Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Battle of Okinawa, Part III

Back row: Glenn Skousen (AZ), Craig Deardorf (PA), G.P.Starr (AL), Author (MI), Art Johnston (MI), Stuart Bean (OK), George Brayman (NY)
Front row: Kazimiesz "Rosie" Rozoff (MI), Donald Treglia (NJ), Johnny Mason (PA), Louis D. G. DeGeneris (MI), Lynn Foltz (MT), Stanley Lalko (NJ)

Map Depot Operations

Soon GIs and Marines started arriving wanting maps. We were really a sort of retail store out in the boonies. I had made a sign out by what was becoming a busy road pointing to us. They would ask for whatever maps they wanted and my men became like clerks at a mall store, except everything was free. Sergeant Foltz from Montana and I had our own small headquarters wall tent out front. 

We kept improving our setup and eventually had a small narrow-gauge railroad running through a line of tents full of map boxes. We had taken the Weapons Carrier out to a sugar cane mill and "liberated" some track and a couple of small hand carts. It turns out that the mill was being guarded by an MP with a Doberman who almost caused me to wet my pants when it "greeted" me (I distracted the MP and his dog while my men made off with track and carts). Tenth Army Headquarters started growing up around us, much to our dismay because that introduced Chicken Shit in the form of Colonels and clerks.

When we first arrived, combat operations were uncomfortably close to our south and the noise of explosions and artillery and gunfire quite plain. The 7th, 27th, and 96th Army Divisions and the 1st Marines were pushing the Japanese southward. The 6th Marines, who had come with us, were clearing out the north end of the island. Eventually they came back south and replaced the 1st Marines. 

My old Beta buddy Jim "Dogbutt" Brown from Bluefield, West Virginia, was a lieutenant with the 6th Marine Engineers. He used to come visit me and tell me war stories. He would invite me to go back south with him but I always politely demurred. He eventually won a medal for building a Bailey Bridge under fire across a creek north of Naha, the island's capital. One time he brought me a Japanese "Horn Mine" he had cleared from a beach and deactivated. I steamed out the picric acid explosive and painted it up and set outside my HQ tent. 

When Major Fullerton, to whom I reported at 10th Army HQ, found out I had been playing with Japanese explosives he gave me hell. A number of of the men in my outfit swore they were going to hunt down Major Fullerton after the war (he was from Detroit and worked for Detroit Edison). Two of my guys were from Michigan, Art Johnston from Owosso and Louie DeGeneris from Flint. Louie came and visited me a few years ago.

Next: Part IV

Read Part I     Part II     Part IV