Sixth Marine Division
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Stories by Sixth Division Marines

On the Point of the Spear Part III


The Company had not yet been back up on the front lines, but had been sending out a few patrols. We hadn't missed much while we were in the hospital, except some rainy weather.

We were both assigned to the third platoon; Loren Mitchell as the platoon sergeant, I as a rifleman/runner.

As far as communications were concerned, we might as well have been fighting in World War I. The “Walky Talky” radios in use at that time, even when available, employed vacuum tube circuitry which used up batteries quickly and was often prone to failure from shock, wetness or even fungus infection.

Runners were used to communicate between units. Young men who were fleet of foot and possessed of a reasonable level of intelligence (or a complete lack thereof) were employed to keep higher echelons informed of progress and to guide wire men and people carrying ammo, water, rations, etc. up to newly captured positions. After helping to attack a hill, after his unit had set up a perimeter defense, a runner would then have to find a safe way to get back to company headquarters with “The Scoop”. Runners were also used to communicate with other companies and sometimes ranged all over a battlefield.

Once wire had been laid, Sound Power telephones were used and gave good service. The severity of the fighting in an area could often be gauged by the amount of communication wire left laying on it.

Oroku Landing

On 4 June 1945 the 4th Marines and the 29th Marines made a landing behind the main Japanese defensive line on Oroku Peninsula, which is across a bay south of the city of Naha. We were ferried around Naha to the west end of the peninsula in LVT's (Landing Vehicle, Tracked; a sort of bulldozer boat that could travel on land as well as water). We usually called them “AMTRACS” (Amphibious Tractors).

There was a sea wall where we landed. The top of an LVT was less than half a foot below the top of the sea wall. I don't know if someone had established the time of the landings so that the tide would be right for this to happen, or even if each LVT rode at about the same level in the water regardless of load. It was probably just a fortuitous coincidence.

The landing ramp was in the rear of an LVT. The coxswain (pilot, driver?) backed his LVT up so that the closed ramp was against the sea wall and held it there by revving the engine with the tracks turning in reverse. Long range fire from a machine gun was hitting the vicinity of the sea wall. The modus operandi for getting ashore was to stand facing the sea wall with your rifle held with both hands at port arms. When the machine gun fire was not hitting that area of the sea wall, two men would then grab you by the elbows and the seat of the pants. As you bent your knees and then jumped, the two men added to your momentum to lift and toss you up and over the sea wall. You rolled over, got to your feet and vacated the area quickly. This procedure reduced exposure time to the machine gun fire. No one in our platoon was hit getting over the sea wall.

The Oroku beachhead was also exposed to fire from Japanese “Screaming Meemie” rockets which were launched from fixed wooden troughs. The rockets would scream like a banshee when they were first launched, becoming silent after the rocket fuel had burned out. Then they would coast until they impacted the ground and exploded. I never saw one from close up, but they were over a foot in diameter and about five feet long. It was possible to spot them in flight. They looked like flying seabags. It was noticed that they repeatedly hit the same part of the sea wall area. That area, several hundred yards across, was roped off and very few casualties resulted from those unguided missiles.

On June 5, I had just returned to the platoon area from company headquarters when I saw the platoon leader being carried on a poncho. He had been shot through the neck and later died. I don't remember his name today, but he was a Good Guy.

Later that day, the Third Platoon was moving up to attack a hill. We were moving southeast in single file next to a ridge which was northwest of the hill which was our objective. There was some shrubbery and a few trees, but no real cover between us and the Japanese. The new platoon leader was Lt. McNulty. I was immediately behind him, followed by the rest of the platoon. The platoon sergeant, Loren Mitchell, was at the rear of the file.

A Japanese 47 Millimeter dual purpose cannon (anti-aircraft or anti-personnel) fired at the platoon from some distance away. This gun normally fired three round bursts, shots being at about half second intervals.

Three shells hit near the front of the platoon. The farthest shell hit about 10 yards away, the closest about 10 feet from me. Lt. McNulty was hit. The three men behind me went down. I was hit in the right thumb, the left forearm, the left knee and left hip. The fragment that hit my thumb was the biggest piece that hit me and caused me to drop my rifle. I quickly wrapped a handkerchief (really more of a rag) around my hurt thumb. The other three fragments were small and the wounds from them only about as bad as a shot from a big hypodermic needle. The small piece in my left forearm had migrated to the inside of my arm by the time I extracted it almost five years later in April of 1950.

When Sgt. Mitchell realized that the platoon leader was down, he ran up to the front of the file. I was still on my feet, so when he ran by me he said “Let's go, Whitey”. I picked up my M1 and followed him across a road in an open valley about a hundred yards wide, to the base of the hill which we were attacking.

Sgt. Mitchell went straight up the hill and apparently went over its crest. I angled over to the right side of the hill. To the right of the hill, and at a lower elevation than where I stopped, was a small wood frame building, little larger than ten feet square. A Japanese Nambu machine gun, easily recognizable from its high rate of fire, began firing from inside the building toward the Marines who were coming across the valley. I don't remember if the gun had shot at Loren and me when we crossed the valley. I couldn't see the gun or the Japanese who were firing it, but I fired several clips from my M1 through the walls of the building and the firing from it stopped. This kept me occupied for a few minutes. One of the others who had arrived on the hill a short time later said that Loren Mitchell was dead. This was a shock to me. Some men seem indestructible. Sergeant Mitchell was such a man.

I went to the top of the hill and looked over it. Intermittent machine gun fire came just over the top of the hill, but I was able to sneak quick peeks. About 100 feet from the crest and slightly down hill was a Lewis Gun on a bipod. The gun was resting on a ridge which came into the southeast side of the hill at a right angle. There were no Japanese, alive or dead, visible near the gun.

The body of Sgt. Mitchell was lying just past the crest. We found out when we recovered his body that the Japanese firing the Lewis Gun had hit Sgt. Mitchell several times in the chest.

Maybe the reason that Sgt. Mitchell went over the crest of the hill was that he saw the Japanese and went after them. Or, maybe he arrived at the top of the hill, was hit and fell over the crest. But, for whatever reason, he went over the top of the hill and was killed. Our country lost one of its stalwarts. The Marine Corps had lost a hoss. I had lost someone who was more than my sergeant. He was my friend. He was a friend to a lot of people.

The Lewis Gun was still there when we left that hill to attack another one.

A Carbine Saves a Life

I'm a rifleman. I liked the M1 and had little regard for a carbine. I wound up with a carbine anyway.

When Lt. McNulty had been wounded, and I had been hit in the right thumb by a fragment from the same 47 millimeter shell, the lieutenant was evacuated because the wound in his arm made him unable to grasp his carbine. My hurt thumb made it hard for me to carry my M1 rifle with my right hand, as I frequently did while running. So, I asked the lieutenant for his carbine, which was lighter than an M1, and he gave it to me. It was loaded with a full 15 round magazine. There were two full magazines in a pouch on the butt and he gave me another couple of loaded magazines which I carried in a pocket of my dungaree jacket.

The next day we occupied a hill that was about 200 to 300 yards from the hill where the Company Headquarters was located. On the way the platoon passed a cave dug into the side of a small hill. The hill we had taken was not visible from the hill where the company headquarters was located.

Sometime later I was sent back to Company Headquarters. As I trotted by the cave in the small hill a Japanese inside the cave shot at me with a rifle. The bullet went side to side through the pack on my back. The bullet missed me but really messed up a carton of Lucky Strike cigarettes in my pack.

There was no "push" from the bullet but I was surprised by the noise and stumbled and fell about twenty feet beyond the cave entrance. There was a foot high ramp made from the dirt from the cave. It ended about ten or twelve feet from the cave mouth. I looked back toward the cave and saw a Japanese soldier come out onto the ramp. He was looking down at his rifle as he operated the bolt to reload and finish me off.

I was lying on my right side. I wrestled the carbine free, pushed the safety off and shot from the hip. I shot until the Japanese fell. I checked to make sure he was dead then I threw a grenade into the cave. Then I got a mild case of the shakes.

I told of the happening at Company Headquarters and later that same day someone used a satchel charge to collapse the cave.

The time that elapsed from when the Japanese shot until I shot and killed him, was only a few seconds. Had I been carrying an M1 rifle I don't believe that I would have been able to use it as quickly as I used the carbine. I'm convinced that having that carbine saved my life.

A related anecdote:

In 1948 many veterans were taking advantage of the GI Bill Of Rights at the University where I was enrolled. A number of us were in a student lounge. "Sea Stories" were being told.

How it came up I don't know, but a young lady asked me if I had ever killed anyone in the war. When I told her that I had I could tell she didn't like my answer. She asked me how I felt as I looked down at the body of someone whose life I had taken. What kind of feeling did I have, knowing that there might have been people, who, because of me, would never be born in the future.

I told her that I had a feeling of relief that I was able to see his body and realize that he hadn't killed me. I was remembering that day in early June of 1945.

New Platoon Leaders

A new lieutenant had become the platoon leader. He led an advance which caused the platoon to again be the target of that 47 Millimeter gun. The lieutenant had reached the top of a small embankment at the start of our advance and was about to start down it. I was at his side, slightly behind him, with my good sense turned off. I was going to follow wherever he went. The 47 Millimeter gun fired three shots which hit at the base of the embankment. The lieutenant backed up and we went down the side and around the embankment. This gave the 47 Millimeter gunner time to reload and shoot three more shells at us. None of the six shells hit anyone in the platoon and after a few more yards we were masked off from the gun by an intervening hill. That afternoon, I was right behind the lieutenant when he was hit in the head by a rifle bullet as we rounded a small hill.

Gunnery Sergeant John Quattrone took over as the leader of the Third Platoon. Gunnery sergeants are called “Gunny” in the Marine Corps. In the Marine Corps at that time, gunnery sergeant was a much more exalted rank than it is today. Or, maybe it was that gunnery sergeants were more exalted to me then than they are now. Gunny Quattrone was platoon leader number seven for the third platoon. That is, he was the seventh man officially designated as platoon leader. We had several others who acted as platoon leader for short periods after the regularly appointed one had been wounded or killed. And usually the man who took over was himself killed or wounded. Sgt. Mitchell was in this category. Gunny Quattrone was also wounded while acting as the Third Platoon leader.

Flat Top

On 7 June 1945 the 3rd Platoon took a hill. The platoon had received some replacements and was up to 15 Marines and a corpsman. About 600 yards from the hill that our platoon had taken, was another hill which was about the same height as the one we were on. That hill was off to our left on the Japanese side of the front line. We called it Flat Top, although I have never seen that designation on any map.

An FO, a lieutenant from the 15th Marines, was with the platoon. With his binoculars, the FO spotted three Japanese lying on top of Flat Top. He didn't think he would be able to hit them with the first shells fired if he were to call a fire mission, and they would be able to slip away before corrections could be made.

We had no machine guns with the platoon. Gunny Quattrone and I decided to try to hit them using BAR's. He and I were each carrying a carbine at the time so we each borrowed a BAR. With no bipods on the BAR's, we got into prone positions using loop slings like on a rifle range. Since it was off almost to our left, we were able to shoot at Flat Top while being behind cover from our front.

The sights on the BARs were not zeroed for the distance to the hill where the three Japanese were. I was on a high school rifle team and belonged to a rifle club which was affiliated with the National Rifle Association while I was in high school. The club had an instructor who was a former World War I soldier and had fought in France. He had shot Model 1903 Springfield rifles a number of times at the National Rifle Matches at Camp Perry, Ohio. From the shooting experience, and the knowledge of how to zero a rifle that the old gentleman had given me, finding the zero of that BAR held few mysteries for me.

The Gunny and I zeroed the BARs by firing at marks at the base of Flat Top. The impact area was out of the sight of the three Japanese and probably 20 feet below them. The FO spotted the bullet strikes for us with his binoculars. With the front side of Flat Top as steep as it was, we were able to fire at marks that were within a few yards of the same distance from us as the Japanese were.

The BAR had a leaf rear sight. I raised the aperture slide up a small amount from where it was and used point of aim. My first shots hit low, according to the FO. I made another adjustment and my next burst was centered on the place I aimed at on the base of Flat Top.

According to the FO, two of the Japanese were lying within a foot of each other and another was lying a short distance from them to their right. They were not looking at us (according to the FO) and probably didn't know we existed. We were looking at them from almost straight to their left. The Gunny and I couldn't actually see the Japanese, but several small bushes still remained on the top of Flat Top and they were easily visible references. The FO told us where to aim relative to one of the bushes.

The gunny and I fired together at a verbal signal from the FO, with him watching through his binoculars. We raised a cloud of dust on top of Flat Top. The FO told us to cease firing. He said that he could see one of them still lying there.

Almost 50 years later, in June of 1995, I met a man at a Sixth Marine Division reunion whom I hadn't seen since 1946. On Okinawa, Don Honis had been in I Company which was on the left of G Company on Oroku Peninsula.

At the reunion, during a conversation, Don happened to mention “Flat Top”. That designation is not on any maps I have seen, and I thought only men from my platoon called it by that name. I queried Don about it, asking him if he had been on Flat Top. He said that I Company had taken that hill. I asked him if there was a dead Japanese on top of Flat Top. Don said there had been THREE dead Japanese on Flat Top. The Gunny and I had killed all three of them – from 600 yards away.

Don Honis had been hit back to front above the left knee by a Nambu machine gun bullet on May 16, 1945. He was hit while he and three other Marines were carrying Barney Wright away from Half Moon Hill on a poncho. Barney Wright had lost both feet while trying to fend off a Japanese grenade. At an Army hospital, after the initial first aid to control bleeding, etc., the treatment Don's bullet wound received was rolled up gauze, soaked in vaseline, inserted in and left in the wound channel, but changed on a regular basis.

A week or so after Don was wounded, the doctor told him, “You're just doing splendidly. I'll have you back with your outfit in no time."

Don's reply was probably a tongue-in-cheek, “Thanks a lot, Doc.” Don, bandages still on his wound, was back with I Company by June 7 or June 8, less than a month after he was hit by the machine gun bullet.

Don had recovered a canteen from one of the dead Japanese on Flat Top. In 2008 he brought the canteen to a reunion of the Sixth Marine Division. I was able to hold in my hand a canteen taken from the body of a Japanese killed from 600 yards away by Gunny Quattrone and me.


The three Japanese were either officers, on the hill observing the situation first hand, so they could better control their troops; or they were spotting for artillery or mortar fire. In either case we probably saved a few Marine lives by getting them off of the top of Flat Top.

One pitch black, rainy night on Oroku Peninsula I was dug in with a new man. He complained that the BAR he was armed with kept malfunctioning. I asked him when was the last time he had cleaned it and he told me he didn't know how to field strip it so he could clean it. So, I cleaned it. Or, rather, I stripped it and put the pieces in my pockets, and we cleaned them and oiled them before I reassembled the BAR. We did this by feel, since it was raining and we worked under a poncho which made it too dark to see anything. Luckily, we didn't drop any parts into the mud on the bottom of the hole. The next morning that BAR operated like a sewing machine.

I'm not sure on just which hill this occurred, but it was on Oroku peninsula in early June. A wire on a pole on the very top of a large hill was suddenly severed by a machine gun bullet. I don't know whether it was a Marine bullet or a Japanese bullet that hit it. The wire fell down from the pole and began to rewind itself into three foot diameter coils, all the while coming down the hill at high speed. Several of us had to duck out of its path. The pole the wire was trying to reach was quite a distance away so a large quantity of wire was involved. I saw the wire when it finally came to rest. It was uninsulated copper, about 5/16 inches in diameter. A bullet had hit it dead center and had sliced right through it on a slight angle. If the sharp end of the wire had struck someone, at the velocity it was traveling and as heavy as the wire was, it might have done them some hurt.

Also on Oroku Peninsula, and again I'm not certain on which hill this happened, one of our 37 Millimeter guns wheeled up and started firing directly over the foxhole occupied by Francis West and me. The gun about 30 yards to our rear, firing at something to our front. We heard the first shot (it almost deafened us) and raised up enough to see behind us. One of the gunners on the 37 Millimeter gun noticed us and signaled us to get down. They kept firing for about a half dozen rounds and we stuck our fingers in our ears after the first shot. We were pretty peeved. West wanted to throw a grenade in their direction so they could hear some noise too, but I talked him out of it.

A man with the title of “Corpsman” was regarded with great affection by all the Marines in the unit to which that man was assigned. He was usually called “Doc”. The Marine Corps has no medical personnel. A Corpsman was a Navy "Hospital Corpsman”, a sailor with a medical specialty who thought he had joined the Navy. Instead, he had been assigned to a Marine unit. Each rifle platoon had a corpsman assigned. He went wherever the platoon went. They had all volunteered to be with Marine units.

A corpsman held the Navy rank of Hospital Apprentice if his rank was lower than petty officer and Pharmacist Mate if he was a petty officer. It was the corpsman's job to give first aid to Marines who had been wounded. All of them had been to Navy schools to learn their skills. The instruction probably assumed that their work would be done aboard ship in clean operating rooms.

On the front lines, with the Marines, they had to work in unsanitary, often extremely hazardous conditions. It was a difficult job (to me a distasteful job) that they did extremely well. Corpsmen saved the lives of countless Marines.

The corpsman who had bandaged my thumb had been wounded himself soon after that, and was replaced by another corpsman the next day. He was an older man who told me he had a son who was a Marine. He was nervous about being up on the front lines. We had just taken another hill and the new corpsman and I dug a foxhole together as dusk was approaching. At his suggestion we recited the Lord's Prayer together when night overtook us.

Our platoon was dug in on the forward slope of the hill. Usually, after I had completed my runner's chores, going back to company headquarters, bringing up wiremen et al, I didn't get the choicest of locations for a hole. The corpsman had been busy bandaging some wounds, so the hole that he and I dug that evening, was on the platoon's left flank in a relatively exposed position. The sun was setting behind us and might have made us hard to spot as we dug in. The hole overlooked a valley and a much larger hill that ran alongside the valley in the direction of the enemy. We were several hundred yards from a small village, which was at the southern base of the hill. I Company occupied the forward slope (to them) of the hill across the valley from us. The Japanese made a habit of moving around at night, retreating here, moving up there.

I am not a golfer. I've proved that on numerous occasions. My golf is competitive rifle shooting, something I've done pretty well over the years. In 1951, when I first saw the 16th green on the golf course of the Duncan, Oklahoma Elks Lodge Golf and Country Club, I had a feeling of déjà vu. The golf green was elevated, about six feet higher than the surrounding area. It was almost like a small mesa. I had seen a similar place on Oroku Peninsula on Okinawa. The golf green in Oklahoma was about the same size, shape and height as a flat area on Okinawa.

Face Up and Face Down

As three of us rounded the steep side of a hill and saw that flat area, a shot fired from a rifle made us hunker down. I threw a grenade. It was one time when arming the grenade and waiting a few seconds before throwing it was the right way to do it. A grenade picked up and thrown back over the edge of the flat area would have done in the three of us.

When the grenade went off we peeked over the edge of the flat area and saw a downed Japanese. The dead enemy soldier was lying face down and face up. His entire face, hinged at the hairline on his forehead was extended out from his head. The grenade had either hit the man in the chest as it exploded or the man had picked up the grenade just before it went off. Bodies with fresh, massive wounds have a peculiar smell. The body of that Japanese gave off that smell.

The three of us had patrolled in a valley way out in front of the platoon, in the open and in broad daylight until someone had shot at us. We couldn't see them but we shot in their general direction and then ran for cover behind a low stone wall that was on the outskirts of the small village. By the time we started back from the valley, a Nambu had picked us up, and maybe a couple of riflemen, but they couldn't have been any closer than 250 yards. We followed the wall and stayed in some trees as long as we could, but eventually we had to run for the cover of a ravine where some of the men from the platoon were located. As I jumped into the ravine just ahead of bullets from the Nambu, my picture was taken in mid-leap by a Marine combat photographer. I never have seen that photo. Maybe taking my picture damaged the man's camera.

The Japanese occupied the village and the hill it adjoined sometime after we had come back from the valley.

After we had occupied our hill, I went back to company headquarters and brought three men back up to the hill with me. One of the three men was Captain Tomasello, the company commander. The route had several places where it was necessary to run across open spaces to places where there was cover. Part of the way ran through the ravine. While we were walking in the bottom of the ravine, the company commander climbed up the side of the ravine for a looksee. When I noticed him I yelled at him to get down from there. He came down with a sheepish look on his face. I hurried us along in the ravine and apologetically explained to the captain about the mortars and the Nambus that had the area pinpointed. It was the first and last time that I ever commanded a captain in combat.

After his visit to the hill, I accompanied the captain back to company headquarters so I could bring some wire men and some people with water and supplies back to the hill where the platoon was. On the way back we stopped in the ravine and watched several tanks in action. The tanks were in the valley slightly forward of the left flank of the hill occupied by the Third Platoon. The tanks were firing flamethrowers and machine guns toward the base of the hill to our left and toward Oroku Village with the stone wall where I had been the day before. The flamethrowers were mounted in the tubes (cannon barrels), so the tanks were unable to shoot projectiles.

The flamethrowers shot a thumb-sized stream of fire for nearly 100 yards. Where we were in the ravine was about 50 to 100 yards from the tanks. One of the tanks was hit by fire from the village and lost a track. Three men got out of it safely and ran to the ravine where we were.

One of the men was an Army lieutenant. He wore his bars, his insignia of rank, something that no officer in our company would do for fear of drawing sniper fire. The lieutenant was peeved at losing his tank. As he passed us in the ravine he shot several squirts from his Reising grease (sub-machine) gun into the side of the ravine until the magazine was empty.

One man was awake at all times in each foxhole. That meant that only half a night's sleep was possible with two men in a hole. That much sleep was not usually actually had by each man, what with alarums and nocturnal activities by the Japanese and by us. I probably wouldn't have been able to remember when I had two hours of uninterrupted sleep. Probably during my stay in the hospital. I was exhausted. The new corpsman's nervousness allowed me to have more sleep that night than I ordinarily would have had. Every time it was my watch, the corpsman would raise up and ask me if I could stay awake. Then he would usually take over the watch.

Sometime during the night, the corpsman shook me awake and whispered that he had heard a noise. There was a Japanese out there and he was going to throw a grenade at him. I was instantly awake then and watched the corpsman. He wiggled the pin out and threw the grenade without first letting the spoon fly and waiting a few seconds. The grenade snapped as it armed itself when he threw it. He then peered out into the darkness to watch it. I pulled him down into the hole just before it went off. Fragments from the grenade hit around our hole.

At just about dawn I was asleep when I heard the corpsman shoot twice with his carbine. He said he had shot at a Jap about 200 yards away on the other hill across the valley, and he was sure he had hit him. Several minutes later a mortar round hit one of the “safer” locations on our hill, not as exposed as the hole that the corpsman and I shared. The word was passed for the corpsman and he left our hole to tend to some Marines who had been wounded by fragments from the mortar shell.


After the corpsman had left I was staring sleepily out across the valley when a bullet fired from the other hill struck the parapet of the hole and sprayed me with dirt. I hunkered down and the Japanese shot again and hit the inside of the back of the hole. I thought the corpsman had missed the Jap or there was another one there. I jumped out of the hole and ran to some shinnery and cut some branches with my Ka-Bar. Then I ran back to the hole and reached up to stick twigs and branches around the hole so that I could look around without being seen.

I Company made a sweep toward that area of the hill across the valley and I watched them. When they approached the location from where that Japanese had fired at me, I yelled over to them and warned them. Soon there was firing in that area. I found out later that one of the Japanese they killed there had already been wounded in the body and was bandaged. I believe that a carbine bullet fired by the corpsman had hit him but had not killed him. Ken Long, from I Company, was in the group that made the sweep and remembers me yelling across the valley to warn them.

I had just filled my canteens and was going back to my hole. There were two Marines in a foxhole on a part of the hill which had a steep slope. Their names were Arlin Roe and Wilbur Wilson. They were sitting up, using the slope of the hill for a backrest, heads together, talking. As I passed them a mortar shell hit and exploded between their heads. Wilbur Wilson was an older man (in his twenties) whom I had trained with and been with all the way from Camp Lejeune.

I was hit on the right cheek by a chunk of something that might have been brain tissue, in nearly the same spot where I had been hit by a piece of meat almost a month before. There was also a hole in my right canteen, the one with the canteen cup. If the fragment had gone clear through the canteen it would have missed my hip, but my hand had been on the canteen only seconds before.

On the 9th of June the three platoons of G Company had advanced quite a distance, maybe over 500 yards. Gunny Quattrone was still our platoon leader. The gunny had told us the day before that if we could go another 2000 yards the worst of the battle might be over for us. We were running out of hills to take and Japanese to take them from.

We were running out of us, too. This was our 70th day on the island of Okinawa. A Marine rifle platoon in those days normally had 42 men. The Third Platoon had 19 men in it. There were 11 men from the Third Platoon (mostly replacements), the Navy medical corpsman, and 7 men from G Company's Machine Gun section.

We ran into some opposition and stopped at the bottom of the forward slope of a large hill. The First and Second Platoons stopped on the forward slope of a smaller hill about a hundred yards ahead of us and to our right. A valley or gap ran between the two hills. Their hill had a more gradual forward slope. Ours had a steep forward slope and an almost vertical side next to the valley between the two hills.

When we reached the hill, Gunny Quattrone wasn't with us. I later found out that he had wound up on the other hill with the First and Second Platoons.

Across the valley from us to our right, probably 75 yards away, and slightly behind us, was another small hill which overlooked the rear of the hill with other two platoons.

Suddenly, a Japanese Nambu machine gun opened up on the rear of First and Second platoons from a cave inside that hill. I could only see into the cave from an angle, but I quickly began shooting with the carbine and fired about half a magazine. I borrowed a BAR and fired a magazine from it into the cave. I couldn't hit anyone directly, but I wanted to spray them with dirt from the impact of bullets on the inside wall of the cave. By then the men of the First and Second Platoons had opened up and some of them were in a position to fire directly at whoever was in the cave.

We had a Bazooka and two rockets for it, so I got the man carrying it to fire a round into the cave. The rocket hit inside the cave perfectly but failed to explode. I knew what had happened. The man had not armed the rocket before he fired it. We made sure that the next rocket was armed and we had a more experienced man shoot it. It exploded, but the man had shot it at the wrong cave. We were out of rockets for the bazooka.

One of our men came down from farther up the hill. It was R. S. White. He had been hit with a bullet which went through his left pectoral muscle and the triceps muscle in his left arm. He said that two more men were up there.

I ran up the hill. It was almost straight up for about twenty feet to a Japanese trench which was two and a half or three feet wide and about three or four feet deep. The trench stopped abruptly on the right, so I followed it as it curved around the hill to the left.

I ran into a Marine sitting in the trench, unable to keep his eyes open after dirt or sand had been sprayed into his eyes by a bullet that had missed him. We were getting fire from Flat Top which was now to our rear. I called down to the men below us to throw clods of dirt up in the air so we could locate them.

Then I helped the half blinded man slide down the hill to them.

I looked back at Flat Top which was now about 400 or 500 yards behind us and to our left. There were Japanese shooting from caves and positions at the bottom of Flat Top or just this side of it. One Nambu machine gun was shooting at me, so I moved back and forth in the trench and took quick peeks. I could have shot at them except for two things. I didn't have a rifle, just that carbine, which would have been ineffective at that distance. And, there were tanks in the vicinity of the caves. If I had shot at the caves, the people in the tanks might have thought that I was a Japanese shooting at them from the trench and they might have shot at me. The tanks had 75 Millimeter cannon.

I moved left in the trench as it curved around the hill, going slowly, staying below the parapet of the trench and keeping the carbine at the ready. I had thought about what I would do if a grenade came in the trench with me and I wasn't decided whether I would vacate the trench or try to throw the grenade out. The trench abruptly ran out and became a path that continued around the hill at the same level as the floor of the trench. The path was about 40 or 50 yards long and ended at an embankment on the hill. On one side of the path was the hill, on the other side was a sheer drop. I had moved around the hill enough that the location was not visible from Flat Top.

From where the trench stopped I could see a Marine sitting with his back to the embankment that made a right angle with the end of the path. I don't remember his name. He raised his rifle when he saw me, then lowered it. I stepped out and started to go to him, but he yelled at me to get back. I stopped and Nambu bullets sprayed all around my feet. I hurried back to the safety of the trench. Most probably, it had been bullets from this same machine gun that had wounded R. S. White and had sprayed dirt in the other man's eyes.

We held a shouted conversation for a while. He said that there was nothing that I could do to help him, that he would suck it up after a while and make a try for the trench. He was sure he could make it with no trouble. He was out of the Nambu's field of fire most of the way back to the trench. I tried to get him to come to the trench while I was there, but he allowed as how I had stirred up the Nambu and he would wait awhile until things were quieter.

I went back around the trench to a point above where I thought the rest of the platoon was and called down to them to throw clods in the air so I could locate them. I slid down the hill and rejoined them. Gunny Quattrone was still not around. I thought something had happened to him. We were in a precarious position and without a platoon leader. We hadn't had anyone killed yet, but two more men had been wounded in addition to R. S. White.

I decided to go over to the other hill to see if there was an officer there who could give us a hint as to what to do. We were on the west side of our hill. The south side was very steep and ran alongside the valley that separated our hill from the hill where the other two platoons were.

A gully, about 3 or 4 feet wide and about a foot deep, ran next to the south side of our hill. It was partially filled with water. I told someone where I was going and stepped out into the gully. My plan was to follow the gully until I was close enough to run across the valley to the other hill. I edged along, keeping very close to the side of the hill. The body of a dead Japanese “Imperial Marine” was laying across the gully on his back. He was badly bloated.

After about 75 yards in the gully, I thought I was close enough to make a dash across the valley to the other hill. I stepped up out of the gully. I was about to start running when I heard someone start screaming on the other hill. I found out later that the man who screamed was named Warren Lowe and he had been shot through an elbow and the abdomen. I stopped and was just standing there, feet spread, in a semi-crouch, carbine in my right hand.

SMACK! I somehow knew instantly what had happened to me. A single bullet had hit both of my legs just below the knees. The immediate feeling was that of being struck with a club, or, maybe with two clubs. I spun to my left and dived back toward the gully. I landed with my body from the waist down still outside the gully. The real pain started then. I felt like I had a charley horse cramp in the muscles of my right calf. Using my hands and elbows, I pulled myself along until my lower body and legs were in the gully. While I was doing this, two more bullets sprayed me with dirt.

I looked for the carbine. It was behind me, with the butt standing straight up and the barrel embedded in the mud of the gully. I thought about retrieving it. I remember thinking that the carbine would probably blow up if I tried to shoot it with the barrel clogged with mud. It would have been necessary to turn clear around in the gully to get to it. I was hurting too much to do that.

I began crawling in the mud of the gully, pulling myself along with my elbows, back to where the others in the platoon were.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw someone running toward me and turned to look at him. It was Gunny Quattrone coming from the hill that I had been trying to reach. He saw me and we made eye contact, but he kept on running past me. He was probably not aware that I had been hit. It was a good thing he didn't come to me. If he had stopped near me, outside the gully, he would have been another stationary target for the Japanese who had shot me. As it was, when he had gone twenty or thirty yards past me, I saw him get hit from back to front through his right side above his cartridge belt. He seemed to stumble, then he took off, running like a turpentined cat. That was the last time I saw him.

At a wide spot in the gully I stopped to rest. I rolled over, sat up and pulled my pant leg up out of the legging and rolled it up to get a look at my right leg. The pain was fierce. On the right side of my right calf was a half dollar sized hole, not exactly spurting blood, but bleeding heavily and rhythmically. I noticed what looked like bits of fresh hamburger on the inside of my pants leg.

I also noticed something that I had observed before when I had helped people who had been hit. Blood looked black on the gray-green dungaree material of my pants.

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to next page -- Part IV

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