My last war story, and that's a promise!
March 30, 2011 - When I remind you that I had exactly 14 days of U.S vs. Japan wartime experience you know my stories are few.
However, with so much tsunami-Japan-Pacific exposure I'm prompted to print something.
Our first assignment on March 23, 1945 was to deliver a shipload of Griesedieck beer through the Panama Canal to Pearl Harbor. Now, that's a priority mission. The ship's holds were welded shut to keep the officers from drinking all the beer
With the beer gone, we went on to Pearl Harbor to load up with 5-inch shells. That's 5-inch diameter.
We zigzagged (avoiding Japanese submarines) across the Pacific, past Eniwetok and Ulithi Islands and north to Kerama Retto, which is about 10 miles from Okinawa. Okinawa was being bombed around the clock by the Japanese.
I learned after the war my oldest brother was on a supply ship in an Okinawa harbor during days of bombardment.
On August 1 the word was spreading that Japan was about to surrender. Our ship was ordered out to Saipan to stand by.
Then came the announced surrender.
All hands went up on deck. We kept our eyes on the big ships. Soon their turrets were turning toward the open sea, ready to celebrate.
Of course, the officers put a stop to that. "Return all weapons to rest position" was the call. Kill joys!
So from then to November 24 we lifted troops. We took the Americal Division to Tokyo, the 32nd CB troops to Taku-Tientsen, China, the 77th Division to Taru on Japan's northern most island, Hokkaido, and back to Nagassaki where we began lifting the 5th Marine division to San Diego.
Our generous Captain Winston Folk provided us with two Thanksgiving dinners on that return trip, because, he said, that's when we crossed the international date line.
Whatever. It was ok with us.
• Some of our crew went ashore in Nagassaki. Some came back with chunks of molten sand, a result of the atom bomb we dropped.
• My only visit to Japanese soil came in the north island of Hokkaido. I remember people scurrying across roads and along sidewalks, occasionally hiding in doorways. They appeared more scared than curious.
• Japanese police directed civilian and vehicle traffic, using quick military-like arm movements.• Some of us decided we deserved a souvenir or two. The schools weren't occupied so we brought home some pieces of chalk.
- - - 0 - - -
Remembering some of the words to the U. S. Marines fight song: "From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli?" With all the activity in north Africa these days we surely know where Tripoli is now, if we didn't before.
- - - 0 - - -
Referring back to my column headline. Among my other unkept promises was to never exceed the speed limit while driving, come to a complete stop at all stop signs and never lie again.
Jim Sherman, Sr. is president of Sherman Publications, Inc. He has penned "Jim's Jottings" since 1955.