Marines search a grainfield on Okinawa (History101.com)

Kimono

First I’ll describe the area. The post was to the right of a machine gun post maybe a hundred yards or so and it was one of those plots of planted areas.  On the front side was a rise of a couple or three feet and to our left was a rise of about the same amount and then to our left it flattened and the other machine gun post was out there. Well, we could stand and look to the front and look out over this expansive area, sort of hilly but terraced as farmland is.  Out toward the front was a fairly large area of either rice or some sort of grain.  It was late at night and Neal and I were on guard duty together.  Neal had a browning automatic rifle and I had an M1.  We were standing there just peering out.  There was a moon out so everything was fairly light and I wasn’t particularly searching, but Neal said:
 
“Look out there do you see that little ripple in that grainfield?” Sure enough there was a ripple that looked like a trail.  That was exactly what it was, there was a Japanese soldier crawling along, keeping down in the grain; but you could see his trail cut into that field.  If you didn’t look closely you wouldn’t notice it, however, Neal did notice it.  He picked up his BAR and aimed and fired and the tracers were shooting out there. He directed it right into the Jap who jumped up in the air.  You could see his body go up and land a few feet ahead and then there was no more movement. We had a field telephone and reported back about what had happened.  All was quiet for the rest of that night. We had the post set up with about six or eight men so Neal and I were not alone that night.  There were at least four others sleeping in pup tents and of course we awakened them with the burst of that BAR.
 
About the next night or the night after I was out there again.  It was fun to be out there at night just keeping your eyes focused, watching.  This particular night, Karl Jahn and I were on watch and it was probably about midnight and time to report in.  We were supposed to use the telephone about every half hour to an hour and tell them that everything was all clear and that we were fine and in good shape with nothing happening.
 
Karl and I were sitting on two, five gallon cans of water.  I had an M1 across my knees and to my right on the ground was a field telephone with a little crank and a handset.  Karl was to my left.  We were sitting there looking out across that plain where the grain field was and to our left on a rise about three feet up was the other terrace and to our right it sloped down again.  At any rate, the others were sleeping, Neal Vincent among them.  Karl said to me it’s probably time to call in so as I started to reach for the telephone Karl noticed something and the first thing I heard was: “Don’t look now; but there are 3 Japanese to our left, see if you can make them out.”

I looked slowly over and out of the corner of my eye I could see three Japanese who pretty well blended into the night.  They were standing there frozen because apparently they had blundered out onto us without knowing we were there.  They were not sure what to do.  I said to Karl, “I’m going to fire at them from my position so don’t make any moves until I shoot”.

I looked down and directed my M1 barrel at the center man and pulled the trigger.   The first shot was a tracer that kind of blinded me; but I kept firing.  Karl fired at the same time at all three and with that we woke up all the guys in the pup tents and they came storming out.  Neal came out with his 12gauge shot gun.   We heard the bullets from the Japs fire whistling over our heads, fortunately none of our guys were hit. The minute we started shooting the flares went up. I also called for flares on the field telephone and suddenly it was like day light with everything lit up.  By this time everyone was shooting his weapons.  We went up to the rise on the left and as we went up there we could see there were bushes in the way.  In order not to conceal anybody hiding, Neal fired his 12 gauge shot gun and blew the bushes into pieces.  We marched out there for several yards but couldn’t see anybody.  A few minutes later we heard machine gun fire over to our left apparently the three had run across that machine gun nest of ours and they were wiped out. They got all three of them.  I checked with the machine gunner a little later who said one of the Japs, the middle one who was an officer had a sword. He had definitely been shot through the left shoulder so I assume to this day that I got him on the first round.  I was proud of myself and of my aim.
 
I missed telling another story that happened about the time that I talked about Neal and Ken Smith, intercepting that Japanese soldier.  It was in that same place where there was a village about a quarter or half mile from us consisting of a road going through the center with houses on both sides.  The houses were built up a couple of feet on stilts.  They all had thatched roofs and I was told to take a patrol of about 10 or 12 guys and check out the village to make sure it was unoccupied by anybody who was an enemy.
 
Off we went to check out the village walking on both sides of the road carrying our rifles.  As we started getting close to the village we heard some firing going on up ahead and an explosion.  We started to go up a little faster still being unaware of what might be going on.  It turned out that there was a company of Marines ahead of us already going through the village.  They had set one of the roofs on fire.
 
I walked into the first house on our right as we approached the village and there on the floor was a dead Japanese soldier and next to him was a woman clad in a beautiful kimono. The scene was a terrible sight and yet I couldn’t take my eyes off of where there should have been a face.  Black hair was spread on the floor with the scalp still in tact, no blood except the red part of the scalp on the inside; but everything else was blown away.  I was shocked as it was a strange scene to see and very bizarre.  I started to conjecture on what might have happened.   Apparently these two had been hiding in the attic and probably had made some noise so our guys had opened fire up toward the attic.  The woman had placed a grenade in her mouth and they both fell through the ceiling and were lying on the floor. To this day I wonder what caused this scene, whether they were lovers or man and wife, perhaps a Japanese soldier and an Okinawan wife, who knows, we’ll never know.   I felt a deep sadness for these two people as we left the village. 
 
At this time the fighting had dropped off, the Japanese were defeated in this area, and we established a staging area where tents were set up in tent rows and we went back into a dreary existence waiting for the next thing to happen; but all was peaceful and kind of deadly we hadn’t even gotten back into training it was a kind of a rest spot. The rumors were flying that the next campaign would be Japan and that this was going to be a really costly affair.
 
About this time I was notified, I think by Lt. Goff, that I was one of the guys selected to go home.  I was happy about that and at the same time I was sad to leave my friends.  Pearce and Garner, who were the Vaudeville actors came over one night and did a little show for us as a farewell.  They made us laugh and we got a big kick out of them. I’m sorry that I never got to see them again where they might have been performing in real life.

One night when we were in bed, trying to go to sleep tossing and turning for about a half an hour a guy in the next tent went berserk.  I guess he had a mental breakdown the whole time speaking out all kinds of mentally unstable stuff making no sense.  We listened to him talking and ranting, obviously very upset, and soon a jeep came by and picked him up. He was probably sent home.  We found out later that he was married and had been in combat before, was sent home to the states and then returned to the battle zone, so I would imagine he must have had a tough time.

OkinawaCivilians.jpgCivilians on Okinawa

I went around saying goodbye to my friends in the gun section.  I started my packing and had to turn in some of the stuff issued to me.  One of the items was a luminous watch, my carbine, a .45, and various other items.  Several books in my Sea bag that I had gotten from the Book of the Month Club, I just passed out to friends and got ready to go home.

One day we were taken by truck out to a special staging area before going aboard ship.  You could observe the Okinawan civilians now returning home.  The women all wore kimonos and some had babies in their packs on their backs, their babies were rather cute.  We had never really seen civilians close up and it was quite a sight to see young people and babies.

I also forgot to mention another incidents that took place about the time that we found that Japanese Quarter Master Depot.   We were stationed there with our guns and one day a young Okinawan boy came over, couldn’t speak English but he was standing around looking at our gun and kind of looking like he wanted company or something. Several of us, including me, gave him a chocolate bar out of our C ration can.  He seemed to be very happy about it. He started to come back often and I went over to Lt Goff who had a book of phonetic Okinawan, and I asked to borrowed it, so for several days when the boy would come around I would ask him questions with the help of the book I’d ask about the bombing raids etc., and he would shake his head or say Yes or No in Okinawan.  It was interesting.