All posts tagged Navy WAVES

[Tuttle lost some days to illness. Always a reporter, he took advantage by making it a tour of the military medical chain.]

My affliction was likely to be short-lived. I was welcomed to stay and fight off the unspecific viral infection they vaguely diagnosed. I asked for a favor, if it wouldn’t displace a fighting man on his way back. I got sent ‘upstream’ to the Navy hospital ship anchored off shore.

A seriously injured soldier would take the same trip. He would move from the battle front through a succession of larger and larger aid stations and field hospitals until it would be decided if he needed long-term care. (Early on the final field hospitals were actually assault ships landed on the beach.) From there the chain runs through fleet hospital ships, to hospitals on Okinawa, to the Philippines or Marianas, then back to Hawaii or all the way to the U.S. if the soldier is likely to be discharged.

It is now routine to see one or two helicopters ferrying a few of the most urgent cases out to hospital ships. They fly as far forward as we dare send the delicate aircraft. Several dozen transport planes have been reserved to airlift badly injured men directly to the best facilities for them, however far away. Mundane cases like my Japanese variety of influenza take the slow road.

On the way to a pier by Army ambulance I finally found out what had become of the civilians I was sure had stuck behind around Miyazaki. No matter how urgently an evacuation is ordered, or however violently an invader arrives, some stubbornly stay behind. They always have.

A dense neighborhood, almost a small town in its own right, was completely fenced in. High barb-wire topped runs joined small guard towers to make a well observed perimeter around the town. Any Japanese encountered by our forces nearby had been moved there. No one presumes to know which among them will live peacefully around American occupiers and which would plot attacks. So they all get boxed up together. From outside the fence the town looked sad and isolated. Cold winter rain complimented the setting.

Viewed inside the fence the Japanese city went about its normal business as if nothing was unusual. We drove through the middle, as American MPs patrolled the main street where a few shops were open for people to trade for what they needed. The people had little to do but volunteer for supervised work parties organized by the Americans, who also provided everything stocked in the stores.