Blog Archives

IJN Yamato

IJN Yamato

By early 1945, Japan’s strategic situation was grim. Japanese conquests in the Pacific had been steadily rolled back since the Allied landings on Guadalcanal in August 1942. The Philippines, Solomons, Gilberts and Carolines had all been lost and the enemy was now literally at the gates. Okinawa, the largest island in the Ryukyu island chain was the last bastion before the Home Islands itself. The island was just 160 miles from the mainland city of Kagoshima, coincidentally the birthplace of the Imperial Japanese Navy.

 From: Kyle Mizokami

In early 1945, the Imperial Japanese Navy made a difficult decision: it would sacrifice the largest, most powerful battleships ever built to protect Okinawa, the gateway to Japan’s Home Islands. The decision sealed the fate of the battleship Yamato and its crew, but ironically did nothing to actually protect the island from Allied invasion.

Yamato under construction

The battleship Yamato was among the largest and most powerful battleships of all time. Yamato has reached nearly mythical status, a perfect example of Japan’s fascination with doomed, futile heroics. Built in 1937 at the Kure Naval Arsenal near Hiroshima, it was constructed in secrecy to avoid alarming the United States. Japan had recently withdrawn from the Washington Naval Treaty, which limited battleship tonnages, and was free to build them as large as it wanted.

Unfortunately for Yamato and its crew, it was obsolete by the time it was launched in 1941. The ability of fast aircraft carriers to engage enemy ships at the range of their embarked dive and torpedo bombers meant a carrier could attack a battleship at ranges of two hundred miles or more, long before it entered the range of a battleship’s guns. Battleships were “out-sticked,” to use a modern term.

At 0800 hours on April 7, scout planes from Admiral Mitscher’s Fast Carrier Force, or Task Force 58, located IJN Yamato, still only halfway to Okinawa. Mitscher launched a massive strike force of 280 fighters, bombers and torpedo planes, and the fight was on.

IJN Yamato

For two hours, the Surface Special Attack Force was subjected to a merciless aerial bombardment. The air wings of 11 fleet carriers joined in the attack—so many planes were in the air above Yamato that the fear of midair collision was real. The naval aviators were in such a hurry to score the first hit on the allegedly unsinkable ship plans for a coordinated attack collapsed into a free-for-all. Yamato took two hits during this attack, two bombs and one torpedo, and air attacks claimed two escorting destroyers.

A second aerial armada consisting of one hundred aircraft pressed the attack. As the Yamato started to go down, U.S. naval aviators changed tactics. Noticing the ship was listing badly, one squadron changed its torpedo running depth from ten feet—where it would collide with the main armor belt—to twenty feet, where it would detonate against the exposed lower hull. Aboard Yamato, the listing eventually grew to more than twenty degrees, and the captain made the difficult decision to flood the starboard outer engine room, drowning three hundred men at their stations, in an attempt to trim out the ship.

Yamato in battle, artist unknown

Yamato had taken ten torpedoes and seven bomb hits, and was hurting badly. Despite counterflooding, the ship continued to list, and once it reached thirty five degrees the order was given to abandon ship. The captain and many of the bridge crew tied themselves to their stations and went down with their ship, while the rest attempted to escape.

At 14:23, it happened. Yamato’s forward internal magazines detonated in a spectacular fireball. It was like a tactical nuclear weapon going off. Later, a navigation officer on one of Japan’s surviving destroyers calculated that the “pillar of fire reached a height of 2,000 meters, that the mushroom-shaped cloud rose to a height of 6,000 meters.” The flash from the explosion that was Yamato’s death knell was seen as far away as Kagoshima on the Japanese mainland. The explosion also reportedly destroyed several American airplanes observing the sinking.

Yamato at the end, artist unknown

When it was all over, the Surface Special Attack Force had been almost completely destroyed. Yamato, the cruiser Yahagi and three destroyers were sunk. Several other escorts had been seriously damaged. Gone with the great battleship were 2,498 of its 2,700-person crew.

Click on images to enlarge.

###########################################################################################

Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

###########################################################################################

Farewell Salutes – 

Frank Beasley – Athens, OH; US Navy, corpsman

Ainslie Boyd – Marlborough, NZ; RNZ Navy # 7544, WWII & Vietnam, K Force

Francis Drake Jr. – Springfield, MA; USMC, WWII, PTO, KIA (Tarawa)

David Douglas Duncan (102) – Kansas City, MO; US Army, WWII, PTO, combat photographer / Civilian, Korea & Vietnam Wars, Life Mag. photographer

Donald Freeman – Mobile, AL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 187th/11th Airborne Division

Howie Judd – Rensselaer, NY; CIA (Ret.)

Harvel Moore –  Chatham, LA; USMC, WWII, PTO, KIA (Tarawa)

James Robinson – Leavenworth, KS; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Mustin

Dee (Berglin) Robinson – Fairmount, ND; VA hospital nurse, WWII

Robert Southall – Cleveland, OH; US Army, WWII

###########################################################################################

HAVING TROUBLE DEALING WITH MONDAY?

HAVE A GREAT DAY, FOLKS!!

###########################################################################################

Advertisements

USS Laffey & the American Flag

Bill Kelly keeps a photograph in his room at the Claremont Center nursing home where he lives. The picture is of him in a football uniform on Thanksgiving Day, 1942 at Manasquan High School where he was an outstanding football. He says that the very day after the picture was taken, he went to New York and enlisted in the Navy at the age of 17.

A few years later, Kelly was photographed holding the tattered remnants of a flag. The flag is the US flag that flew over the USS Laffey during the Battle of Okinawa. It is tattered because of the damage received from the kamikaze attacks, some of the worst in history, that took place on April 16, 1945.

Kelly says that the Japanese “knocked the hell out of it,” but the ship stayed afloat.

Now 94-years-old, Kelly sits in a wheelchair, but his mind is still sharp. While some details of that fateful day have faded from his memory, his bravery has been chronicled by historians. Last month, he received a flag that had flown over the US Capitol from US Representative Chris Smith.

Kelly with Rep. Smith.

“Bill Kelly’s brave, selfless and outstanding service to this nation aboard the U.S.S. Laffey stands as a shining example of the best our country has to offer,” Smith stated

Kelly worked as a signalman, with expertise in Morse code, on the starboard side of the ship.

Ship historian Sonny Walker said that a Japanese plane flew into the mast and knocked down the American flag. Kelly went out and retrieved the flag from the main deck and headed back to the signal room with it.

On the way back, he found a sailor with his leg missing. It turned out to be Kelly’s good friend, Fred Burgess. He was leaning against a gun mount on his good leg with blood pouring out his missing leg. He cried for Kelly to help him, so Kelly and some other men rushed Burgess to the sick bay.

Once there, Burgess asked Kelly for the flag and Kelly gave it to him. He died, still clutching the flag, before a doctor had a chance to see him.

The Laffey was attacked by 22 Japanese planes that day. She was struck by six planes and four 400-pound bombs. Kelly narrowly missed being crushed by a falling 2-ton antenna. Another blast tossed him fifteen feet in the air.

A shipmate hung a new flag on the deck – “so the Japanese knew who they were fighting,” Kelly remembered, 32 men were killed on the Laffey that day and 71 were wounded. Kelly is amazed that anyone was able to walk away from that attack.

After the war, Kelly worked as a milkman and started a cleaning service while raising five children. He never spoke of the war. His daughter, Margie Moore, only learned of his bravery five or six years ago.

Today, there are just four surviving crewmen from the Laffey. The ship, known as “the ship that would not die,” is a floating museum off the coast of South Carolina.

Kelly was just 20 years old when the attack occurred but he remembers it like yesterday. His room holds mementos of that day: the tattered second flag raised by the shipmate, a photo of the Laffey badly damaged after the attack, his medals which include the Purple Heart.

Laffey after the attacks.

And now the folded congressional flag. When asked about what this flag meant to him, he was humble. “I take this for my shipmates, not me,” he said.

The USS Laffey was present at the D-Day invasions of Normandy where she fired on shore defense locations with her two five-inch gun turrets. She was then moved to the Pacific to help with the attacks on the Japanese where she provided support for the US troops in the Battle of Okinawa, which is when the kamikaze attacks took place.

Patriot’s Point, Laffey and Yorktown

After the war, the ship was repaired and went on to serve in the Korean War and the Cold War before being turned into a museum. It rests at Patriot’s Point, South Carolina next to the aircraft carrier Yorktown and the submarine Clamagore.

Click on images to enlarge.

###########################################################################################

Military Humor – 

“ALL RIGHT, SAILOR! LET’S GET THAT HAT SQUARED AWAY!!”

 

 

 

 

 

############################################################################################

Farewell Salutes – 

Clifford Black Sr. – Commerce, GA; US Army, WWII, Korea, Bronze Star

Kern Lum Chew – Courtland, CA; US Army, WWII, PTO, Bronze Star, Purple Heart

William Donnellan – Massapequa, NY; US Army, WWII, PTO, Bronze Star

Tony Duva – Lake Worth, FL; US Army, WWII

William Harth Jr. – Columbia, SC; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 2nd Lt., 329th Bomber Squadron/93rd Bombardment Group, KIA

Fred “Dipper 19” Kovaleski – NYC, NY; Cold War, CIA

Randall Mosher – Bolivar, MO; US Army, Vietnam

Jimmy Simoneaux – LA; US Navy, WWII, USS Spearfish & Snook

Ray Smith – RI; US Navy, WWII & Korea

Arthur Wells – Paw Paw, IL; US Army, Vietnam, Col. (Ret.), 1st Armored Div., 11th Airborne Div., 24th Div.,& 1st Div. District Adviser, West Point grad, Bronze Star, Purple Heart

###########################################################################################

Eye Witness Account to Okinawa

This story was contributed by fellow blogger, Mike Tuggle, in tribute to his father, who sailed his final voyage this past Saturday.

My account of the Invasion of Okinawa

By:  Clayton C. Tuggle

I was one of the approximately twelve hundred men aboard the USS Birmingham CL-62. We set out for Okinawa in March, 1945.

Clayton Tuggle

Arriving in Okinawa, we were stationed about five miles from shore. We bombarded the island with 6-inch guns at night hitting several ammunition dumps and shore guns of several sizes. This went on until the invasion began on April 1, 1945. This battle was something entirely different from any the Navy had experienced. Torpedoes were exploding all around our ship, the skies were full of explosions from guns on both sides.

On the 5th of May, 1945, I was cleaning officers’ quarters when the captain [John Wilkes] came on the PA system. He said he’d just got word that 300 Kamikaze planes were headed for our fleet. He said, “The odds are against us but, men, for God’s sake, go down fighting.”

USS Birmingham

My battle station was fire control on the 40 mm guns. I received orders from the gunnery officer and relayed the message to the gun crews as per instructions to aim the guns at the oncoming planes. This was done by the radar system.

In my battle station I could see almost everything around our ship. Kamikaze planes were coming in from the port side, some would crash just before hitting our ship, some would be on fire and head for a ship of any size to hit. I saw one ship get hit by two planes at the same time. I saw several planes get shot out of the sky and crash into the sea. Some would fall near our ship.

Our Marines fired the 20 mm guns constantly as planes came as close as 50 ft from us. The sky was full of explosions. After the all-clear signal came, we headed toward the island for more bombardment. About a half-hour later everyone was back on regular duty.

USS Birmingham ripped apart by kamikaze plane, 1945

One Kamikaze having hidden in the clouds undetected by the radar came down. This tragedy killed forty-seven and wounded eighty-one on our ship. One sailor standing next to me was blown away. I never saw him again.

I was down below in officers’ quarters when the chaplain came to me and commanded me to take him topside. He was burned bad and suffering smoke inhalation. I was suffering from smoke inhalation, and something told me to get in the shower and turn it on for air. I stayed close to the shower for about a minute, then I was able to get the chaplain topside. He died three days later on a hospital ship.

I saw mangled bodies all over the deck, arms and legs were everywhere, bodies without limbs. I had known them personally. I walked by my living quarters and heard men screaming as the rescue squad was closing the hatch on them to keep the compartment from flooding. I then walked to the back of the ship and sat down for a while.

I was elected pall bearer as most of them were from my own division and I knew most of them. We were friends. They were all buried at sea.

Burial at sea.

We went back to normal duties. All my belongings had been destroyed, and I was assigned to another division temporarily and started out again as a sailor going about normal duty. We headed to Pearl Harbor for repairs. We were there for three months.

After repairs were finished we sailed to Tokyo Bay. We were preparing to attack, but the Enola Gay dropped some bombs and peace was declared.

Clayton Tuggle
3-14-1995

April 10, 1925 – May 12, 2018

Click on images to enlarge.

##########################################################################################

Farewell Salutes – 

Jeremiah Adams – Oswego, IL; US Navy, USS Nimitz

Robert Buchert – Cincinnatti, OH; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 152nd AAA/11th Airborne Division

Bill Cooley – Seattle, WA; US Army, WWII, Lt.

Thomas Davis – Albuquerque, NM; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, Major, Silver Star

Thomas Eager – Lacona, NY; US Navy, WWII, USS Princeton

Felix Cruz-Gomez – Brandon, FL; US Army, WWII, KOrea, Vietnam, MSgt. (Ret.)

Ballard Marshall – Richmond, KY; US Army, Korea & Vietnam, Sgt.

Art Paul – Chicago, IL; US Army

Jhoon Rhee – Asan, So.KOR; civilian employee US Air Force, Korea War, interpreter

Emil Smith – Paeroa, NZ; RNZ Navy # 10828, WWII

##########################################################################################

Navy Diary for end of March 1945

USS Montpelier

From “Pacific War Diary” by James J. Fahey of the USS Montpelier

Friday, March 16, 1945 – We left Subic Bay, traveled to Mindoro and anchored.  We may be ordered to troops on the southeast side of Mindanao.  We had plane recognition every day as usual.  We have movies of our planes and the enemy’s so we can tell the difference.  Tonight many B-24 bombers returned after a raid on China.  One of the planes came in on 3 motors.

The Press News reported that the Japanese lost approximately 4000 airplanes in the Philippine campaign.  British Lancaster bomber loads were increased to carry 11-ton bombs for the first time yesterday.  They are capable of destroying 5 city blocks each, being the largest bombs in the world.

James J. Fahey

Tuesday, March 20, 1945 – B-29s dropped leaflets on Japan telling the inhabitants that the bombing would cease when they stopped fighting.  They also warned people to stay away from military areas,  Bomber from Iwo Jima will bomb Japan soon.

I left the ship today for recreation on the beach at Mindoro.  We received a ride from an Army truck and went to the town about 10 miles away.  HQ for the 5th Air Force was also accommodated on the island.  I saw a couple of Red Cross girls there.  Some of the men bought corn whiskey from the soldiers.  They paid $17 for one pint.  That must be some kind of record.

Sunday, March 25, 1945 – Today is palm Sunday, our third in the Pacific.  The Australian cruiser Hobart was here, but left yesterday with the Phoenix and Boise.  The Cleveland, Denver and Montpelier are the only cruisers here now.  The men would like to join Bull Halsey’s Third Fleet, but they are only letting the newer ships go with the 3rd.

The other night we were ordered to battle stations.  Around midnight, Jap bombers struck at Manila.  They did not attack the ships in the bay.

USS Franklin, in the Task Force, 60 miles off the coast of Japan. This is what Seaman Fahey was missing. One Japanese “Betty” bomber dropped 2 bombs. All planes on deck were lost as were 832 crew members.

The Press News reported that 274 tons of bombs have been falling on Germany every hour for the past 3 weeks.  This is more than England received during the entire war.  The Japs lost 10,000 aircraft in the past 7 months.

Sunday, April 1, 1945 – A British task force is now operating with the American Fleet off Japan.  Today at noon approximately 100 LCIs arrived.  Some action must be in store.

Click on images to enlarge.

###################################################################################

Military Humor – 

 

 

 

###################################################################################

Farewell Salutes – 

Ted Brewer – Omaha, NE; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Korea & Vietnam, CM Sgt. (Ret. 26 y.)

Willie Cardin – Hartford, CT; US Army, 11th & 82nd Airborne Divisions

Robert Gilmour – Manitoba, CAN; RC Navy, WWII

Wendell Hawley – Burlington, VT; US Army, WWII

Alan Konzelman – Patterson, NJ; US Navy, engineer, 6th Fleet

William Lynch – Washington DC; US Navy, WWII, Radioman 3rd Class

Mark Pitalo – Biloxi, MS; USMC, WWII & Korea

Harry Sergerdell – Broad Channel, NY; US Coast Guard, WWII

Thomas Turner – Gaffney, SC; US Navy, WWII, submarine service

Willis Williams – Memphis, TN; US Navy, WWII, Korea & Vietnam, Commander (Ret.)

####################################################################################

 

Special Issue – MAY – Military Appreciation Month

May, marked officially as Military Appreciation Month, is a special month for both those in and out of the military.

Not only do we pause on Memorial Day to remember the sacrifice and service of those who gave all, but the month also holds several other military anniversaries and events, including Military Spouse Appreciation Day and Armed Forces day.

 

 

####################################################################################

Military Humor – 

 

 

###################################################################################

Farewell Salutes – 

Walter Black – Marion, IN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, navigator

George Casseb – San Antonio, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, CBI / Korea, meteorologist, Captain

Charles Crittenden – Seattle, WA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, CBI

Francis Fleck – Louisville, KY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 547th Fighter Squadron, Bronze Star

Richard Lowe – Northglenn, CO; US Army, WWII, CBI

Putnam McDowell – Pittsburgh, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, P-38 pilot, photo recon

Robert Mumford – York, PA; US Navy, WWII, PTO, PT 288, torpedoman

William Punnell – Flandreau, SD; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Lt., Hellcat pilot, USS Wasp, KIA (Palau)

Ora Sharninghouse – Findlay, OH; US Navy, WWII, Aviation Ordnance, Avenger pilot, USS Intrepid, KIA (Palau)

Robert Welch – Byron, MI; US Army Air Corps, 187th/11th Airborne Division

####################################################################################

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.”

##################################################################################

Military Humor –

 

##################################################################################

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.

####################################################################################

 

 

USS Hornet (CV-12) – A Father’s Untold War Story – Battle of Iwo Jima (Feburary – March 1945)(Part 1)

First Hand Account – Iwo Jima

 

The 31st Naval Construction Battalion on Iwo Jima

This account was submitted by: John Ratomski

A Seabee on Iwo Jima: They Also Served Who Drove Cranes and Cats -62nd SeaBee Battalion

BY:  JACK CORNWELL

 

ON D+2 WE WERE JUST OFF THE SOUTH END OF THE ISLAND, in a Landing Ship, Tank. At about 5 p.m. we were told to report to our equipment. We started our engines, the LST opened its bow doors, and the ramp dropped. We were at Red Beach. A Caterpillar bulldozer went first, to build a dirt ramp. Once that was ready we moved out—trucks, more Cats, and my Northwest 25 crane. The noise was continuous. Wreckage was everywhere. It was getting dark when I got to shore, close to Mount Suribachi.  There was a 30-degree slope up from the beach; I barely made it to the top of that volcanic sand.

My partner Red and I were to share a foxhole. Trying to move that sand was like digging flour. I took the first watch and let Red sleep. When it was his turn, he woke me up every time he heard land crabs. Finally I gave him my bolo knife and told him that only after he had shot the carbine and stuck the enemy with the bolo could he wake me.

Seabees unloading cargo on Iwo Jima’s Red Beach

We were issued D rations, bars about two-and-a-half by five-and-a-half inches that looked like chocolate but were grainy, not sweet. Three bars was one day’s supply. Navy guys on the ship had gotten into the canned goods we had stowed on the crane, but they hadn’t fooled with the five-gallon can of water we had hidden in the boom. We were thankful to have that, since we were allowed only two canteens of water a day.

On D+3 we woke at dawn but couldn’t leave our foxholes until we had clearance from security. Finally we got up, relieved ourselves—no toilet—and saw men from our battalion. Cats went to clear the beaches. Dump trucks were hauling supplies. After we hung the crane with a clam bucket—the Marines needed a water point dug across the island for distributing fresh and desalinated water—Red and I split up.

I started for the beach in the crane. A Northwest 25 was a big, slow thing on treads with a rotating cab and long boom; even with its big diesel engine it only did about two miles an hour. It was going to be a while before I could dig that water point. All around me were Marines trying to get somewhere. Right in the middle of the road some of them had dug a hole and were setting up a 105mm howitzer that they pointed at Japs a hundred yards away on some rocks. After they shot five rounds that killed everyone on the rocks they moved the gun and I filled in the hole and went down to the beach. Far enough up from the sea to avoid the tides, I dug five holes, each 20 feet in diameter, down to the water table. Other Seabees and Marines set up evaporators, pumps, and storage tanks for the water point.

SeaBees constructing the Iwo Jima command post.

I was told to go to the battalion’s new bivouac, below the old Japanese airfield nearest Suribachi. I left my machine there at the strip. At the bivouac two guys from my company and I remodeled a shell crater for our quarters. I stole a tarp to cover it. For sanitary facilities we had slit trenches we squatted over.

Around D+5, my company commander, Lieutenant Pond—I don’t think I ever knew his first name; we generally called him “Mister Pond”—told me my mother had died. There was no way he would be able to get me home to bury her. We couldn’t even move wounded men off the island. I wanted to send money for the funeral, but the paymaster was out on the ship. Lieutenant Pond loaned me $100 and took care of sending it home. He was an outstanding officer. I didn’t mind calling him “Mister.”

This piece of art was created by the Navy Seabee Waldon T. Rich, a few days after the Battle of Iwo Jima to pay tribute to the flag raising on top of Mt Suribachi.

I needed to work on the airfield, so the mechanics changed my rig over from a bucket to a shovel. I put in 9 or 10 hours a day extending the original airstrip to make it big enough to accommodate B-29s. Marines were fighting for the very piece of ground where we were trying to enlarge the strip. We had to watch out for sniper fire and mortar fire and live ammunition and mines. One evening after I finished my shift the first B-29 landed.

ON D+6 THE MAIN BODY OF THE 62ND CAME ASHORE. By D+7 the cooks and bakers had the cook tent erected and we got our first hot meal with baked bread. Marines didn’t have chow lines, just K rations, so whenever they had a chance they got into the Seabee chow line. We got water for showers from underground. It smelled like rotten eggs but it was hot enough. We made the pipes out of shell casings. The showers were out in the open with no covering. Slit trenches got upgraded to four- and six-holers.

Finding Japanese booby traps

After working about 10 days I was sent to Airfield 2, half a mile north, to help extend that strip. I had to walk the crane with the shovel on it uphill past a B-29 in a gully with other abandoned equipment. I noticed a bottle of sake and had gotten down to fetch it when a passing Marine said, “I wouldn’t handle that if I were you.” His face was bloody from hundreds of tiny holes made by a grenade. He explained that it was a booby trap and showed me the wires inside the bottle. I gently put the bottle down. He was waiting to be treated nearby at an evacuation center that was also identifying the dead. They had men going through pockets and checking dog tags and clothing and then stacking the bodies four or five high at an old Japanese revetment. It was awful gruesome.

There was a 105mm howitzer behind our bivouac. The Japanese tried to knock it out with eight-inch guns. The first shell hit about 20 feet from me and killed two of my buddies. The Japs were also using giant mortar shells that tumbled end over end in the air, making a frightening screaming noise. But they usually landed in the water. We figured they were launched from a trough, like Fourth of July skyrockets.

One day a Marine crawled up into my crane’s cab. He pointed to three guys about 100 yards away and said one was a lieutenant colonel who wanted to talk to me. I hurried over. The colonel asked how far down I could dig. Twenty-six feet, I told him.

“That ought to do it,” he said. “Can you move the rig?”

When I said yes the colonel told me I was temporarily relieved of my duties. His sergeant drove me about three-quarters of a mile to a rise called Hill 382. At the foot of the hill he showed me a flat area covered with dead Japs, big mines, and shell casings, then he drove me back to my machine. It took an hour to fuel the crane and return to the work site.

Marine flamethrower on Iwo Jima

The sergeant was waiting there with 40 Marines who spread out on either side of me. The sergeant had me move the crane forward to a cave, which the colonel told me to dig out. I dug all day. We found supplies and living quarters, but no people. That evening the Marines dug foxholes; they were on the fighting line. One drove me to my bivouac. The next morning, when we realized we wouldn’t find anything more, the Marines burned out the cave with flamethrowers. Then they sealed it. I found out later we had been looking for the Japanese commander of the island. Hill 382 became known as Meat Grinder Hill.

For 20 days I dug out caves. At some we pulled out dead Japs and rifles, pistols, and ammunition. I sold souvenirs, mostly to air force fighter personnel. One day I found a bail of tube socks. From then on I never washed socks. Every morning I would put on a new pair. I took a gun rack off a wrecked jeep and mounted it on the nose of the crane cab, which seemed a better place to keep my gun than the floor of the rig. The front windows of the cab were hinged so I could get hold of my weapon in a hurry.

For the continuation of this story and other first hand accounts about the SeaBees contributed by John Ratomski, they appear in the comments at this post – Click Here!

Click on images to enlarge.

#####################################################################################

Military Humor – SeaBee Style – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

######################################################################################

Farewell Salutes – 

This week the U.S. Air Force lost 10 Great Men

Andrew Becker – Novi, MI; US Air Force, 318th Special Operations Squadron, Captain, pilot, KIA

Dashan J. Biggs – Port Jefferson Station, NY; US Air Force, Iraq, SSgt., KIA

Missing Man formation

Kenneth Dalga – Union, KY; US Air Force, 318th Special Operations Squadron Combat Systems, Captain, KIA

Frederick Dellecker – Ormond Beach, FL; US Air Force, 318th Special Operations Squadron, 1stLt., pilot, KIA

Carl P. Enis – Tallahassee, FL; US Air Force, Iraq, SSgt., KIA

Andreas B. O’Keefe – Center Moriches, NY; US Air Force, Iraq, Captain, KIA

William R. Posch – Indiatlantic, FL; US Air Force, Iraq, MSgt., KIA

Christopher J. Ruguso – Commack, NY; US Air Force, Iraq, MSgt., KIA

Mark K. Weber – Colorado Springs, CO; US Air Force, Iraq, Captain, KIA

Christopher T. Zanetis – Long Island City, NY; Iraq, Captain, KIA

#####################################################################################

The Unsinkable Aircraft Carrier – Iwo Jima 15-19 February

 

Bombs from US Army 7th Air Force drop on Iwo Jima

The Battle of Iwo Jima was more than just another strategic island fight in the US military’s struggle with Imperial Japan during WWII. It was a key stepping stone for the planned invasion of Japan. It was a battle with heavy losses, great heroism, and eventual controversy.

By the start of 1945, the American military were planning an invasion of Japan, intended to take that country out of the war. In preparation, they began bombing campaigns against the Japanese mainland, softening it up ready for the attack. Everyone knew that it would be a brutal struggle – the Japanese were fighting tenaciously for every inch of ground, and would be even more determined in defending their homeland. But with the Manhattan Project still a closely guarded secret, to most people it looked like the only way to win the war.

Taking off from the Mariana Islands, B-29 Superfortresses took 3000 mile round trips to bomb Japan. It was a long journey, tough on the pilots, planes and fuel supplies. Flying so far from base, the Superfortresses lacked fighter protection, making them vulnerable to Japanese defenders.

Iwo Jima, regarded by the Japanese as an unsinkable aircraft carrier, lay only 760 miles from Japan. The Japanese were using its fighter base and radar to take out the American bombers. Capturing it would be a double victory for the Americans – taking out those defenses, and putting their own fighters close enough to support US bombers on raids over Japan.

USS New York firing 356mm guns on Iwo Jima, 16 Feb. 1945

Five miles long and two-and-a-half miles wide at its broadest, Iwo Jima was the best-defended spot in Japan’s Pacific empire. Its tough defenses were manned by 21,000 soldiers led by Lt.General Kuribayashi Tadamichi.  Delays in launching the invasion gave General Kuribayashi time to reinforce the defenses, despite bomber attacks.

Air strikes, rockets, napalm and the shells of naval guns pounded the defensive positions. Some bunkers and caves were destroyed, but the Japanese remained well dug in and determined. They had been preparing for this moment for nearly a year. They would not be easily broken.

On the night of 18 February 1945, Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, overall commander of the invasion, arrived at Iwo Jima along with Task Force 58, a vast carrier fleet.

As 19 February began, landing craft headed toward the beaches under a clear, bright sky. There would be no helpful gloom or fog to help the marines and soldiers hide from enemy guns.

The first troops, mostly marines  hit land at one minute to nine, welcomed by desultory fire from rifles and mortars, as you saw in the video.  Crossing the beaches, they hit fifteen-foot slopes of ash that had been spewed out by the island’s volcanic mountains. This soft black mass was tough to cross, forcing men to abandon equipment to continue their advance. It was impossible to dig foxholes in ash, the upside being that it absorbed some enemy shrapnel.

1st Battalion/23rd Marines burrow in on Yellow Beach

The slow rate of fire from the enemy made the Americans think they would face little opposition from a broken Japanese force, but  Kuribayashi had held back his men’s fire for an hour while the beaches became rammed full of troops and equipment – Then he unleashed the full fury of guns, mortars and artillery.

Under intense fire, the Americans pushed hard to get off the beaches and reach their objectives. Transport vehicles became bogged down in the ash, forcing men to slog through it on foot.

Japanese bunker on Iwo Jima

The Japanese held out in bunkers connected by a tunnel network. The Americans would clear out a bunker with grenades and flamethrowers then move on, only for the Japanese to reoccupy the bunker by underground routes and fire on them from behind.

By the end of 19 February, the 28th Marine Regiment had crossed the island at its narrowest point, where it was only half a mile across, cutting off the Japanese at Mount Suribachi. One of the two airfields had also been taken.

References: Hyperwar; WW2today; War Histor online

Click on images to enlarge.

####################################################################################

Military Humor – 

 

 

####################################################################################

Farewell Salutes – 

Clyde Barth – McAlisterville, PA; US Army, WWII / USMC, Korea

Linda Campbell – Portland, OR; US Air Force (Ret.), Lt.Colonel

Michael Ferriolo – Corona, NY; US Army, Medical Corps

William Hartley – Macon, GA; US Army, Medical Corps, Captain

George Lagasse – Manchester, NH; US Navy, WWII, USS Essex

Basil Nickerson – Ketchikan, AK; US Navy, WWII, USS Broome

Ono ‘Peggy’ Olson – Ferryville, WI; US Navy WAVES, WWII, 12th Regiment

Billy Sheppard – Alamogordo, NM; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Hudson

Johnny Weidkamp – Bellingham, WA; US Merchant Marine, WWII

John Zucco – Boston, MA; USMC, WWII, USS Alaska

#####################################################################################

Iwo Jima

From: “Japanese Destroyer Captain” by IJN Capt. Tameichi Hara____

After heavy preliminary bombardment, the Americans began the invasion of Iwo Jima…  Not a single Japanese warship was sent to oppose this enemy landing, only 700 miles from the homeland.  Meanwhile the bombing of Japanese cities by B-29 Superforts from Marianas bases continued with increasing intensity.

Nothing I write could possibly give you the feeling of this operation – so please watch this documentary that gives both American and Japanese thoughts on this 19 February 1945! 

I realize this is rather long, so if you have limited time, I suggest watching the first few minutes – still – it is very impressive!

 

####################################################################################

Military Humor –

 

 

####################################################################################

Farewell Salutes – 

Murray Barton – NYC, NY; US Army, WWII, ETO

Rayner Broadbent – Waikato, NZ; RNZ Navy # 8573, WWII, submarine service

Ralph Casale – Chelmsford, NH; USMC, WWII, frogman

Donald Gilbert – Greenville, OH; US Army, 11th Airborne Division

John Herberg – Eau Claire, WI; US Army Air Corps, WWII, CBI, pilot (Ret. 30 y.)

Ernell Hermanson – Albuquerque, NM; US Army, WWII

John McShane – Boston, MA; US Army, 187th RCT, infantryman

William Shank – US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 8th Air Force

Kenneth Taylor – Montreal, CAN; RC Navy, WWII, Signalman, HMCS Inch Arran

Ralph Wasserman – St. Paul, MN, US Navy, WWII, PTO, radioman

####################################################################################

%d bloggers like this: