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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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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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