GOING NORTH by J.A. Hitchcock
"My dad was on Okinawa at the end of the battle and for a few weeks after that. One story he told me will forever stick out in my mind: It was a week or so after the battle and he and his friend were itchy to do something exciting. They'd heard that northern Okinawa was left pretty much unspoiled by the battle and wanted to see it. But no one would take them there because the roads were secured. So they were at what used to be the airstrip in Naha and saw a small plane on the runway. No one was around and my dad knew how to fly planes, so he and his friend ran to the plane, jumped in, started it and took off. They were in northern Okinawa in no time, landed the plane at a secured airstrip and 'ran like hell,' as my dad said.
He and his friend got a ride back down south in a Jeep the next day. He never heard anything about the plane they 'borrowed' and figured it was best to never ask."
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Tony adds: "I was stationed on Okinawa as a US Marine, B Co, HQ and Service Battalion Camp S.D. Butler from July of 1972 through July of 1973. My wife was with me and our oldest daughter was born at the US Army Hospital, Camp Kue, Chatan-san on Okinawa on December 7th of 1972. Along with being Pearl Harbor Day, it was also my mother and father's wedding anniversary."
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PASSWORD by PFC Peter Milo
"Operation ‘Iceberg' was the code name for Okinawa. April fools day, April 1, 1945, was designated as ‘Love' Day. I promise there was very little of this emotion when we hit the beaches. Our objective was to take Yon Tan airport the first day - which we did. Plus a little more territory as a bonus.
Orders came down to dig in for the night. The Major told us to expect a counterattack by the Japanese paratroopers, so we spent the better part of the first night searching the skies.
The enemy attack never happened and on ‘Love' Day plus two we began advancing along the coast. As our planes returned from their missions later that day I paused once again to watch their landings and counting their ‘barrel rolls' for each enemy the pilot shot down. Suddenly, it was dark and I lost sight of my buddy Frank Enser. To my horror I failed to get the password for the night. I had a pretty good idea if I was challenged by some ‘Hipshooting' Marine I was a dead duck. I came to the conclusion that I would be better off if I stayed put until dawn.
Peering into the dark I saw one portion of the background darker than the surrounding area. Crawling to that area I found a redoubt, or cave, where the Japanese would store equipment. (As we neared the beach the first day I had seen a redoubt large enough to hold a Jap Zero.)
Not being able to look into the cave because of the dark, I turned facing the sea, and walked backwards until I felt a wall at my back. I sat down, pointing my rifle at the entrance because the Kamikaze attacks had already started and the sky was being lit up by the thousands of rounds our fleet was firing at the diving planes.
The fight between the pilots who wanted to die crashing their planes on our warships and the men on our warships, wanting to live, lasted for many hours. I had a ringside seat to the most horrifying spectacle ever witnessed by the Marines on land and the sailors on those ships.
As soon as daylight crept into the cave I surveyed my surroundings and FROZE.
Rising very slowly, I made the sign of the cross and tiptoed out. The wall I was sitting against took on a different aspect in the daylight. Now it was a neatly stacked wall of Japanese land mines. Needless to say, I took off like a bird.
As a footnote, let me say that the password was always selected with a combination of R and L because it was difficult for the Japs to make those sounds. That night the password turned out to be Abraham Lincoln Brigade."
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A LETTER HOME by Staff Sergeant Frank V.
Here are excerpts from a letter I sent home from Okinawa on April 20, 1945:
"Okinawa is a large island compared to any others in the Central Pacific west of Hawaii. It's in a more temperate climate than Saipan. For the Marines, so far, it's been a comparatively easy operation. Our landing was practically unopposed; and in our sweep northward from the beaches we have been chasing the Japs all over this portion of the island.
Enemy air activity has been quite intense. Being so close to the Japanese homeland, Shanghai, and Formosa, we hardly miss a day that we don't have from two to five air raids. On one day there were twenty raids in a matter of four hours. The strikes seem to be directed more toward the airfields and the landing beaches down in the central part of the island. Since leaving that area, we have not been bothered so much, for we are now in rugged, hilly country, and it affords good camouflage. We have, however, seen a couple of exciting dogfights overhead. Our camp is situated on a grassy meadow that drops off in jagged coral cliffs into the China Sea."
VOW ON OKINAWA
. . . How all the slaughter could continue under God's domain?
How long are minds of men expected to endure the pain?
First Saipan . . . Iwo Jima next, he'd seen his buddies fall.
And now, again on Okinawa . . . no letup at all.
Frank V. Gardner
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BARBED WIRE by David Wagner
"My dad, Ellis E. Wagner, was a Pharmacist Mate 1st Class in the US Navy and (attached to the USMC 3rd Marines Division and was issued a Marine uniform). He passed away just this past March (1999). In all the years we talked about things, he would never volunteer any information about his activities during the war. I do know that for years I saw Japanese money in his drawer along with his ribbons and Marine Corps and Navy pins. He also had several samurai swords and a bag of gold teeth taken from dead Japanese, and a stack of pictures of Japanese families (women and children).
He did tell me he participated in the landings of Guam, Okinawa, Kwajalein and the Philippines. I have to believe, that from talking to my aunt on my dad's side, that he saw a lot and was changed by the war.
However, he did tell me once that while he'd been drinking while on Okinawa, he was watching a perimeter where they (his friends) had strung barb wire and hung tin cans on it to act as an alarm in case the Japs wanted to get a little closer than they were supposed to. Well, he said, in the middle of the night in pitch blackness they heard the cans go off and everyone started shooting in the direction of the sound. Of course, they had to wait until morning to see what had tried to get into the perimeter. That morning when the sun came up they saw their quarry.
A large goat had tried to get through that night.
Well, you can guess what happened to the goat.
PTSD by Rodney Lannon
Easter Sunday 1945.
The last land battle of WWII was about to begin on Okinawa, a mere 250 nautical miles from mainland Japan. My father, Robert E. Lannon, served with Company E, 381st of the 96th Infantry Division. Dad never discussed Okinawa. His comments were vague at best, and so it was until he died 9 Feb 99.
During the fighting, Dad was removed from combat sometime in May to a rear area. He was not physically injured; he suffered combat fatigue. After coming home he locked it up inside and slowly boiled, erupting in spouts of violent verbal and physical abuse at his family. Had he sought help as demanded by the Army and the VA he may have led a normal life. But he chose otherwise.
The sacrifice he made for his country lasted a lifetime and adversely affected those he loved the most. There were 26,211 men that suffered non-combat related injuries (now known as PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). On Okinawa, the action reports referred to it as 'sick, removed from combat.' The 96th Division alone had 2,817 cases in those three short months on Okinawa!
Even though it took over 55 years, Dad died from his war injuries. He refused to tell us what was wrong. He said there was no pain. But there was. If you or a family member can relate to this, please seek help or contact me so we can share thoughts."
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