates alike. Couldn’t have asked for a better group with whom to work and play.

Looking back, the years spent assigned to Stripes were an exhilarating period of my life. More important, my experiences there would play a key role in establishing my future timeline.

After leaving Stripes following my service discharge, I spent some time getting re-acclimated to life back in the states. Honolulu, San Francisco and Denver were ports of call before returning to my native Pennsylvania. Ultimately, I decided to take advantage of the GI Bill and apply for graduate school at Fairfield University in Connecticut. My experience at Stripes was one of the determining factors that lead to my application being accepted after the interview process. While at Fairfield University, I not only earned a Master’s Degree in Corporate and Political Communication, but also met my future wife – Onanong “Tym” Andhivarothai, a fellow graduate student from Thailand. We were married in Bangkok in 1978 in both Buddhist and Catholic ceremonies.

While working toward my graduate thesis, the next phase of my professional career commenced when I joined the Corporate Communication Department of The Southern Connecticut Gas Company in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Again, my experiences at Stripes separated me from the competition during the hiring process. I subsequently spent 40 years in corporate communication in the energy industry, engaged in everything from copywriting to spokesperson responsibilities as the communication profession transitioned from the analog to the digital era. I retired in 2013 from UIL (now Avangrid), which provides energy services and solutions to several New England states. I also served for 25 years as a member of the Board of Directors of the New Haven Road Race, one of premier events held each Labor Day in the Elm City and continue my involvement as a design consultant for the annual Sisters Journey Calendar Project, which promotes cancer prevention awareness, primarily for women of color.

After residing in Connecticut for more than 40 years and raising two daughters, Tym and I moved back to my native Pennsylvania after retirement. We reside in the very house in which I grew up and spend our time bouncing between Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania and Bangkok, Thailand. It’s been quite a ride.


  1. My only photo in uniform. Taken with one of the building’s local maintenance employees when I first arrived at Stripes. (Geez, was I ever that young?)
  2. Newsroom photo of the East Asia desk under the able direction of Bob Ross.
  3. Stars & Stripes baseball team in the Interservice League, 1973
  4. Me with Jack LaLanne and his manager at a sumo training stable. That’s Clark Hatch participating in the demo. Clark was the proprietor of the fitness center where I was a member. He went on to franchise his fitness centers throughout Asia.