96th Infantry Division Deadeyes Asssociation

A Bit of Home on the Front Lines
 
   I was a member of the Armed Forces in the invasion of Okinawa as a rifle squad leader in a front line company. Our Division, along with several others made the landing on April 1, 1945, Easter Sunday. After being in combat for nearly two weeks our regiment, now a mere shell of the regiment which landed on Easter Sunday, was pinched out and moved to the rear to receive replacements and bring the number up to full strength. Upon moving back up on the front I had a full squad, five regular men and seven replacements. At first our company was in reserve in our Battalion and then only our platoon. We were used daytime bringing up ammunition, water and rations and night times filled in gaps on the front line.

   On one of these evenings, my platoon sergeant had me place my men up front to cover our given area.  While digging in, a machine gun squad leader from Heavy Weapons company and his men came into our area and set up to cover a draw. Much to my surprise the squad leader was a friend from back home, Robert Abbott, and we shared the same foxhole together throughout the night. Being together, we felt this was like a bit of home, while even though on the front line. Having a brief encounter with the enemy late evening and artillery rounds in our area we were lucky in not receiving any casualties that night, although we caused a number of such to the Japanese. It was a sad parting in the morning when we left the area and returned to our respective companies, never knowing whether we would ever see each other again.

   Several days later, our platoon sergeant, Dennis O. Duniphin was given the word to take his platoon and fill a position in another company area where a platoon from that company had received heavy casualties and the few men left were withdrawn. I was appointed to take the lead with my squad and regain this area. As we reached our objective, I along with another platoon member were struck down and seriously wounded by shrapnel from a mortar round.

    After being given first aid by my platoon sergeant, and him applying tourniquets to my left leg and arm and a bandage to a small wound on my left side rib area, a litter was acquired from our battalion aid station and two of my squad members carried me to the aid station where I received blood plasma, then taken by ambulance, along with other wounded to a general hospital. Shrapnel was removed; wounds cared for, cast applied to leg and arm in preparation to be evacuated back to the states.

    While on a convalescence furlough from the Army Hospital at Temple Texas, I - along with my wife, Bernice - visited my folks who were living in Bay City, Michigan. Soon after we arrived, my father informed us that Robert Abbott was also home on convalescence leave from the army hospital he was assigned to, as he had been seriously wounded from shrapnel also. I was very happy he had survived and was brought back to the states and home. Robert was visiting his family who lived in Saginaw, Michigan, a short distance from my parents, and we had a joyous reunion once again in a much safer and happier environment than where we had last met.

    The small fragment of shrapnel that had inflicted my chest wound struck one rib, glanced over against another rib and popped out. The surgeon who prepared my wounds and readied me to be evacuated from Okinawa, said had that shrapnel been one half of an inch higher or lower I would have been ready for grave registration. He also mentioned someone higher up was looking over me and I heartily agree. I feel the same applied to my friend Robert Abbott, and we both thank God for his watching over us.