Captain Dye's Blog
Viewing category: The Pacific War
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Saturday, 19 April 2008
Week 40: Victory in The Pacific!
The news arrived swiftly and silently like one of the Japanese artillery rounds that have relentlessly pounded the Marines on Okinawa. And it hit the ranks of weary fighting men with the same shattering impact. The Japanese have surrendered. All across the assault line, through the depleted ranks of the rifle platoons, inside the tank turrets reeking of gasoline and cordite, to the gun crews in artillery batteries nearly invisible behind mountains of expended shell casings, the reaction was the same. This has got to be some sick bastard's idea of a joke. The Japs never surrender. But the brass quickly confirmed the news when orders were passed to cease-fire and pull back to assembly areas while translators went forward to insure Japanese holdouts got the word from the Emperor in Tokyo. It's over. Now the survivors of the grueling campaigns in the Pacific will stand down for a bit, clean up as best they can, pray for orders home and begin to deal with the inevitable guilt of being among the living when so many of their buddies are not. There's a similar reaction among those of us who have tried to chronicle the ordeals faced by men like Manila John Basilone, Eugene Sledge and Robert Leckie of the 1st Marine Division. And our mission hasn't ended yet. In the short time remaining to us here in the South Pacific we must fill in the blanks. We'll resurrect Basilone from the black sands of Iwo Jima to tell the story of his whirlwind romance with Sgt. Lena Riggi at Camp Pendleton and see them happily married before John ships out with the 5th MarDiv to meet his fate. We'll spend time in upstate New York with Leckie as he tries to rebuild a civilian life and put his wartime experiences as far behind him as they'll go. And that's not far as he's a writer with stories to tell. We'll ride a train south with the survivors of K-3-5, to New Orleans where mortarman Snafu Shelton will arrive back in The Big Easy; stop at a little burg in Texas to drop off squad leader Sgt. R. V. Burgin, and finally arrive in Mobile, Alabama where a radically-changed Cpl. Eugene Sledge reaches home at last. We know what lies in store for these veterans, but they certainly don't. As any combat veteran will tell you, often the hardest part of war is surviving the surviving. Semper Fidelis.
Posted By Captain Dale A. Dye at 11:26 PM
Friday, 11 April 2008
Week 39: Down in the Mud and the Blood with no Beer
If some soldier-scholar hasn't written one already, it's time for a study on the effects of mud on military operations. And there would be no finer field of research than the island of Okinawa in 1945 where the 1st and 6th Marine Divisions along with other formations of the U.S. 10th Army are struggling to advance with weather becoming as big an enemy as Japanese defenders. Marines ordered to advance in pelting rain through cloying mud against fortified positions in the Shuri Line of Japanese defenses have been seen to disappear completely in slimy sinkholes. The mud is thick and sticky everywhere, especially in the valleys between the ridgelines of southern Okinawa where water pools in shell craters, making it almost impossible to maintain the momentum of an attack. Even relatively simple road marches between one position and another are exhausting experiences as Marines struggle to lift their legs out of the glue and take just one more step under the heavy loads they are forced to carry. Wheeled vehicles have become useless for the most part so the men must hump the water, rations and ammo they need to sustain the attack. Japanese defenders have no such problems as they shelter in deep caves or reinforced bunkers waiting for the Marines to enter their well-plotted fields of fire. Support weapons are being hampered by the weather also. In one recent day of fighting near the Wana Draw area, Eugene Sledge, Snafu Shelton and the other 60mm mortar crews of Weapons Platoon, K-3-5 fired a couple of short rounds due to wet increments on the ammo. They were forced to cease-fire and make a mad dash across a draw through a funnel of incoming fire to get dry rounds from a nearby ammo dump. The frustration level is high with weather and environment a major factor in slumping morale. No one knows when  or how - it will all end but there's no escape beyond continuing to slog forward and hoping for the best. Semper Fidelis.
Posted By Captain Dale A. Dye at 8:40 PM
Friday, 4 April 2008
Week 38: Neither Rest nor Respite for the Living or the Dea
It's an accepted Marine Corps tradition that a unit never leaves it's dead on the battlefield but some disturbing departures from that tenet are being discovered on Okinawa. As King Company 3/5 slowly advances southward against the Shuri defenses, they are encountering grisly remains of American and Japanese casualties practically every time they dig into the island's cloying mud. In one particularly horrible day during a pelting monsoon rain near the Wana Draw area, Sledge and his gunner Snafu Shelton were digging their 60mm mortar into a defilade position when their entrenching tools smashed right through the chest cavity of a dead Japanese trooper left to rot under a mudslide. If that wasn't distressing enough, the next day on his way to man an Observation Post near the top of the ridge, Sledge slid down slope and smashed into a decaying American Marine left rotting in the sludge. The overworked Corpsmen and graves registration people on Okinawa are doing their best but the nasty weather and oceans of mud make finding and recovering casualties a difficult job at best. It's depressing and with the war in its fourth brutal year, many of the veterans have developed a hard psychological shell that will be difficult to crack if they survive and return to civilian life. Sledge is among those combat vets who are becoming numb and fatalistic on Okinawa. After his experiences on Peleliu, Okinawa is testing his belief in a lot of things he's viewed as acceptable human behavior. Caught in the cross fires on Okinawa are large numbers of civilians, the first many Marines have encountered in Pacific campaigns. Scenes of women and children being used as human shields or suicide bombers by Japanese troops have been particularly disturbing. But this is Okinawa; the last bastion of Japanese tyranny in the western Pacific, and brutality on both sides seems to be commonplace. It's too late to be thoughtful or sensitive in combat with the invasion of mainland Japan looming on the horizon. We continue the attack. Semper Fidelis
Posted By Captain Dale A. Dye at 6:54 PM
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