Monday, May 10, 2010

Episode 9 The Pacific

Last night began with the 1st MARDIV moving up though Army lines to take over. Some bantering in the lines about the lack of prisoners comes about. Someone says "...We don't take prisoners." Shortly they come across several US soldiers guarding prisoners on the side of the trail.

Some remarks are made and a confrontation quickly escalates with the Japanese prisoners and the Marines. Something along the line of " I thought we didn't take prisoners. Yeah those are ARMY prisoners." Which quickly got a chuckle from Jerry. Jerry has some strong feelings left over from Saipan when the Marines moved forward and the Army stayed at the line of departure.

They Marines continue to move forward and the action begins right away. The rain and mud quickly deteriorate the Marines morale.

"I was fortunate with the weather. I only recall it raining one night on Iwo. It was a little cool but we just covered up. I don't remember it raining on Saipan or Tinian. That rain and mud must have been tough on Okinawa. I'm glad I didn't go to Korea. I don't do well in the cold. Well back then it didn't bother me when I was young. I'm still glad I didn't go."

"Jack Mainor went and he got hit up at the Chosin Resevoir. His mother got a letter that he was missing. That must have been tough on her. He was evacuated to an Army hospital in Japan. It wasn't until a Marine Officer came in and asked if there were any Marines present. That's how they found out Jack was alive."

In a typical Rhode Island story Jack Mainor was good friends with that Legendary Providence Cop Paul Chalko. He was wounded along with Jack at Chosin. He was a pretty grizzled veteran Sergeant went I got to meet him. Jack Mainor mentioned that he knew Sgt. Chalko and I mentioned it to him. Sort of smoothed things over!

At one point the Marines move forward when the Japanese pull back. Upon reaching the Japanese lines several refugees come down the draw. One of them is crying and trying to pass off a baby. She moves her clothes and a bomb is strapped to her body. The bomb detonates and the Japs push refugees ahead of them with pretty grim results.

"I am glad I didn't have to deal with that. At Saipan the Japanese made the civilians jump off Marpi Point. They had to jump off or get shot. Of course at Iwo we didn't come across any civilians at all."

At one point Sledge is summoned up to call fire in on an enemy strong point. Sledge breaks out a compass and calls for fire. I notice Jerry smiling. Pretty accurate portrayal?

"Oh yeah I was pretty good at that. Of course most of the time I had a map with all grids and coordinates marked off. I'd call for one round for effect. If it was on, I'd shoot the whole battery. If it was a ship they 'd open up with all the five inch guns. A battle ship, that would be the 16 inch guns. Pretty noisy with some good results. Yes I did that quite a bit." He was beaming with the trade mark Sherlock grin!

One of the Marines comes apart and starts firing at the Japanese lines at night. Several Marines try to stop him.

"Good way to get yourself killed. You could get shot by your own guys doing something like that. It happened. Guys reached the breaking point and for everyone it was different. I'm glad it never happened to me. Some guys, you never knew when it would happen. My buddy Sherlock from New York, remember when we talked of him? We were virtually civilians when we got on the ship leaving Hawaii. He lost it at the dock when the ship pulled away. He just didn't think he was going home.

"Guys marking the days in a book or writing down what happened. Not me, one day was the same as the rest. Just glad I got through the day in one piece "

Near the end of the episode the Marines with Sledge and Snafu are sunning themselves by the ocean. They get the word to saddle up. The officer says that a bomb was dropped on Japan and killed alot of Japanese. The Japs might finished.

I asked Jerry when he got the word about the atomic bomb.

"I was in my tent and I heard alot of gunfire. Guys were shooting everything. Couple mortar rounds went out too. When they told me, I started firing my carbine also." He motioned having a carbine in his hands and pulling the trigger. Jerry was giggling at this point. "I had already been practicing hitting beaches out on Maui. I wasn't that happy as I was pretty sure I'd get hit. Given all the casualties I knew I was do to get hit. I just dealt with it. When the bomb was dropped I just couldn't believe that one bomb could do all that damage. One bomb? Then a second bomb was dropped and the emperor surrendered. 250,000 people were killed. Well the alternative was that i and alot of other Americans would have been killed. They signed the peace agreements in Tokyo Bay on the deck of the Missouri. (USS Missouri BB-63).

It was the impossible dream. I was really glad. A lot Marines would have died hitting the home Islands. I know it sounds strange but that was it the war was over with two bombs."

The previews came on for next week and a couple guys had dress blues.

"I never had dress blues. I suppose I would have liked to but I'd had enough. Word came down that Col. Chambers was going to be the Provost Marshal in Shanghai, China. My buddy couldn't go so I was asked. I'd be the aide to Col. Chambers. I thought about and said I'd have to ask permission from my mother." He laughs at this point. You had to ask your mother? You're a combat Marine and you have to ask your mother for permission to go to China?

"Well yes. Listen my mother had seven kids involved one way or another in the war. I wasn't sure she'd approve of that. I didn't know what Jack had been through. I figured I 'd better ask my mother." Again he starts chuckling and adds; " Of course I'm not sure what my frame of mind was back then. I'd seen enough of killing. I was pretty sure a military career wasn't for me at that point. I 'd had enough. I wanted to go home and see my mother and the rest of the family."

What had happened to Jack? Had you heard anything?

"No. I had no idea what Jack had been through. No word at all. I never knew what happened to Jack until I got home. No mail. I was very glad that we were all home in one piece. It was a different time. What I had been through... it was enough. Later on during the Vietnam War I thought I didn't want my sons going through what I'd experienced. I'd go back before they went. It's hard to understand for some people. I knew what to do. Some things you don't ever forget. I would have been able to do the job. Not some kid who didn't know any better."

Jerry makes no apologies for his actions during the war. Nor about his feelings on the Atomic bombs being used. Jerry experienced war in its most simplest, brutal form. No time out, no do over button and no saying " No fair . You hurt my feelings."

So Cowboy up next time you've had a bad day. Your iPod, Cell phone or Laptop freezing up is not the end of the world.

Like Jerry, live for today. Because sometimes, for some people that's all there is at the end of the day. Like the Marines of World War Two fighting, surviving and some dying. Moving forward. All Servicemen and Women for all time. Stop and give them a quick thought.

"There is nothing particularly glorious about sweaty fellows, laden with killing tools, going along to fight.

And yet such a column represents a great deal more then individuals mustered in a division. All that is behind those men is in that column too; the old battles, long forgotten that have secured our nation...traditions of things endured and things accomplished, such as regiments hand down forever... and that abstract thing called patriotism, which I never heard combat soldiers mention- All this passes into the forward zone, to the point of contact, where war is girt with horrors.
And common men endure these horrors and overcome them, along with the insistent yearnings of the belly and the reasonable promptings of fear; and this, I think, is Glory."

Capt. John Thomason USMC ; "FIX BAYONETS" 1926

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