Sixth Marine Division
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Stories by Sixth Division Marines

On the Point of the Spear Part II

Snap! and Other Sounds of Battle

The first time that I was shot at personally (that is, someone was trying to kill me specifically, instead of just anyone in the group I was with) happened in early April on the road toward Nago on the west coast of the island. A halt had been called and we all took off our packs and got off our feet along the side of the road.

The seaward side of the road at that point overlooked a steep cliff that dropped to a narrow beach. The inland side of the road was a two or three foot high earthen bank. The top of the bank sloped upward gradually to a large hill. I sat, not on the road with my back to the bank, as most of the others did, but on a large flat rock on the edge of the bank. I had my rifle on my lap and my feet dangled over the edge of the rock as I gazed out at the sea.

There was a sudden Snap! -- a loud noise that was familiar. It took me several seconds to identify the noise and I almost delayed too long in getting off of the rock. The noise had been the sonic crack of a bullet going by me. The second Snap! was accompanied by a shower of dirt and followed by the noise of a ricocheting bullet traveling out to sea. The source of the bullet was not visible. I learned a valuable lesson. When not moving, stay under cover.

A supersonic bullet (one traveling faster than the speed of sound) makes a loud Snap! or Crack! noise if it is close to you when it goes by. This is identical to the sonic boom made by a supersonic aircraft, but on a lesser scale. The noise is caused when the shock wave traveling outward from the bullet contacts the ear. Actually, there is a shock wave from both the point and the base of the bullet. Most of us have heard a supersonic airplane make a double “Boom” sound. A bullet is so short that the two noises are almost simultaneous and sound like one noise.

Anyone who has ever pulled targets at a rifle range has heard the noise. It is not the bullet hitting the target material that makes the sound.

I have been in the butts at Camp Perry, Ohio (where the National High Power Rifle Championships are held) while thousand yard rifle matches were being fired. Some bullets that are fired with insufficient muzzle velocity lose enough velocity while traveling the 3000 foot distance that they are going slower than the speed of sound when they hit the target. A bullet traveling at subsonic velocity makes almost no sound when it hits a target. A hole magically appears in the target.

A bullet fired in a direction away from the listener, if heard from off to one side on a quiet day, makes a continuous “Whushing” sound as it travels away. A bullet fired near the listener from some distance away makes a Snap! noise as the bullet passes, followed by a Thump noise when the sound of the gun firing reaches the ear of the listener.

Before Okinawa, I had always heard that you never hear the sound of the bullet that hits you.

This is true.

The sound of an artillery shell rushing through the air is difficult to describe. It is a very distinctive sound that I can still hear in my “mind's ear”, but language does not usually make it possible to put such a sound into words.

The noises made by some mortar shells that landed close to me did not always sound exactly like explosions. The blast noise was sometimes almost masked by the high pitched sound made by flying fragments.

The defensive line that ran across the island east and west, north of the city of Naha, was located in terrain which was nearly ideal for that purpose. Most Japanese firing positions were located in manmade caves inside hills. The caves were connected by tunnels that meandered inside and between the hills which made up the in-depth defenses. Occupants of a firing position were often some distance back from a cave's opening to the outside. This reduced the noise made by the muzzle blast of the gun firing and also gave an added measure of protection. Should a cave entrance be destroyed by artillery fire or collapsed by the explosion of a satchel charge thrown into the cave from outside, the occupants would have a good chance for survival. They could then move back into the tunnel system, travel to another firing position and fight another day.

Many firing positions had small openings which were usually well camouflaged. This made them very difficult to detect even while the guns inside them were being fired, especially when they were masked by live vegetation. Live vegetation also seemed to deaden the noise made by the gun. We sometimes received large volumes of machine gun fire but could neither see nor hear from where it was coming.

When a gun was located well back from a small opening, this combination allowed only a narrow field of fire. It was possible to move only a few feet to be completely out of the line of fire of a machine gun. But the move might be into a position which was in clear view of another gun. Firing positions were usually mutually supporting. Dead spots were possible, either from the nature of the terrain or because of the destruction of the firing positions covering them. Within dead spots it was possible to move around in almost perfect safety, but not for too long at a time. Dead spots were usually covered by artillery and mortar fire.

I have heard it said that the portion of Okinawa over which we fought while attacking the defensive line north of Naha in May had been a Japanese artillery range prior to the battle. That seemed as if it were true, although I'm sure it wasn't. But various locations on that line were well registered and zeroed for artillery fire. Japanese artillery was highly effective and deadly. Single rounds could have devastating effect.


A few days after we moved from the north end of Okinawa to the south and into the lines west of the First Marine Division, G Company occupied the forward slope of a large hill. (In this tract, a forward slope was the part of the hill that we occupied, the reverse slope was the side of the hill that the enemy could see.) The hill angled upward at about a twenty degree angle. Several of us had been ordered to go down to an LVT (we called them AMTRACS) at the base of the hill and carry mortar shells to near the crest where the company 60 Millimeter mortars were located. The shells weighed about three pounds apiece and were packaged in a “clover leaf” of six shells, with a wire carrying handle. I believe I was carrying twenty four shells, with my rifle slung on my right shoulder.

About a third of the way down from the crest of the hill a relatively level dirt road had been cut into the slope and ran around the hill. The uphill side of the road had an embankment which was about two or three feet high. The men of the Third Platoon had just arrived on the hill and were strung out along the road, sitting with their backs to the embankment. A single shell came over the top of the hill, not from the direct front, but on an angle, and exploded on the corner of the cut, on the edge of the embankment. About a dozen Marines were hit, half of them were killed. One of the Whites lost a leg. I was walking up the hill, somewhere between 30 and 50 yards away from the place where the shell exploded and was hit in the right cheek by a piece of meat. I thought I'd been wounded at first until I saw what had hit me. I don't know what size shell it was, but it landed in the most optimum spot it could possibly have found to maximize its effectiveness.

Later, I buried a severed hand which was laying near my foxhole.

I was almost buried by a shell that caved in my foxhole one morning. My recollection of this occurrence is hazy. It was after we had been pulled back from Half Moon (G Company's part of the battle for Sugar Loaf Hill) and we were on a hill that was east of Charlie Hill and farther north. I believe it was on the morning of the 19th of May. An artillery shell hit outside the left front of the hole that I was occupying by myself. All I can remember is afterward, after someone had pulled me out of the hole. I don't remember now who that was. Later, my mouth felt funny. Several teeth had been chipped. This has affected my bite in later life. Being as I had a concussion (was knocked out), I consider this as my first occasion of being wounded in action. I received no medical treatment for it. No medical corpsmen were with the company at that time. All had been hit.

Friendly Fire

Our own artillery always had their guns located behind the front lines. So, when fired, shells would have to pass over Marine front line positions on their way to targets, which, it was hoped, would be in territory occupied by the Japanese. It wasn't called “Friendly Fire” as it is today when badly aimed artillery or mortar shells fired by our side hit too close for comfort. In those days our terminology was “Short Rounds.”

Martin Field on Guadalcanal, the 29th Marines athletic field, drill field or whatever that multi-purpose clearing was, had been named for the first Marine from the regiment who had been killed in training by a short round. I knew several people in the regiment who had scars from mortar shell fragments they got in training. You didn't get a Purple Heart for that kind of wound. Our mortar men had to learn their trade and it probably saved lives in the end.

The Japanese made a practice of firing a round or two at our positions at the same time that our artillery was firing. This would result in a shell exploding in our general area at the same time that we heard “outgoing” shells passing over our heads. When this first occurred, there were hurried attempts to communicate with the 15th Marines, calling on them to “raise your fire” or even to cease firing. After it was determined what the Japanese had done, we knew to stay in our foxholes and keep buttoned up whenever shells were passing overhead, regardless of whose artillery was firing.

The 15th Marines, which was the artillery regiment for the Sixth Marine Division, had forward observers (FOs) assigned to front line units. The function of these men, who were almost always officers, was to initiate artillery firing missions and to spot the locations where shells were hitting and call for aiming corrections so that the shells would come down onto the desired targets. An FO was equipped with binoculars and either a radio or a sound power telephone. FO's did good work.

We also had FOs for the 60 MM mortars in our company, usually an NCO from the mortar section. I accompanied a corporal forward of the front lines in May to give him some backup, while he spotted for our company mortars. I wanted to shoot at the many Japanese we could see but that would have alerted them. We hit many more with the mortars than I could have hit with my M1.

South of Charlie Hill and north of Sugar Loaf Hill was a wide valley. Forward of the front lines, in the middle of this valley was a small round hill with a flat place on the top of it. The flat area was about 25 feet in diameter. I was with a mixed bunch that went to this hill to accompany an FO who intended to use the location for observation and artillery spotting. We did a little dirt work to make an earthen wall between us and the Japanese, which made the top of the hill almost a large foxhole. A short time after he began to do some spotting for artillery targets, the FO, who was a lieutenant from the 15th Marines, was hit in the head by a rifle bullet probably fired from Sugar Loaf Hill. He was killed instantly. After that happened we stayed on that small hill for a while, but when we learned no one would be sent to replace the dead FO, we made our way back to the larger hill where the rest of G Company was located.

Sometime in May, I spent a short time in a foxhole at the edge of a large valley, through which ran a muddy road down which trucks periodically ran the gauntlet. It was after the rains had started and the ground was water soaked. Intermittent Japanese artillery shells landed near the road, several hundred yards from my hole. About a fourth to a third of the shells failed to explode when they hit the soggy ground. A dud shell had an interesting effect which a shell that did explode did not have. A second or two after a dud shell failed to explode when it hit the ground, I would feel a tremor in the ground in the bottom of the foxhole.

I don't think that it is an ethnic slur to state that the Japanese had an aptitude for using mortars.

Conventional guns with flat trajectories gain distance by elevating their muzzles. A mortar extends its range by depressing the muzzle. If a mortar were to be pointed exactly straight up, a shell fired from it (if there was no wind and the rotation of the earth were to have no effect on the path of the shell) could conceivably fall back down into the tube. To have the mortar shoot farther away, the tube must be angled down from the vertical. The Japanese seemed to have much skill in knowing exactly how much to depress the muzzle in order to hit something with the first shell they fired.

I helped carry W. W. (Red) White from a foxhole after he was wounded. A single mortar shell had landed in a hole where it had killed one Marine and wounded three others, including Red.

Many Japanese mortar positions were underground with only a small hole in the top, through which the mortar shells exited when they were fired from beneath the surface of the ground. These positions were very difficult to find.

Our side frequently fired salvos of rockets at area targets. The rockets were fired from 4X4 trucks which had three racks, each rack stacked with about a dozen rockets. The truck would be driven up and positioned facing a hill which was at a distance of a quarter to a half mile away. The three Marines on the truck would prepare and aim the rockets for firing. When they began firing, the bottom rocket in each column would fire, the stack would drop and each bottom rocket in turn would fire until all three racks were empty. All of the rockets would fire within a time period of 10 to 12 seconds. The rockets were not capable of very great accuracy, so the hill at which they were fired would be blanketed by explosions. Probably, very few Japanese were ever hit by the rockets, but the explosions would remove most of the vegetation from a hillside and expose any cave openings on it.

We soon learned to vacate the area or find deep cover when one of these trucks arrived. We knew what was coming. As the last rockets were dropping down into battery and firing, the driver of the truck would already be starting to move. The last man still on foot would run and jump on the truck and then hang on as it slewed around and headed for the rear.

Almost immediately, Japanese mortar shells would begin to drop on and around the spot that the rocket truck had occupied only moments before while it was firing.

Sugar Loaf and Other Hills

I watched as a hill was bombarded one day. I didn't know until much later the name of the hill. The hill got the name of Sugar Loaf from its shape. Many Marines were killed and wounded in the battle for Sugar Loaf Hill and its other mutually supporting hills.

The fighting for Sugar Loaf Hill and its environs was as savage and costly as any fighting in the Pacific Theater, perhaps the toughest in all of World War II.


I saw a number of men immediately after they had been struck by enemy fire, but very few at the exact instant that they were hit.

About the Twelfth of May I was standing on top of a hill which overlooked a wide valley in the direction of Sugar Loaf Hill and the city of Naha. I was looking away from the direction of the Japanese toward a sergeant who was on his feet, watching some men as they prepared to dig foxholes. My eyes weren't focused on his back, but I was looking right at him when the bullet hit him. All of a sudden he began to fumble with the clothes around his beltline. He sat down, then leaned to one side and fell over. A bullet, fired from long range, had hit his back, penetrated his body, was stopped when it hit his cartridge belt and was burning the skin of his abdomen. The bullet had gone by me but I hadn't heard it.

One day in the middle of May, two of us, I don't remember now who the other man was, had just arrived at an embankment which was about three or four feet high. We were looking over it at the terrain beyond it when we heard a voice behind us. We both squatted down with our backs against the bank as we turned to see who it was. Standing there was a bandsman from the 29th Marines regimental band. Band members were stretcher bearers when the regiment was in combat. I remember that this man was a trumpet player. He asked us if we knew where any casualties were or maybe he asked where a specific wounded man was. One of us mentioned hearing of a wounded man over to his left. He turned his head to look in that direction.

I was looking directly up into his face at the instant a bullet hit him in the chin. His head didn't hardly wiggle as a hole suddenly appeared in his chin where the bullet went through it from right to left. He grabbed his chin and blood began running between his fingers and down his wrist. I said something to him, but he didn't reply. He took off running back to where he had come from. The Japanese rifleman who shot him was probably in the process of trying to shoot one of the two of us looking over the embankment when the arrival of the bandsman caused us to hunker down below the top of the bank and the bandsman was wounded instead of one of us being wounded or killed.

I saw another man at the instant that he was hit by a bullet. That incident will be described later.


The night skies north of Naha in the middle of May were often lit by parachute flares. They were put up in the sky by mortar and artillery fire.

Our company 60 Millimeter mortars were kept busy some nights when the noises of Japanese activity could be heard. I once overheard some of our mortarmen talking about the extreme distances they had shot the previous night in order to put flares over some people who were occupying a hill far out in front of the mortar position. The mortars were laid down at such an angle that they had to literally throw the shells down the tubes in order to get them to fire.

Destroyers and other Navy ships off the west coast of Okinawa in the East China Sea would shoot flares from 5 inch guns at intermittent time intervals. These flares remained in the air much longer than the ones shot from mortars. The larger flares from the ships were higher in the air when they exploded and deployed and they also were more stable. The smaller flares from the mortars were less stable and would swing back and forth under their parachutes. Flares could make the terrain under them almost as visible as in daylight. Since flares were point sources of light, the shadows those moving lights caused sometimes gave strange appearances to ordinary objects as the flares approached the ground.

A group of us were changing locations one coal black night and were in the middle of the treeless valley near Half Moon Hill in what would have been called “No Man's Land” in World War I. Several times we were caught by flares. The recommended action to take when caught in the open by a flare is no action. Freeze and stay frozen. Each time a flare caught us it seemed like we stood there for thirty minutes before it either went out or reached the ground.

More Casualties

On 16 May 1945, G and I Companies of the 3rd Battalion 29th Marines were badly mauled on Half Moon hill north of Naha. We never knew the names of the hills we were on until some time afterward. Half Moon was one of three mutually supporting hills occupied by well emplaced Japanese. The other two hills had been named Sugar Loaf and Horse Shoe by the people in the rear with the gear. The action was called the battle for Sugar Loaf Hill. No one from G Company was ever actually on Sugar Loaf Hill, but a large number of G Company men were killed or wounded by machine gun fire coming from that hill or by mortar and shell fire directed from it.

Charlie Hill was the starting place for the assault on Half Moon. When the company was ordered to leave Half Moon it returned to Charlie Hill. Twenty men were left in the company out of some 255 who had landed with it and the dozen or so replacements who had joined it in April. Some men were strayed, had attached themselves to other companies, but most of the absent ones had been wounded or killed. All of the officers in the company had been wounded or killed. G Company was commanded by a sergeant named Loren Mitchell.

I dug in on Charlie Hill with Francis West. Or, rather, West dug the hole while I stood watch as it grew dark. There was a chance that we might be counter-attacked.

The foxhole that I shared with West that night was one of the deepest that I ever inhabited. West had been hit through his helmet by a machine gun bullet fired from long range. I then and there lost any faith in a helmet's ability to protect against anything more powerful than a thrown rock. The bullet hit near the top of West's helmet and went through steel and plastic liner. The helmet did not deflect that bullet as much as one second of angle.

In many military units it is an unusual occurrence for someone to be wounded or killed, but not so in G Company. Nearly everyone who survived the battle was wounded at least once.

West was never wounded and never received a Purple Heart. He should have received something, because he spent every minute that it was possible to spend on the front lines.

Francis Ward was another Third Platoon man who was never hit. He had a young looking face and a dense, black beard.

Another member of the company who was never wounded (at least bad enough to warrant a Purple Heart), and spent every minute possible on the front lines, was H. Ross “Tennessee” Wilkerson. Tennessee did get a Bronze Star Medal. He modestly claims that the decoration was not warranted, but I don't believe that is true.

When the company pulled back from Charlie Hill, we went a short distance back of the front lines where we dug in. Near my hole was a dead Marine lying face down. He had been killed a short time before. He was in E Company of the Second Battalion, Twenty Ninth Marines at the time he was killed. He had been hit from the front but his whole back had been blown out, exposing his intestines. I dug in his pack for a poncho to cover him. The Marine's surname was stenciled on his pack. The name was familiar so I lifted him by raising his pack enough that I could see his face. In North Carolina he and I had been foxhole and shelter-half (pup-tent) mates. We had dug in together many times in training.


About 21 May the 3rd Battalion, 29th Marines was relieved from the front lines and marched back about five miles to an area that we had left around May 1. It was near a sea wall on the west coast of the island. Most of us were carrying at least one BAR in addition to an M1 rifle. We were walking slowly, some of us limping. Our clothes were ragged. We were used up.

The battalion was in a column of two's, with G Company at the head of the column, followed by H and I Companies. The column was a short one and probably looked like a single company which had suffered a number of casualties.

A major in a starched khaki shirt and shorts drove by. He throttled his jeep down to match our speed and asked who the company commander was. Loren Mitchell was in the lead of the column and I was a short distance behind him, so I was able to hear this. Sgt. Mitchell spoke up and said that he guessed that he was the company commander. The major asked what company this was. Loren told him that it wasn't a company, it was the whole 3rd Battalion of the 29th Marines. The Major looked back toward the rear of the column, then speeded up and drove away.

At the sea wall, We received replacements. Also, men who had previously been slightly wounded began to return from the hospital and those who had been with other companies also returned. The company strength was soon up considerably and continuing to grow. But, several more men went to the hospital. I had dug in with R. R. White. He visited the Battalion Aid Station and was sent to the hospital, although I didn't know it until later. Sgt. Mitchell went to the hospital with some mortar fragments in his ankle that he had received several days previously, which were beginning to fester.

The day after we got to the sea wall, Clyde Bower and I were assigned the job of returning to Half Moon to gather up BAR's which had been abandoned when the company had left that hill. The fighting had moved south of there. Half Moon was now in Marine controlled territory.

I was feeling bad and had a fever. Clyde and I sat in the rain in the back of a 4X4 truck driven by two men from 3rd Battalion headquarters. They parked the truck on the south edge of the large valley that was bounded on the north by Charlie Hill and on the south by the rise that led to the Half Moon. The truck would not have survived more than ten seconds in that location just a few days before.

Clyde and I went up toward Half Moon to look for BAR's. We went near where the company had been before, the area of the narrow gauge railroad tracks and up the hill.

We each found two or three BAR's and went back to put them in the truck. The truck was gone. We thought that we might have come back to the wrong place until I saw the tracks the truck had made when it turned around. They had left us there. Clyde threw the BAR in his right hand so that it stuck muzzle first in the mud. We dropped the rest of them in a pile and started walking back through the rain toward the sea wall. We only had to walk a couple of miles before we were able to catch a ride. The walk in the rain didn't help my fever much.

Clyde was in a different platoon than mine when he was wounded on Oroku Peninsula in June. He was climbing a steep hill when a Japanese shot down at him with a rifle. The bullet hit the top of his shoulder, toward the back, and came out just above his waist. He spent time in the Navy hospital on Guam and rejoined the company on Guam in late August.

Clyde and I frequently played chess together after we got to Tsingtao, China. He never did beat me. In fact, in all the time I was overseas, no one else did, either.

I was feeling bad after Clyde and I got back to the sea wall. I went to the Battalion Aid Station, but my temperature wasn't elevated enough for me to be sent to the hospital. The corpsman who examined me asked if I was dug in with someone. Since I didn't know that R. R. White had already gone to the hospital, I told him yes, but I really didn't understand the reason for the question. The corpsman gave me a handful of pills. Unbeknownst to me, some of them were sleeping pills. I awoke the next morning on my back in my foxhole, shivering like a dog defecating peach seeds. I was lying in cold water up to the level of my ears. It had rained hard that night. R. R. White and I had strung shelter-halves and ponchos over the hole, but water was pouring into it from the adjacent field, on its way toward the sea wall. I usually slept on my stomach. Had I slept with my face down that night I might have drowned.

I really felt bad. I went to the hospital with a high fever and swollen lymph glands in my neck, armpits and groin. A year or so later I saw my medical record and found that I had been diagnosed as having tonsillitis, even though my tonsils were removed when I was five years old. I suppose I was just suffering from general lack of maintenance. Compounded by a cold soak.

The 6th Marine Division Hospital was in tents, with bare cots and blankets. I slept a major portion of the 5 or 6 days I was in the hospital. I slept in two hour stretches. Every three hours, 24 hours a day, I was given a massive injection of penicillin in one or the other of my buttocks.

The penicillin was ice cold so the afflicted area would throb for about an hour or so, and it took that long to get back to sleep.

We got hot food in the hospital. The cans of “C” rations were heated in a large tub of hot water before the cans were opened.

One thing I missed by my stay in the hospital was a lot of rainy weather and mud. The island of Okinawa became one big quagmire.

Getting Back to G Company

When being discharged from the hospital, the procedure was to go first to 6th Marine Division Headquarters for processing. Most people also had a shave, a shower, a haircut and new clothes. I got the shave and one set of new clothes. There wasn't time for the shower or the haircut. We were not issued 782 equipment (Cartridge Belt, Canteens, Haversack Pack, Shelter Half, Poncho, Entrenching Tool, Etc.), but I had kept my helmet when I went to the hospital.

From the 6th Marine Division Headquarters, several Marines from other companies and Sgt. Mitchell and I from G Company rode a truck to the 29th Marines Regimental Headquarters. We were ushered in to see a lieutenant colonel. I think he might have been the regimental executive officer. The colonel told us to find some chow. Transportation back to our units would be arranged later. The building where the 29th Mar HQ was located had a huge room on the first floor. Sgt. Mitchell asked the colonel if we could stay inside the building that night. The colonel told us that he had already told us to find a place outside. It was raining and almost dark. We had no ponchos or shelter halves.

Near the big building someone had built a hut from some room divider panels that were found in most Okinawan houses. These dividers were just over 6 feet long (probably 2 meters) and about half that in width, made of framed thin plywood. The hut was about ten feet square and about three feet high.

The hut leaked and the ground inside it was muddy. We were used to mud. What we couldn't get used to were the hundreds of mosquitoes that inhabited the inside of the hut. A hand swished through the air inside the hut would touch dozens of them. The mosquitoes won and got to keep the hut. We spent the night squatting on our helmets under a narrow overhang of the building just barely out of the intermittent rain. It was a long, miserable night, with much mosquito slapping and little sleep.

By morning the rain had lessened. Loren and I went back to see the colonel to find out when we could get back to G Company. Marine lieutenant colonels have veins in their foreheads which distend when they shout at people. I don't know if you have to have those veins in order to get to be a Lt. Col. or if you grow the veins after you have already become one. Majors also sometimes have those veins. The colonel told us that he would get us back to our company when he was Got Dam good and ready, and for us to get the Hell out of here. We did.

Outside, Loren looked at me and I looked at Loren.

He said, “What do you think?”

I said, “Let's go.”

We left the 29th Marines Regimental Headquarters and started walking south to find our company which was probably on the front lines.

I suppose technically we went AWOL, but our intentions were honorable. We wanted to reduce that colonel's work load and at the same time get back to the front lines to improve our living conditions.

All that we possessed we were wearing. As I mentioned before we had no 782 gear. We also had no weapons.

I hadn't known until then how many people there were behind the front lines. The number of people in a battle is directly proportional to the distance from the enemy. The closer to the front the fewer the people. Front line foxholes can be very lonely places, especially if you are pinned down and can't raise up to look around without taking a chance of being badly hurt.

We hitched a ride on the back of a south-bound 6X6 truck with two Marines in the cab. The truck made several stops, picking up and delivering various items.

At one place where we stopped, the building was being used as a bakery. The two truck drivers went inside the bakery while Loren and I waited in the back of the truck. They came out of the bakery chewing large mouthfuls. They brought two large envelopes full of hot rolls and laid them in the back of the truck. The envelopes were waterproof and padded with some sort of insulation to keep the rolls warm. The envelopes were about 4 feet long and 2 feet wide and each had two layers of rolls inside.

At the next place we stopped, one of the people there sidled over, looked in the truck and spotted the rolls. He sounded off and immediately half a dozen people swarmed the truck, tore open one of the envelopes and helped themselves to several handfuls of rolls apiece.

Loren and I eyed each other. On the front lines we had, on one occasion only, received about one and a half rolls each with a little marmalade. The rest of the time we subsisted on “C” rations. Those rolls had been delicious and were the closest thing to hot chow we had seen on the front lines.

At the next stop, when the swarm again came for the rolls, Loren moved the envelopes to the front of the truck bed and announced that he would kick the head off the first man who tried to touch the rolls. Someone asked Loren who the Hell he thought he was. Loren answered that he was the man who was going to kick the head off the first person who reached for the rolls.

Soon after that the two Marines in the cab of the truck left us at a road junction. We were about a mile from the northern outskirts of the city of Naha. It was a rainy, overcast day. The Fourth Marines had fought through this area a few days before. The terrain was open farmland, uncultivated that year because the farmers had moved north, away from the fighting. We could see for quite a distance in every direction. There was little vegetation other than new grass and we were the only humans around. Or so we thought.

Someone shot at us with a rifle. When a shot fired from some distance off goes close by, the bullet gets to the target before the noise made by the rifle firing. The snap of the bullet is heard first as its sonic crack hits the ear, followed by a distant thump from the sound of the rifle. It is usually difficult to determine exactly from what direction a shot has been fired. We hit the deck and waited a little while. When we rose up to look for the shooter, he shot at us again.

We scooted out of there and kept low until we found a covered route which allowed us to continue moving south.

On the northern outskirts of Naha we found a number of M1 rifles and picked out the two best looking ones. There were cartridge belts with ammunition for the rifles, and haversacks, all probably abandoned when the previous owners had been wounded or killed. The site had been the location of an aid station.

We scavenged some of the packs for items of clothing to use for cloth with which to clean the two rifles. We even found a toothbrush. Marines did brush their teeth in those days, but the main use for a toothbrush was to keep a rifle clean and functioning.

We stood on a pile of rubble next to a stone wall which was of a convenient height to field strip and clean the two rifles. All of a sudden the rubble I was standing on gave way and I was ankle deep in the desiccated chest cavity of a long dead cadaver.

We couldn't clean the bores of the rifles, except by firing, but we cleaned the chambers, and brushed out and lubricated the rubbing parts with Lubriplate from the small containers in the buttplate recesses. The rifles cleaned up well enough that they both fired with no malfunctions. Both of us counted the rear sight elevation clicks down, memorized them, and then put them back on. We shot at some stones on a wall, from a distance of about a hundred yards, with enough success that we were confident that the rifles were probably zeroed well enough.

How we knew I don't remember, but we reckoned that we should go east from where we were to find G Company. There was a road and we started walking east on it. We began to go through wooded areas. No one shot at us. Maybe any by-passed Japanese in that area were out of the weather trying to keep dry.

There had been canteens on the cartridge belts that we had picked up and we had filled them from other canteens, so we had water, but no chow. A 6X6 truck passed us going east on the road we were following. The truck didn't stop for us. It may have been driven by the two Marines who had given us a ride before and they didn't want us to abuse any more of their friends.

The truck was carrying wooden cases of “C” rations. When it slowed for a deep, water-filled hole on the muddy road, I was able to catch up with it and pull off one of the cases of rations.

Later we encountered a group of Marines and asked one of them if he knew where G Company was. He pointed out another group a short distance away. We knew them. They were part of G Company.

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to next page -- Part III

☆ Dedication
☆ Part I
☆ Part IV
☆ G/3/29 Roster, April-June 1945
☆ James S. White bio