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Eye Witness Account – Iwo Jima & Guam

Seaman Sal Marino

Seaman Sal Murino

The pages, unearthed 70 years after their origin, are stark in simplicity and detail: One young man, one typewriter, together aboard the U.S.S. Doyen.

“Hello everyone!” reads a handwritten greeting on the top of page one, followed by a single-spaced report complete with wisecracks and World War II talk direct from young Sal Murino to his family.

The long, yellowing letter from the U.S. Navy man offers a first-person recitation of the fighting from Dec. 1944-March 1945 as the devastating war finally enters its final year..

Click on images to read the letter.

page 1

page 1

page 2

page 2

“We stayed at Iwo Jima for about 15 days,” wrote Murino, a round-faced young man in his 20s, whose sometimes fractured syntax still paints a vivid picture of the carnage in the Pacific Theater.

“To hear one combat fatigue(d) Marine put it who was smoking an endless chain of cigarettes — said, ‘Those bastards had us surrounded and throwing everything at us.’ Incidentally, this Marine wanted to go back and fight as he did not want to leave his buddies.”

The letters were in the custody of Murino’s niece, Marie, who across the decades tended carefully to the pages that preserved an unseen slice of history.  Marie’s husband Jim, a regular reader of the Daily News, convinced her to share the letter seven decades after it reached her Brooklyn mailbox.

The missive was mailed to the entire Italiano family, living on DeGraw St. in South Brooklyn. Marie’s mother had three sisters and four brothers — Sal, Johnny and Tony were all fighting overseas.

“Iwo Jima … The Marines had a helluva time,” Sal wrote in one passage. “Jap resistance was very strong. This island was well fortified. … Our planes were zooming over them dropping their eggs and meanwhile from the sea our ships were shelling these same caves.”

USS Doyen

Yet progress against the tenacious Japanese fighters was slow despite the firepower — and came at a price.

His description of the war’s cost: “The task of removing the wounded was another hard job … These same wounded men not so long ago came walking up the gangplank with their rifles and equipment and now, some were able to walk by themselves and the others had to be assisted not only minus their rifles and equipment but a few with (out) their arms and limbs.”

He laid out the scene on the island of Guam, another hub of intense fighting.

“During our invasion last June it was without a question of doubt a place of ‘agony and hell’ (a partial payback for the sneaky attack on Pearl Harbor),” the sailor writes. “We saw many caves in the mountains — some as large as the tunnel of love you would find at amusement places.”

But months later, the only signs of battle were “remnants of Jap tanks, large guns still remained alongside the beaches. The natives were happy to see the Americans return.

“The majority of them wore American clothes and girls were painted with lipstick,” he wrote. “Mingling with them was entirely out, due to the old baloney of ‘military secrets.’”

But things soon heated up. He described a Japanese air attack on their ship where “the red emblem of the Rising Sun looked 25 times larger than under ordinary circumstances.”  Three U.S. fighters then appeared in close pursuit of the Japanese plane.“About 1,000 yards away they bagged it and it came down in a burst of fire and smoke and into the water,” he recounted. “Cheers and laughter could be heard throughout the ship.”The letter closed as it opened, with a handwritten comment from the author.“P.S. Have heard from Tony and Johnny,” their brother relayed. “Both are fine. I too am in Tip-Top shape — no kidding … Say hello to the kids for me.”

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Military Humor –

 

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Farewell Salutes –

Taylor Conrad – Baton Rouge, LA; USMC, LCpl., 465th Squadron/3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, KIA

Arnold Harrison – Detroit, MI; USMC, WWII, PTO, Pfc, Co. B/1/2/2nd Marine Div., KIA (Betio)

Richard Holley – Dayton, OH; USMC, GSgt., 465th Squadron/3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, KIA

John Kiefer – Fairport, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Charles Lazarus – WA; US Army, WWII, cryptographer

Zell Miller – Young Harris, GA; USMC, U.S. Senator & Governor

Samuel Phillips – Pinehurst, NC; USMC, 1st Lt., 465th Squadron/ 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, KIA

E.R. Reece – Klondike, OK; US Army, WWII & Korea, 24th Infantry Division

Samuel Schultz – Huntingdon Valley, PA; USMC, Captain, 465th Squadron/ 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, KIA

James Vincent – No. Sioux Falls, SD; US Army, WWII / Korea, Sgt.

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August 1944 (2)

Left: RM1c George Ray Tweed Right: Sergeant Soichi Yokoi

(Left) RM1c George Ray Tweed, (Right) Sergeant Soichi Yokoi

10 → 16 August – on Guam, when the resistance finally collapsed, only isolated pockets of Japanese soldiers would remain.  It was estimated that approximately 7,500 were at large.  Mopping up would go into 1945 to flush the enemy out.  The last enemy soldier finally surrendered 24 January 1972, Sgt. Soichi Yokoi.

A Japanese female nurse named, Shizuko was the sole survivor of the “Valley of Death.”  Wounded from her attempt at suicide, she was being taken care of by a US officer who told her not to move, he said, “We believe in humanity even in war.”  She didn’t believe him.  She said, “Everybody knows the Americans are devils, they tear prisoners apart with tanks.”  She added that she feared Americans, “…especially the black ones.”  The officer started laughing and told the nurse, “It was the Negroes that saved you!”

On Noemfoor Island, pointing to the enemy withdrawal.

On Noemfoor Island, pointing to the enemy withdrawal.

17-20 August – off New Guinea, the resistance on Biak and Noemfoor Islands was crushed as 2,000 paratroopers of the 503rd jumped and the land forces of the 158th RCT overtook the airfields.  Operation Cyclone was a success.

22-24 August – activity around the Philippines picked up with US torpedoes taking 3 Japanese frigates.  The USS Haddo was busy and even was able to claim the sinking of the IJN destroyer Asakaze.  On the 24th, the enemy retaliated by sinking the USS Harder off the Luzon coast with depth charges.

27 August – In northern Burma, the Chindits were evacuated after months of exhausting operations.  The last Chindit to leave was on this date.  The 10th and 14th air forces in the CBI continued bombing all points of opportunity in Burma and China, while the 7th Air Force off of Saipan continued to hit Iwo Jima.

T/5 Robert Kingston, Maj. Robert E. Pennington, Lt. E. Boyd (seated) and T/5 Joseph H. Hill operating on Chinese soldier on Salween Front.

T/5 Robert Kingston, Maj. Robert E. Pennington, Lt. E. Boyd (seated) and T/5 Joseph H. Hill operating on Chinese soldier on Salween Front. (photo from CBI Roundup)

In a radio broadcast by Pres. Roosevelt, he made clear the final decision that troops would be attacking the Philippine Islands and not Formosa.  Now the Japanese were also aware.  It was seen by White House observers that FDR had timed the invasion to make headlines for the end of his re-election campaign.

Operation Vogelkop

Operation Vogelkop

The 6th Infantry Division was slated to spearhead the operation in the Sansapor, W. Papua landing.  The 31st Infantry Div. was sent to Maffin Bay.  From mid-July till the end of August, the area was aggressively patrolled.  The landing used information from the 5th Air Force terrain experts and hydrographic equipment.

With the capture of the Marianas, Nimitz’s forces would head to the West Caroline Islands.  This operation encompassed nearly 800 vessels.

We must also give note of the PT boat service given on the coasts of New Guinea, harassing enemy barge traffic and preventing the enemy from putting reinforcements ashore.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

pict0024

behind-the-lines-2-jpgtry-to-say-something-funny-joe

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Farewell Salutes – 

William Cary – Viking, AB, CAN; RC Navy, WWII

John Cloe – Anchorage, AK; US Army, Vietnam (Ret. 29 yrs.), WWII Alaska historian

Anthony Etrio – Fairfield, CT; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Div., Purple Heart

Gettysburg

Gettysburg

Angus ‘Jay’ Jameson – Carrollton, GA; USMC, WWII, PTO

Bernard Ginn Que Jee – New Orleans, LA; US Army, Korea, Cpl.

Joseph Hillman Jr. – Rock Run, AL; US Army Air Corps, WWII / US AF, Korea & Vietnam, MSgt. (Ret.)

Edward Lewis – Green River, WY; US Army, WWII

Gabriel Sanchez – Lincoln, NM; US Army, WWII, ETO

Joel D. Sollender – NYC, NY; US Army, WWII, ETO, POW, 87th Inf. Div., Purple Heart

Henry Valdivia Jr. – Phoenix, AZ; US Navy, WWII

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THE LAST MAN STANDING

An eye witness account to help bring the history into perspective.

Indianaeddy-" The Human nature of male Dogs"

THE LAST MAN STANDING

This picture was taken on the island of Guam.

The men you see make up two machine gun squads. Every man in this picture was either killed or wounded before World Two ended, except for the small muscular man on the left. He was the squad leader. He was my father.

Each squad was made up of seven men. There are thirteen men in the picture. The fourteenth man was taking the picture. He was also the squad leader of six of these men. These two squads worked closely together on Guam. That is evident in their body posture.

The night before they set an ambush at an advantageous spot on Harmon Road. The Japanese that had not yet been killed, captured, or surrendered, were completely surrounded and out numbered. The Marines knew some of them would try to break through during the upcoming night. That’s what they would have…

View original post 504 more words

Japanese Blitzkrieg (2)

"Prince of Wales" & "Repulse"

“Prince of Wales” & “Repulse”

After hearing President Roosevelt’s ‘Infamy’ speech, the British War Cabinet suggested to their Prime Minister to continue their same gentle approach in dealing with America.  Churchill replied, “Oh!  That is the way we talked to her while we were wooing her; now that she is in the harem, we talk to her quite differently.”

9 December, the Thai capital of Bangkok became occupied by the Japanese.  The Gilbert Islands, Tarawa atoll and Makin of the Central Pacific were now in the hands of the enemy.

Royal Engineers prepare to blow a bridge at Kuala Lampur

Royal Engineers prepare to blow a bridge at Kuala Lampur

In Burma, Betong fell on 10 December and Alor Setar, on the northwest coast, 3 days later, which secured all the airfields in the northern sector.  Britain had the 9th and 11th British/Indian divisions along with some Malayan and Australian units for defense.  Their 110 planes (only 50 remained after the initial attack) were up against Japan’s 530 aircraft of Force Z.

Wake Island location

Wake Island location

Adm. Kimmell, at Pearl Harbor, a midst the cleanup, had already made plans to send relief to Wake Island and deploy the 3 cruiser groups Japan had failed to locate: (1)- Adm. Wilson Brown’s to the Marshalls to keep the enemy busy in the south; (2)- Adm. Fletcher’s to Wake directly with a new fighter squadron, and; (3)- Adm. Halsey to guard Pearl Harbor and then follow behind Brown’s group.

Frank Mason's rendition of the "Prince of Wales" & "Repulse" destructions

Frank Mason’s rendition of the “Prince of Wales” & “Repulse” destructions

10 December, off Kuantan, in the South China Sea, the HMS Prince of Wales and the Repulse were by enemy submarine torpedoes and aircraft in a series of 4 attacks that lasted 2 hours; 840 seamen were KIA.

On Guam, the Government House in Agana was bombed.  The Japanese force of 8 destroyers, 2 gunboats, 6 sub-chasers, 2 minesweepers, 2 tenders and the 5th Defense Force had arrived.  The Guam Insular Force Guard (GIFG) and a small American garrison (about 400 men) were quickly defeated as over 5,000 troops of the Japanese South Seas Detached Force landed at Tumon Bay and Talafofo Bay.  The GIFG had 4 KIA and 22 WIS; the US forces lost 13 KIA and 13 WIA.

Clark Field shortly before attack

Clark Field shortly before attack

By this date about half of the Far East Air Force was destroyed on the ground at Clark, TBU and Nicholls airfields in the Philippines.  The Japanese 16th Division landed in southeast Luzon at Lamon Bay and cut across to Tiaong on their way to Manila.  By the 13th, Filipino and US forces were about to be surrounded.

Wake Island

Wake Island

11 December, on Wake Island, the defenses repulsed an attempted Japanese landing with the remaining maintenance crews still on the island all volunteering to act as soldiers.  Despite the 3 days of enemy bombardment, the US shore gunners sank 2 destroyers and damaged a cruiser.  The Japanese fleet they were up against included the 6th Destroyer Squadron under RAdm. Sadamichi Kajioka on his flagship Yubari, 2 medium transports, 2 submarines, 2 light cruisers Tenryu and Tatsuta, 2 destroyers under RAdm. Kuninori Marumo.  The aerial bombing would continue for 8 days.

Click on images to enlarge.

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For Family Service – 

courtesy of fellow blogger, Patty B.

courtesy of fellow blogger, Patty B.

To view an example – check out the Family History category for fellow blogger Jim Reillly – CLICK HERE!

To visit Patty B – CLICK HERE!

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Humor of the Day –

frieside

wwii

 

These humorous postcards are courtesy of Chris, who you can locate RIGHT HERE!

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Herman Boles – Mongomery, AL; US Army, WWII

Never Forget

Never Forget

Frank Butcher – Maryborough, AUS.; RA Navy # B4606, WWII, Stoker 1st Class

Marion “Bill” Cabble Jr. – Princeton, WV; US Army (Ret. 26 years), Vietnam

James Fleming – Richmond, CAN; RC Army, WWII, South Saskatchewan Regiment

Carl Hoberg – Ridgecrest, CA; US Army, Sgt., Combat Engineers, Vietnam

James Jolly – Fresno, CA; US Army, WWII, 69th Div., ETO, 2 Bronze Stars, Purple Heart

William MacMcShane Jr. – Erie, PA; US Navy, SeaBee, Vietnam

Alice Payne – Kingsport, TM; WACS, Korea

Alex Woolston – Manunui, NZ; RNZ Navy # 16496

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East and West (5)

Men of Burma who signed up.

Men of Burma who signed up.

Up until 1937, the 20 Burma Rifles were a regiment within the Indian Army.  It was then later made part of a separate Burma Army.  Being as the country was considered by most to be “backwater” and unlikely to be included in any war, this army was still in its infancy as 1941 evolved.

Royal Netherland East Indies forces

Royal Netherland East Indies forces

On the Netherland East Indies (NEI), known today as Indonesia, had the Royal Netherland East Indies forces for defense, but they were literally cut off from their government due to the actions of Hitler in Europe.  This military was no match for the highly trained Japanese invaders and after being under the thumb of the Dutch for so long, the civilians welcomed a change.  Their minds were quickly snapped into reality as the Japanese proceeded to drain their resources and dissolve any personal freedoms they had.  The oil and metal ores of Marai, Sumatra, Java, Borneo and the Celebes were the ultimate goals for Japan.

The Automedon

The Automedon

December 1940, the Japanese obtained top secret British documents, by way of Germany, when the Axis raider, the Atlantis captured the British Blue Funnel cargo liner, the Automedon on 11 November as it sailed for Singapore.  These papers were minutes from the British War Cabinet meeting which showed a blueprint of their Far East strategy and that Britain would not declare war on Japan if Thailand and Hong Kong were invaded – they were considered indefensible.  For further information and/or clarification, please visit Martin’s site at War and Security to be found HERE!!

The US considered increasing Guam’s defenses during and after WWI, but no action was taken due to the 1922 Washington Naval Conference between the US and Japan.  In 1941, Guam had about 85 miles of roadways and Apra Harbor was considered the best in the Marianas, but there was no airfield.  Japanese plans for invasion were completed for Guam in September and their 144th Infantry Regiment and some other units (approx. 4,886 men) were kept in Korea until November.

Guam postcard, 1940's

Guam postcard, 1940’s

The Guam Insular Force Guard, a locally-manned militia were assigned for the naval base and on 17 October 1941, dependents of US military personnel and 100 construction workers began to evacuate. (IMO – it appeared someone was aware of something brewing.)

Click on images to enlarge.

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Political cartoon of the times – 

Dr. Seuss' attack on prejudice.

Dr. Seuss’ attack on prejudice.

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Current tidbits of news – 

Courtesy of "The Week" magazine

Courtesy of “The Week” magazine

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Farewell Salutes – 

Howard Bock – Newark, DE; US Air Force, MSgt.(Ret. 30 years), Air Weather Service

Carol Chivala – Sedona, AZ; Flight Nurse for the Flying Tigers, Koreaflag04

William Eslin – Urbana, MD; US Air Force, Korea

Leonard Charles Griffiths – NZ; RNZ Army # 443224, WWII, 23rd Battalion, Pvt.

Donald James – Coventry, CT & Lake Park, FL; US Navy (22years), WWII, PTO

Mary Hutton – Ontario, Can; RC Army nurse, WWII

John MacDonald – Syracuse & Massapequa, NY; US Navy, Vietnam

Joseph Nachreiner – Cheekstowaga, NY; US Army Air Corps, 457th Artillery, 11th A/B, WWII, PTO

Ronald Wishart – NY &FL; American Field Service, WWII, drove an ambulance in Burma for the Indian Army

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