Monday, May 27, 2013

The Battle of Okinawa, Part IV

The noise of battle was continually moving south and 10th Army Headquarters was being established around us. My men drew sentry duty on the perimeter which consisted of hunkering down after dark with a rifle and a "snooper scope," which was an early version of night vision equipment. Most of the movement at night was by natives trying to get away from the fighting and cattle wandering loose, but one night it was Japanese soldiers trying to get through our lines and get to the north where there were still pockets of Jap holdouts. When they were confronted by our sentries two of them committed suicide by holding hand grenades to their bellies and pulling the pin. How many got through I don't know. There was no question that nasty battles were going on down south. The Japs were dug in on a line of hills called Shuri Ridge and our soldiers and Marines were paying an awful price. Cemeteries were established north of us. I will never forget the sight of a truck full of dead Marines on the road.

They declared Okinawa secured on June 21. We held a parade-ground type ceremony at 10th Army Headquarters in recognition. General Buckner had been killed while observing the fighting and General "Vinegar Joe" Stillwell had taken command. Our outfit started receiving maps for "Operation Olympic," the planned invasion of Kyushu in November of 1945, and "Operation Coronet," the invasion of Honshu (the Japanese main island). I was able to look at those maps and figure out where I would probably be. Not a happy prospect.

Then they dropped the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima. Then they dropped another on Nagasaki, and the Japs surrendered. The whole island erupted in gun fire as the Americans celebrated by shooting their guns in the air. Me, I retreated to my roofed foxhole until the firing died down. Several soldiers were reported wounded, one nearby right in the buttocks as he dived for his hole. You could hear stuff hitting as it returned to earth.


In September my unit was ordered to leave all our stuff and board ship with the XXIV Corps troops and go to Korea. On October 6 Okinawa was hit by an enormous typhoon which wiped out our Map Depot and reportedly spread our maps all over the island and nearby ocean. On the way to Korea our ship was battered by high seas generated by the typhoon. I remember marveling at how we bucked and rode the huge waves, but I didn't get seasick.

Posted by the editor: BONUS VIDEO of selected photos and drawings (including cartoons by Jim) of Jim's military service.

Read Part I     Part II     Part III