|Sunday, April 1, 2001|
|Posted by Jack Rogers,|
|4/1/01 at 7:24:06 PM|
MY, HOW TIME SLIPS AWAY
Sunday, April 1, 2001 - I awoke this morning early, due to the time change. I had lost an hours sleep, and couldn’t make my way back to dreamland. It was just as well that I didn’t. Strange what your mind can do to you. I went back in time to Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945. I recalled some lyrics that I had wrote, at that time, and sang them to the tune of ”The Wabash Cannonball” Listen to the rumble, listen to the roar
As we head o're the water to the enemy shore
Hear the mighty rush of the rockets
Hear the lonesome Amphibs call
It won’t be long now boys
'Til we see the Japanese fall Frisco was out in the Galley, having her morning coffee and called out to me, “What in the dickens are you singing about, now?” As I laid there in my sack I answered, “I didn’t know you could hear me. You must have sonar ears! ” I asked her, while still laying there in my bunk, “Do you know what today is?” “April Fools Day”, the reply came back. “It’s also the 56th Anniversary of the invasion of Okinawa”. I informed her. My, how time slips away.
I’ll never, ever, forget those days. We had set sail from Ulithi, in the Caroline Islands, in late March. Our skipper informed us, after we departed, in company with our Squadron of 6 LCS’s and a Squadron of Destroyers, that we were to rendezvous with a naval task force for the invasion of Okinawa. Two days later, I awoke and went topside for some fresh air. I couldn’t believe my eyes, I opened the hatch and thought to myself, “What in hell is this?” As far as the eye could see there were ships to starboard, ships to port, dead ahead and dead astern clear to the horizon. This naval armada, consisted of major units of the Fleet, Amphibious Forces, Troopships and Auxiliary Supply ships. It was the largest ever assembled in the war against Japan. We were every bit has large, if not larger, than the fleet that supported the D-Day invasion of France. Aboard the transports where the battle ready Tenth Army Corps and the Fifth Marine Corps. Our orders were to take the island of Okinawa in preparation for the invasion of the Japanese homeland.
As I mentioned in other articles in my journal, we became known in naval history as The Fleet That Came to Stay” The Battle for Okinawa was the longest and bloodiest battle of the war, 82 days. The Island itself was secured in June but the air war against hoards of Jap Kamikaze planes lasted until Japan finally announced it’s unconditional surrender. I have read somewhere that we lost between 32 to 38 ships to Kamikaze planes. Over 5,000 sailors were killed in action, another 10,000 wounded.
We were the Japs backyard, and they were not about to surrender. They would have fought to the last man if we had not dropped ”The Bomb”. What a terrible price we had to pay.
I have in my small booklet of poems, an article that appeared in a Detroit newspaper that my Mom sent me. It depicts pretty well, the horror we had to face. The headline reads:
Little LCS Gunboat in Heroic Role, Rescues 236, Downs 6 Jap Planes in Okinawa Battle
Two small secondary headings read: ”Little Ship Tipsy From Carrying Survivors” “Sunken Craft Blows Up Under Mercy Boat” The news article was written by Edward L. Thomas
”ABOARD ADM. TURNERS FLAGSHIP OFF OKINAWA, May 5 (UP) (via Navy Radio) -- ”The little 150 foot gunboat had a sharp list to starboard and her bow was completely out of the water when she came steaming up. We thought she had been hit, but her skipper, John Geib of Devon, Pa., assured us she wasn’t -- she was just tipsy from carrying 236 survivors from ships sunk in yesterday morning’s air raid. Already sailors were painting six more Jap flags on her bridge.
Her young skipper told us the story of a hectic four hours yesterday in the waters north of Okinawa when his little LCS gunboat stood her ground and shot down six Jap suicide planes, then rescued 236 burned and maimed men from the oil and debris covered water under strafing attacks by diving Jap planes shooting at the swimming survivors of other ships.
When she was loaded, the little ship had three times her normal compliment for the trip to Okinawa.
Men were blown off the decks and came back to man her machine guns during that bitter fight between ship and suicide planes. They cursed and shook their fists at the Jap planes that dove out of the sun at the ships or opened up with machine guns on the helpless wounded threshing in the water.
Once, when the gunboat was picking up survivors, one of our light units that had been sunk blew up under water almost beneath her. Seams buckled, delicate instruments were knocked out, and her deck heaved like a see-saw, “Our gunboat was jammed with casualties,” Geib said,, “Including at least 60 stretcher cases. many were naked, some were black with oil and not one escaped being sick. “We put them everywhere -- on bunks, in the crew’s mess, on deck”, he said. “We picked up two doctors floating in the water and they went right to work. The skipper of one sunken ship stayed at the bottom of our Jacob’s ladder, helping all of his men aboard before he would come himself.” Geib said he saw American fighters shoot down at least 25 Jap planes.
“Our pharmacist’s mate did a wonderful job,” the skipper said. “If 50 or 60 of those survivors stay alive it will be because of the wonderful work he did. “ -30- End of article. That story gives you a faint idea of the hell we went through. We virtually lived at our battle stations. A day didn’t go by when we weren’t called to General Quarters - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 or more times a day. They would come by day, come by night, literally hoards of them. Believe me, it is something best forgotten.
Fifty-six years ago - where does the time go? Time goes by fast, they say, when you are having fun. I didn’t realize I was have having so much fun. Oh, for the life of a Sailor. One might ask, “Why make a career out of the military?” It is not for everyone. I can only speak for myself. I have nothing but the highest praise for those with whom I served. They were my Shipmates the finest people I have had the privilege to serve with. I have not found an equal to them in the civilian world.
Ask anyone that has served in the armed forces, and I assure you, that they too will speak of the high regard they hold for those they served with. I believe the word is “camaraderie”. There is nothing equal! I have written well over my quota of words. Let it be suffice to say, I loved my work, my country and the people I refer to as ”Shipmates”. That’s it for now - to each of you, take good care. Keep the Faith! -- Sailor Jack .