First-hand account: Okinawa

Louis Meehl, WWII

It wasn’t always the enemy they had to contend with…

Louis Meehl

After the war started, I decided I had to get into the service, this didn’t make my folks very happy, especially my dad, but I just had to go.  So, I enlisted in the Army Air Corps.  They made me a gunner and sent me to the Pacific.  I flew on A-20’s in the 417th Bomb Group, B-24’s in the 90th and B-25’s in the 38th.  I was on the islands all through the western Pacific, New Guinea, the Philippines, the Ryukyus, and even up to Japan later on.

It was after the war had ended and we’d moved up to an airstrip on a little island called Ie Shima, right next to Okinawa.  It was the island where Ernie Pyle was killed.  We were living there in the usual primitive conditions that we’d put up with on all the islands – tents, C and K rations, nothing to do but fly missions.  The airstrip there was right near the beach, well, the island was so small that everything was right near the beach, and of course our tents were close to the coast.

Ernie Pyle, le Shima

We got word that a storm was coming and the pilots flew our squadron’s planes off somewhere.  The rest of us on the flight crews and the ground crews were left behind to fend for ourselves.  The wind started blowing, the rain was coming down, and we were trying to hold on to our tents to keep them from blowing over,

Well, it turned out this storm was a typhoon and the wind blew stronger and stronger, and the rain was being driven horizontally.  What a storm!  I’d never experienced anything like it.  After a while, we couldn’t hold the tents up anymore.  First one of the tents blew down, then another, and pretty soon all the tents were down, and we were outside in the weather.

There was no other shelter – our bombing and the Navy’s shelling when we’d taken the island had flattened all the trees and it was just bare sand and rock.  And the wind just kept blowing harder!

Okinawa, naval typhoon damage

Next thing we knew the tents and everything inside them started to blow away, right off the island and out into the ocean.  We just couldn’t hold on to them under those conditions – the wind just ripped anything out of our hands if you tried to hold on to it.  So after the tents and everything was gone, all we could do was huddle together and try to protect ourselves.  It was like we were just a bunch of wet, cold sheep huddled together – and the wind kept blowing even harder.

We’d rotate the guys on the outside of the huddle toward the middle because the rain was being blown so hard it hurt when it hit you.  We all took our turns on the outside of the group.  Some of us had bruises from that rain afterwards.

Okinawa, typhoon tent

 

[ I was unable to locate le Shima photos of the storm, hence the Okinawa pictures.  I suppose everyone’s camera went to sea. ]

This seemed to go on for hours, and the whole time we just stayed there huddled together,  When the wind and rain finally started to let up, it dawned on us that everything we had was gone.  I had a lot of photos from all the islands we’d been on, some souvenirs, and of course the rest of my clothes and personal effects, and they were just gone.

Our planes came back and they flew in more tents for us, but later when I shipped back to the States I didn’t have much more to take home with me that the clothes I had on the day the storm started!

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Bernice Cooke – Toronto, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII, nurse

George C. Evans – Bay Village, OH; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 457 Artillery/11th Airborne Division

Reynaldo ‘Chita’ Gonzolaz – Newton, KS; US Army, Korea, Sgt., 2nd Division

Peter Hanson – Laconia, NH; US Army, Vietnam, Captain, 101st Airborne Division

Christopher Knoop – Buffalo, NY; US Army, Desert Storm, 810th MP Co., communications

Donald Ottomeyer – St. Louis, MO; US Army, Lt., 101st Airborne Division

John D. Roper – Nashville, TN; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Westmoreland & Pontiac

Juan Serna Sr. – Pharr, TX; US Army, WWII / National Guard (Ret. 25 y.)

Michael Stickley – Broad Channel, NY; US Army, Vietnam

Pansy Yankey (100) – Brashear, TX; Civilian, North American Aviation, WWII, drill press operator

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on August 24, 2020, in Broad Channel, First-hand Accounts, Post WWII, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 105 Comments.

  1. Excellent first hand writing, only someone who witnessed the moment could describe it so well, pity his camera and all his pics were blown away.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wat hebben die jongens meegemaakt en alles verloren maar gelukkig heeft hun teamgeest ze gered.Niet te geloven

    Liked by 1 person

    • Het was zeker moeilijk voor hen om alles te verliezen, maar ze gingen tenminste levend naar huis. Misschien probeerde Moeder Natuur op te ruimen wat de oorlog van haar prachtige eilanden verwoestte?

      Like

  3. I love reading this, “We’d rotate the guys on the outside of the huddle toward the middle because the rain was being blown so hard it hurt when it hit you. We all took our turns on the outside of the group. Some of us had bruises from that rain afterwards.” What wonderful teamwork.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ie Shima was on the list of places my father had been. Ernie Pyle wrote a story about one of my uncles who was stationed in Italy at the time. I didn’t know Ie Shima was where Ernie lost his life.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I didn’t know it could rain that hard. I’ll never complain about the weather again!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve been through too many storms not to have sympathy for those guys — and more than sympathy! What they experienced is nearly unbelievable. As bad as it was to lose so many important possessions, especially things like photos, losing life would have been worse. It was so interesting to hear how they huddled together but rotated the outside people — that’s like the rotations that migrating birds carry out to relieve the ones in front from the strain of leading the flock: letting them move to the back to rest up a bit!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It must be instinct because this sort of storm would not have been covered in basic training! The US did not know about fighting in terrain as such they would find in the Pacific side of the war. Once I read this story, I had to have it.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great first person account of an offbeat war story. Thanks GP!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. If the planes were evacuated in time, why weren’t the men?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have no answer for that, sorry. This story was located in “Pacific War Stories: in the words of those who survived” collected by: Rex Alan Smith & Gerald A. Meehl

      Like

  9. What a story! They even took turns being on the outside. Mother Nature can be as fierce as war.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wow! I can’t begin to imagine that.

    Like

  11. I can not imagine what it was like riding out the typhoon with no shelter

    Liked by 1 person

  12. As if the enemy were not enough to contend with

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I expect stories like this are more common than one would think. It never occurred to me that people had to survive typhoons without shelter. Thanks for sharing this story.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. HA! on the humor!!! 🙂
    Makes me think of an old saying, “Those who have knowledge don’t predict, and those who predict don’t have knowledge.” 😉 😀
    I’m like the old hippie-dippie weatherman…I get my weather update by just looking out the window to see what’s going on out there! HA!!! 😉 😛

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Wowza! 😮 Something we don’t often think about happening. Thank you for sharing Mr. Louis Meehl’s story with us, GP!
    HUGS!!! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  16. That is a terrific story, but such a sad one. It must have been awful to come through a conflict like that and then have very little to show for it. I’ve often wondered just how much (or little) of their stuff washed back up on shore in later years.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. It sounds as though Louis and his buddies were lucky to have survived that storm!

    Liked by 2 people

  18. I love the first hand accounts. That sounds awful.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. “Bruises from the rain” really puts it into perspective how scary that must have been! What an account. And poor Ernie Pyle 😦

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Thank you for remembering the stories.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. An amazing account of that storm, GP. Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Having been through a couple hurricanes with the Red Cross, I cannot imagine being outside in such a storm. Our hurricane advice has always been “get out of Dodge,” but those poor guys had no choice.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. The typhoon would have been a serious battle to struggle through with no hope of a great victory. Thank goodness the men found a way to survive but it would have been sad to realize that all your personal possessions were lost forever.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Ouch! Man, that’s really rough. Those guys had some sand. Literally and figuratively.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Since this was the Army Air Corps, I’m surprised there was not an O’Club where they might have been able to take some shelter. Good post.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. I have a friend who has a Revolutionary War diary from one of her ancestors who served. It is a book. I told her she should have it scanned once, and give copies of the scans to relatives and interested museums. These war diaries may give important information for family members or descendants of those who served. It may also be of interest to historians. I was happy to find a rare book in Princeton’s library of my uncle’s unit during the Korean War. It provided some insight as to why he never talked about it. I was able to find out which battles he was a part knowing when he served and asking him to confirm.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Wow! What an experience!

    Liked by 1 person

  28. That island gets so many bad storms. I suppose it can be chalked off to island living. Good first-hand account.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. I feel sorry for this young soldier, who had so many precious photos he lost in the typhoon. All he had left were his memories. What an incredible story!

    Liked by 1 person

  30. I could just imagine what those men were going through that typhoon. Losing everything to Mother Nature was a given at that kind of wind speed but at least they made it through. Memories will stay forever even if they lost their photos. Great post, GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. What a journey. Soldier are in war times “multi usage”, and how sad is this, the clothing is not always the best. Michael

    Like

  32. Was that the typhoon of December 1944? The USS Hancock (CV-19) was battered, even on the edge of it. Uncle Donald Wilson had me get the book “Typhoon: The Other Enemy” by Capt. C. Raymond Calhoun, US Navy (Ret.), which recounts the storm, the tragic loss of three Farragut-class destroyers and their crews, as well as the court’s investigations and findings.

    Like

    • No, this was Aug-Sept. of 1945. If I’m not mistaken, the one you’re talking about was also called “Halsey’s Hurricane” because of the damage brought on the Navy.

      Like

  33. Mother Nature won that battle.

    Liked by 2 people

  34. I am glad he survived the war but losing all personal items like photos must have been a bitter experience.

    Liked by 3 people

  35. The weather could definitely be an additional ‘enemy’ in war, no doubt. That must have been a miserable time, waiting for their planes to return.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

  36. Wow! My brother (the Navy pilot) was stationed in Korea back in ‘17-‘18 when all that stuff was going on with South Korea. My sister and I went to visit and we all ended up visiting Okinawa. The last day of our trip a Typhoon hit, shut down the entire island and delayed our return trip 24 hours.
    Of course we were safe on the US Navy base, but still it was scary and nerve wracking.
    I can’t imagine what those boys had to go through! Hours and hours of rain and then losing everything… it must have been terrifying.
    Thanks for posting this GP. I really enjoyed reading it!

    Liked by 4 people

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