Memories of the War. . .In Okinawa

By Joseph J. DeCaro

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All photos on this page taken in 1945 by Joseph J. De Caro, unless otherwise noted.

Having landed on April 1,1945 and leaving the island in mid-December of the same year, all my 250 plus pictures in Black & White and Color were taken both during and after the war. The earliest were several B&W photos taken on April 3rd near a cave. I have a color picture taken much earlier (February 1945) in a Staging Area in Leyte where a buddy is sitting on one of several boxes loaded with equipment destined for the next operation, Okinawa.

Our only form of entertainment was watching the movies at the open air theater. We didn't have our own PX or Day Room like we had in the states, so when an opportunity like going for a ride presented itself, I would usually take my camera just in case there might be something of interest to photograph.

485th AAA Hq & Hq Battery was stationed here. A 40mm AA gun is inside the mound near the center of photo. There is a shower area behind the clothesline on the left, to the right is Buckner Bay.

The HQ messenger was getting ready to leave on an assignment when he spotted me and asked if I'd like to keep him company. I replied, "Sure, but wait 'til I get my camera." On our way to wherever we were going, all I could think of was 'there must be something interesting around here to photograph.' After several miles of not seeing anyone or any vehicle coming or going, we came upon this colorful sight - a landscape that I could photograph from different angles. I asked the driver to pull over, which he did. When I stepped out of the jeep, he politely asked me to get back in.

In a serious tone and expression he informed me, "We're behind enemy lines."

The Shuri Bell was photographed at the XXIV Corps location in 1945 by a friend (that's me standing next to it).

My buddy had a roll of 35mm color film, but no camera. He asked if I would accompany him to Yon Tan Air Base to take pictures of him and a friend from his home town in Michigan. We arrived at around noon. His friend was a Commander in a Air Sea Rescue unit. After an introduction and the usual exchange of hometown news, the Commander made arrangements to have some food brought to his tent for us. His living quarters weren't much different than ours, the same type of tent we had back at White Beach.

We finally got around to the picture taking session. What impressed me the most about this meeting was the fact it seemed that we were not in a strange land, not in a war, but just three people talking about old times. Incidentally, I never heard of a place called White Beach, until the year 2000 when I saw some maps of Okinawa. . .way after the war.

Photo of the Commander and one of my buddies, Corporal Boothby, taken in April 1945.

On the evening of April 1st, our group was heading for our designated beach landing area. Halfway to the beach, a Kamikaze came out of nowhere (possibly from Kadena). That's when all the ships armed with anti-aircraft artillery started shooting. While this was going on, we had to transfer from our initial landing craft to one that could get us right on dry land. After completing the transfer without a mishap, I didn't want to miss anything, so I stood up to get a better glimpse of what was happening to the suicide plane. Sure enough, seconds later it burst into flames and started going straight down, towards a ship the pilot probably had his eye on.

It was still daylight when we went ashore, and digging our foxholes was the first thing on the agenda. There was a cave nearby with a very large entrance, but I thought to myself, "no way!"

The next morning we put on our gear and started walking inland when we came upon the area shown in the photo (which incidentally was taken several days later).

Brig. Gen. Claudius M. Easley, Assistant Commander of the 96th Division, was on board the USS Neshoba, APA 216, along with some troops from his division. He gave a short speech but I'll have to hazard a guess and assume it was on L-Day minus 1. General Easley was killed, I believe, the day after General Buckner's death.

These two young girls were part of the laundry detail for our group during the next several months. The 1st Sergeant and one of our men in charge of that detail were doing their best to inform the girls that their spirits wouldn't be taken away if they posed for the picture.

My Easter Sunday dinner, by the way, was a few pieces of hard candy that was saved just for this occasion. I never complained about being in this situation because a lot of frontline troops were facing life and death conditions.