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By Special to the Times
Published August 28, 2005
|Hazel Murphy and some of the other members of the 105th Medical Unit, which set up a hospital in Gatton, Australia.
Dig, dig, dig
After nine days of zig-zagging the Pacific in a troop ship, we arrived at a developing base in the Aleutians. It was mid 1942. In the first few months we (unloaded) sacks of coal, barrels of fuel, canned goods and military supplies from ships offshore. These articles were placed in prepared depressions and then covered with canvas and soil. This approach was taken so as not to be a visible target for the enemy. Our tents, subsequent quonsets, generators, etc., were all recessed for the same reason.
When winter came, we had to crawl through a hole on the surface and then down a ladder to mine coal for our Sibley stoves. When the wind blew (which was almost always), the stove pipe, up through the center peak of the tent, would rattle and shake and get red-hot. At night, we took two-hour shifts, among the six of us, for protection in case the flue collapsed.
In a nearby lake, the ice was punctured and a 5-gallon can lowered on a rope to obtain water. Fifty-gallon gas drums with the tops cut off were used for cooking, laundry, washing dishes and taking baths.
At Christmas we each received a bottle of Coke and a candle. On New Year's Eve, when the bottles were opened, the contents froze immediately as the caps were removed.
A February williwaw brought a thaw that resulted in flooding of all the recessed areas, and an all-out effort was launched to salvage what we could. Cases of Nescafe are probably still buried there.
-- Herman A. Nater, Tarpon SpringsChance reunion
I am 80 years old and a World War II veteran. I joined the Marines at 17 years of age. I was one of four brothers in the U.S. service.
I had not seen my scattered brothers for almost five years. While stationed on Guam for the second time, I had the strongest feeling that my brother Ernie was also on this 30-square-mile island. For two weeks, I walked the island from camp to camp. Finally, the last day of possible searching, I stopped in a B-29 squadron that had arrived the previous week. My brother's name was not on the new arrivals list. He had cut his finger and a clerk took him to the hospital. The first sergeant heard me mention my brother's name and advised what had happened or I would have never found him. The clerk quickly drove me to where he was, where we were united. We hugged and cried for hours and thanked God. I have since relived that moment a thousand times over.
-- Emilio Jannarone, New Port RicheyNurses needed
I am a registered nurse and one of those young women who, on Dec. 7, 1941, never gave a second thought about getting involved. As an RN, I knew I was needed. Along with 119 other RNs, I joined the 105th Medical Unit out of Boston and we headed for the South Pacific. The battle of the Coral Sea was in progress as we were setting up our hospital in Gatton, Australia. Our first patients were Navy men (boys). One of my sailors said to me, "I am sure glad that my sister isn't in this mess, but I sure am glad that someone is."
Every time I see a World War II veteran, I look and wonder, "Did I have him as a patient?"
-- Hazel J. Murphy, St. PetersburgSilent communication
I enlisted in the Marines at the age of 17. I spent my World War II career in the South Pacific, namely the Solomon Islands (and, more specifically, Bougainville Island). One day I was sent out on an intelligence patrol. As I stepped through the jungle, I came to a clearing. At the exact same moment that I walked into the clearing, a Japanese soldier stepped out into that same clearing. He looked at me. I looked at him. Our eyes seemed to lock. Without words, we communicated. We both stepped back, slowly, and went our respective ways, back into the jungle.
I have often wondered through the years if he thought of that day - the day we made the decision to spare the life of the other.
-- Marshall Trout, New Port RicheyLife in the Pacific
Pacific diary entries
JUNE 22, 1942: Left Frisco for ??? I wasn't on board ship 10 minutes for the first time when I hit my head on a hatchway. We hit rough water after about six hours out and I got seasick. Pork sausages for supper didn't help. Saw Alcatraz and went under the Golden Gate Bridge.
JULY 22, 1942: Left New Zealand, destination again unknown, and plenty of warships with us.
AUG. 5, 1942: Destination to be Guadalcanal. Amount of Jap forces unknown. Later found out that the Japs had sent two battalions of infantry to Flora Island, where they expected us to land. Flying fish seem to be following us all the way. A few sharks followed us for about two days. Got a toothache. Had it for a week. Going to see ship doc.
AUG. 7, 1942: Landed and established beach head on Guadalcanal. Casualties few. Our convoy was bombed by Japs. By night fall, artillery was 800 yards to the front and left of our infantry. When we got on beach, we saw the five Marines eating coconuts. Some joined them till we started moving up.
-- Hubert A. Burns, St. PetersburgA solemn duty
|John Angelini, second from right, at one of many gravesites that he and other volunteers dug for Americans killed in New Guinea.
Searching the shores and jungles of New Guinea for American soldiers killed in battle during World War II was a traumatic and unforgettable experience.
Our volunteer group included men from my company, two grave registration non-commissioned officers, an army chaplain and island natives to load food rations, camping gear and burial equipment aboard an LCP (landing craft personnel). We boarded the LCP on Monday, July 9, 1944, on the northern New Guinea coast. The mood was solemn. The atmosphere was surreal, considering the purpose of our mission and the serene environment. Rows of slender palm trees bowed gracefully toward the water that sparkled like a tray of gems under the early morning sun.
We docked at a point designated on a hand-drawn map. Our guide helped us locate the remains of American soldiers buried in shallow graves strewn across a deserted tropical landscape. I remember partially clothed soldiers covered by sand, blown by offshore winds across their deteriorating bodies. Some "grave sites" included nothing more than a helmet, a piece of clothing or dog tags. These men were temporarily forgotten, some nameless, and the sacrificial symbols of war. We carefully removed, examined and identified them, when possible, and recorded the information before placing the remains in body bags and transporting them back to the LCP.
In time, these casualties were placed in coffins, blessed and transported to the military cemetery at Finschhafen, Papua, New Guinea. The mission was a success and gave me a sense of contribution. I owe my comrades a debt of gratitude for without their sacrifices, I wouldn't be here telling this story.
-- John M. Angelini, Hudson"Land Crab War'
As a Marine in February 1945, I was sitting in a foxhole one rainy night on an island called Iwo Jima. The orders were to stay in the holes unless directly attacked by a banzai charge. The rain was drumming down and I was sitting there with a poncho on and wearing my helmet. Suddenly I felt a drumming on my helmet. I instinctively swung with my arm with my .45 and struck something hard. The thing I hit was a large land crab that landed in another foxhole a couple meters away from me. The next thing I remember was gunfire all over the area, which lasted maybe 10 minutes or so. Apparently an officer finally noted there was no enemy - only loads of large crabs covering the ground! As far as I know, nobody has been blamed for this "Land Crab War."
-- Bill Nolte, OldsmarWorking with the Sea-Bees
|Robert Gresh with a pet monkey.
Our unit was immediately assigned to work with the Sea-Bees, a branch of the Navy created during the war years. They are a marvelous group of fellows, about 10 or 15 years older than the average sailor, and were previously experienced contractors - plumbers, carpenters, welders, machinists, etc. They were intensely arduous workers and could get the job done!
Prefabricated huts were assembled. We young sailors helped supply the muscle with the Sea-Bees, who supplied the brains. Eventually we had a nice, functional community - comfortable huts to sleep and relax, more and better showers, toilets, mess halls, churches and an outdoor movie with plenty of cut-down coconut trees to sit on.
I finally got the opportunity to work on a PBY (patrol flying boat). I was working the night shift, the generators were going full blast lighting the working area, and I was literally inside the wing. Losing all sense of time, weeks, months, it was probably some time in August 1945. My work station was about a half-mile from the beach and our huts. Suddenly, loud noises, with shouting and all types of sounds flowed from the beach. My first thought was that the Japanese were making some kind of a nuisance raid. I heard rumors of these raids. My second thought was: "What will I do now?"
My pessimistic thoughts quickly vanished; the good news spread throughout the island. The war was over and the celebration was beginning. The big beer refrigerator was opened and everyone was having a brouhaha.
-- Robert S. Gresh, LargoMissions of war and peace
In 1945 I was a 22-year-old P-38 fighter pilot stationed on Ie Shima, a very small island near Okinawa. The island had five runways and a lot of various types of airplanes that were getting ready for the invasion of Japan. I flew most of my 22 combat missions over northern Luzon in the Philippines from our airfield on Mindoro, the island south of Luzon. The Japanese were still dug in, in various areas of Luzon. We would either dive-bomb them with two 1,000-pound bombs or a cluster of three 250-pound bombs under each wing, or drop two 500-gallon tanks of jelly gasoline (napalm) in the area where they were.
After we were moved to Ie Shima, our missions were to Kyushu, the southern Japanese island. The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki suddenly canceled our combat missions over Japan. Peace was to be negotiated in the Philippines and then to be signed on the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Probably our last combat mission was to escort the Japanese envoys, who were in a Betty bomber painted white with green crosses on the sides, from Japan to Ie Shima. From there, they were flown to Manila on a C-54 for the final negotiations for the terms of surrender. I was lucky enough to be part of that mission.
-- Walter L. HilgartMaking Japan safe for troops
Beginning in August 1945, after Okinawa was 99 percent secured, Bruckner Bay in Okinawa was the staging area for the invasion of Japan. With hundreds of naval ships, battleships, cruisers, aircraft carriers, many tin cans (destroyers), supply ships, troop ships, LST crafts and many, many others, you could not see the horizon.
I was on the PGM 21, a 120-foot ship that traveled with the minesweepers. A communique was sent to our ship, looking for volunteers to go to Kagoshima Bay, Kyushu, Japan, on a victory ship named the Pratt Victory. We arrived on the Pratt Victory after the two atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. From September 1945 to November 1945, we swept and cleared any mines that were in Kagoshima Bay so our arriving troops would land safely to begin the occupation of Japan.
We are grateful to President Truman for making the decision to drop the bombs. What we encountered at the naval base at Kagoshima Bay would have resulted in many losses of troops and ships.
-- Ralph Aquino, Treasure IslandWounds run deep
As we climbed the ramp of the USS Marigold, we knew the general direction we were going, but nothing else. Our first stop proved to be Pearl Harbor; our clue was the partially sunk ships in the harbor.
On the fifth day, the Marigold was on the high seas again with only 250 nurses aboard. The days seemed endless, and Bataan and Corregidor came into view. We arrived in Manila on Aug. 10 and from the blaring radio, we learned the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on Aug. 6.
We were assigned to the 2nd Field Hospital and waited to be sent to Hiroshima. In November we were flown from Clark Field to Japan. Here we worked 12-hour shifts with weekends off. On our first-time view of the area, we visited Hiroshima. We stood on the mountain and looked down to see the total destruction of a big city. The trees were black, charred sticks protruding from the ground, not one branch left. Then came the stark realization of the horrible consequences of war.
My thoughts went to our troops. Many had died, many severely wounded in mind and body. Not only did they suffer then, but even today I still see trauma in their eyes.
-- Bernice Ayers, LargoAboard the "Missouri'
I am a former crew member of the USS Missouri. I was one of the 2,700 aboard the ship when the peace treaty was signed in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945. I didn't see the actual signing but saw all the dignitaries as they came aboard.
I was in the 7th Division, an anti-aircraft division. I was a second-class gunner's mate. I am probably one of the last catapult captains the Navy had. The catapults and aircraft were removed from the ship in 1947, replaced with helicopters.
In 1945, a Japanese kamikaze struck right below my gun mount. It was the most publicized picture of a kamikaze hitting a ship.
-- Delbert Hunter, Safety Harbor
[Last modified August 24, 2005, 15:34:29]
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