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All posts for the month October, 2015

[Killing time was a popular past time in the weeks before the invasion. There would be plenty of time for killing later.]

I have been spending my time lately with the newly arrived 5th Marine Division. They actually did come ashore in a mock invasion, driving AMTRACs ashore and hauling in a lot of gear. It took a lot of time to repack everything, but the only other thing they have to do is wait for the actual invasion.

A card game broke out last night in one of the enlisted barracks. That happens most nights anyway, but this one had very little to do with gambling. I was sitting in, mostly minding my ante, not wanting to take anyone’s money but not wanting this bit of material to be too expensive (Editors are not fond of reimbursing wagers!).

The guys needed to pass the time thinking about something other than the impending unknown. We still didn’t even know when we were going, nobody did. We had a good guess where, though, and talked about everything but that. Still, people will drift back to what they have in common, and this group from all over a dozen states had only two things in common – the United States Marine Corps and whatever adventure it ordered them on next.

Finally a readily agitated private from Detroit, Dante Iacoboni, spoke up. “They say the Japs spent eight or ten months, twelve tops, digging in around here {Okinawa}. It cost us three months and a giant ass-kicking to kick them out of this [expletive]. How long you think they’ve had to dig in on Japan proper?”

After a pause another veteran Detroiter, Sergeant Ora Inman, answered him quietly. “About a thousand years.”

The senior man on the deck, Sergeant William Barnard, wasn’t even playing, as he fastidiously tended his gear, like he did every evening. But he was listening and spoke up right away.

“Listen up fellahs. I’m not supposed to say anything, but the word is that there’s a ‘surprise’ inspection tomorrow morning. Don’t tell ‘em I said so, but you might want to call it a night here and square away your gear now.”

The players agreed readily that they’d had enough cards anyway. They had a quick round of the usual arguing about who had cheated using the markings on the well-worn deck and went to their respective barracks and tents.

There was no inspection today.

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[The whole island prepared for the Fifth Marine Division to arrive, and Tuttle helped out.]

I pitched in on the effort a few of the advance party Marines were making to prep for their buddies. Lieutenant Paul Bernard, Sergeant Thurman Price, Jr., and Corporal Francis Seeley were detached from the motor transport battalion to come here early. Their planning work was long done, so now the job was housing the unit until the final launching date. I wasn’t obligated to offer up my labor, but I wanted to hear what they thought about the move. Tent ropes were drawn tight as the conversation got loose.

Corporal Seeley says he’s been keeping up a tide chart, and watching the moon. He used to sail some off Baja California, the nearest ocean surf to Tucson, Arizona. Near the end of this month would have been perfect he says – high tide in the morning coupled with good moonlight most of the night. We could get ashore easiest and then have light to catch the infamous Japanese nighttime infiltration attacks. He saw the aftermath from many of those on Iwo Jima.

Since he spoke like he knew what he was talking about, we let him talk. He thinks the next decent chance isn’t until mid-November. We would only have the counter-moon tide and less moonlight, but otherwise it’s another three weeks before everything comes around perfect again.

I couldn’t argue with the logic, but I offered up what I knew about the losses our Navy took, and wondered aloud how that might affect things. Many destroyers were banged up or grounded in the storm, but there doesn’t seem to be any shortage of them. We are down three big carriers, which may be back in time, and at least two small carriers which will not. The big gun ships mostly did ok, riding out the storm at sea. But the flat bottom assault boats got roughed up bad. They don’t have any good handling abilities in any rough seas. Eight of them are still unaccounted for, presumed lost. With the thirty-six large and hundred-some small transport ships wrecked or put into drydock here in Buckner Bay, that’s over two divisions worth of boats gone. These Marines didn’t seem too worried about it.

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[After helping to stabilize his own camp, Tuttle moved around Okinawa to see what damage Typhoon Louise had done to the rest of the preparations for Operation Olympic.]

Buckner Bay is the new home to several dozen naval monuments. For example, some 50 yards in from the normal waterline sits a full size model of an American Sumner-class destroyer. I am sure it is full size, because it is the actual USS Laffey, DD-724. I found the Laffey with her bow pointed out to sea, and her stern jammed deep into the earth. She was leaned over a few degrees to port. The skin of her starboard side showed a long deep wrinkle, running vertically from mid height right down to the keel…

…other less lucky ships line the beach and shallows. I quit counting at forty-something, with a long way to go. Some are capsized, others broken apart. Anonymous debris thoroughly litters the beach. I picked through some of it, trying to guess what any of it used to be. I stopped to find someone to tell about a body that graves registration hadn’t found yet.

No planes are flying from here. Zero. I can’t say how many planes we have here, but ‘hundreds’ does not cover it. Runways are being cleared of debris, but every single aircraft is grounded until each is inspected for damage. So far every bird has failed inspection, and they are cued up for work ranging from skin patches to engine swaps to outright scrapping.

A plane engine can be heard overhead periodically. I’m told we are flying limited CAP with long range fighters from elsewhere, just in case the Japs try to take advantage of our situation. I can’t imagine what they would find worth bombing.

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[Typhoon Louise ripped through Okinawa at its peak on October 9th, severely reducing the preparations made for Operation Olympic, the invasion of the Japanese home islands.]

We were told to expect significant rain two days ago, but it turned into an epic windstorm, much worse than what we saw last month. Whole camps are totally wiped out. Ocean going vessels of many sizes are stranded in mud a hundred feet in from the normal shore line. Many ships were moved out into deep water, and they are still being counted. Some of them will never return.

The Navy weather station here had little to tell me. I didn’t bother them too long, because like many here their office is now mixed into a field of rubble. Some information has come in by radio from Guam, where weather observing B-29s are based. They knew a typhoon was running through to the south of us. But for no reason, perhaps the whim of a bored Greek god, it stopped and turned north, growing stronger by the hour as it was nudged along by that neglected ancient immortal.

Anyone who was living in a tent, without exception so far as I have seen, is now homeless. Torn patches of wet green canvas littered the adjacent hillsides this morning. Now many of the larger pieces are laid out over stacks of junk, in the hope they will dry when the sun comes out again. Men spent all day salvaging personal gear and essential equipment, those who were healthy that is. Medics are scrambling to care for the injured, using what supplies they can scrounge.

Anyone who could not find cover yesterday was subject to abuse from a mad circus of debris. A storm is not dangerous to a person just from its wind and rain. Real damage comes when solid objects are wrested from the earth and mixed into the storm like rocks in a polishing tumbler. Examples are everywhere – a sheet metal bar wrapped around a utility pole, a long shard of wood stuck into the ground like an arrow, or a wrecked vehicle with damage all around from being rolled over the ground a dozen or more times.

The weather guys told me that officially winds got up to 130 miles an hour. They admitted that their instruments only go up to 130 miles an hour, not that I could check them on it as their wooden building is gone and their instrument tower is a twisted wreck.

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[Tuttle never mentioned if he volunteered for the last pre-invasion blood drive on Okinawa. He was sure most soldiers had little choice about being ‘volunteers’.]

Good word came around this morning that everyone will be rotated through a few days of rest this week and next. Men started to make plans around it, be it laying around or putting together sporting matches. Moods dampened a bit when actual orders came out.

Tomorrow, after Sunday church services, the first batch of resting units are expected to report for a ‘voluntary’ blood drive. The rest period gained a new meaning, “It’s not like they’d give us two days off just to be nice! No, they just need us to fatten back up after we get pricked.”

Another implication was explained by the combat veterans to new guys and everyone else. Medical staff doesn’t like to keep whole blood around for more than 21 days before it’s used for a transfusion. The veterans presume that combat is expected in no more than three weeks from the first draw of blood.

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Today we continue letting the reader see some of the specific references behind the details in X-Day: Japan. These are not formal citations, as they are not all root sources and the book is not an academic volume. The use of real historical elements for X-Day: Japan serves to educate the reader about the time, add interest to the story, and honestly it just made the thing easier to write!

August 30, 1945
Purple heart orders and production,
Giangreco, Hell to Pay, p187-193 [hardcover, 2009]

September 10, 1945
Typhoon Ursula,
wikipedia.org

September 17, 1945
Typhoon Ida,
wikipedia.org
navsource.org

September 21, 1945
Antitank Rocket, Methods of Use,
youtube.com

October 10, 1945
Typhoon Louise,
history.navy.mil
danielborgstrom.blogspot.com
navsource.org
glynn.k12.ga.us

October 11, 1945
USS Laffey, destroyer DD-724 [MUSEUM SHIP at Patriot’s Point],
patriotspoint.org

October 28, 1945
Downfall operational plan, 5/28/45, Annex 3 – estimated lift requirements
theblackvault.com

November 6, 1945
Petition to make Ernie Pyle’s house a national landmark,
nps.gov

November 9, 1945
Men lined up waiting to use the head before an assault,
Sledge, With the Old Breed
Surrender rates of Japanese soldiers,
Frank, Downfall, p28-29 and p71-72 [Penguin paperback, 2001]

November 11, 1945
Diagrams of amphibious assault boats,
ww2gyrene.org

November 16, 1945
USS Charette, destroyer DD-581, which had a remarkable career with the Greeks as the Velos,
wikipedia.org
USS Montrose, attack transport APA-212,
nasflmuseum.com

November 17, 1945
Helicopter medevac,
olive-drab.com
airspacemag.com

November 19, 1945
Estimate of Japanese tank strength and tactics,
ibiblio.org/hyperwar

November 20, 1945
USS Sanctuary, hospital ship AH-17,
wikipedia.org
158th RCT, “Bushmasters”
ww2f.com
wikipedia.org

November 21, 1945
USS Athene, attack cargo ship AKA-22,
navsource.org
USS Kidd, destroyer DD-661 [MUSEUM SHIP],
usskidd.com
USS Chester, heavy cruiser CA-27,
ibiblio.org/hyperwar
USS Windham Bay, escort carrier CVE-92,
sites.google.com/site/windhambay
USS Comfort, hospital ship AH-6,
dorriehoward.info/comfort
Blood supply,
Giangreco, Hell to Pay, p139 [hardcover, 2009]
USS Firedrake, Mount Hood class,
wikipedia.org
ibiblio.org/hyperwar
USS Orleck, destroyer DD-886 [MUSEUM SHIP],
orleck.org
USS Guam, Alaska-class,
wikipedia.org
wikipedia.org

November 22, 1945
USS Heerman (DD-532), USS John C. Butler (DE-339), – legends of Taffy-3,
bosamar.com
wikipedia.org
navsource.org
“The outcome is doubtful, but we will do our duty.”
Rear Admiral Robert W. Copeland,
wikipedia.org

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