96th Infantry Division Deadeyes Asssociation

A Replacement's Odyssey

   I too remermber Easter, 1945.  I, along with other replacements bound for Okinawa, was on an APA transport ship out of Saipan, where we were brushing up on battle statistics for about two weeks.  What did we know after only 13 weeks of basic training at Camp Hood?  I don't think this two weeks or so prepared us for what we got into when I was assigned to C Company.  We did not have weapons until then.  They issued to the whole group M-1 Carbines, which had been stored in cosmoline, for us to clean.  After we had them cleaned, they took them from us and issued M-1 Gerand rifles that we went into battle with on Okinawa. 

 

   We left Siapan before April 1, and wandered around the South Pacific to the Marshal Islands and the Carolines, picking up a convoy for about a month.  While cruising around we heard over ships radio from Radio Tokyo that the ship we were on had been sunk.  My disappointment is I never got to hear Tokyo Rose broadcast.  Also heard by radio that FDR had died.

 

  While on the ship, two or three weeks before landing time on Okinawa, I had to go on sick call (which is an experience) with wisdom teeth problem.  They were impacted and I could not chew any kind of food, they were so swollen.  The navy dentist was reluctant to pull them because he knew where I was going in less than a week and hated to let me off ship with open gums, but decided it would be better than leaving as was, so extracted them.  What a relief.  I could eat again.

 

   When coming to Okinawa, it is unbelievable how many ships were anchored around that island.  Either April 30 or May 1, we climbed down landing nets into Higgins boats after dark and were transported to a beach and that's where we stayed for the night.  A Jap plane came over and searchlights and guns were after him.  We rookies just started running here and there; we did not know where we were going.  Finally things quieted down and we found our equipment and settled down for the remainder of the night.

 

   Then, I believe it was May 1, they got us together and sent us to be assigned to our units.  First thing they had us do was march us by a place where we discharged our gas masks(which we had been carrying for a couple of months or more.

 

   I, and two other fellows from my home county, were assigned to C Company, 382nd while the 96th was back from the front lines for acquiring replacements to replace all those lost sinc e landing on April 1.  I was one of those.  My first cousin, Robert Boyd, was assigned to B Company.  I seem to remember the bivuac area was up on a hillside (maybe overlooking the ocean).  We were assigned to squads and they tried to get us integrated into units by taking us out on patrols and such.  We must have stayed there for a week or little more before starting to the front to relieve the 7th Division.

 

   One fond memory of the time there was the company cooks.  What a great group.  I remember they butchered a cow that an Okinawan brought to them and traded for cigarettes (I have heard from a pack to a carton).  Anyway, we ate good while back there.  Seem to remember we had pancakes for breakfast each morning and I loved pancakes.

 

   I remember we spent two nights before getting into battle on Dick Hill.  I was assigned as 2nd scout along with the 1st scout; I have failed to remember his name after all those years away from those times, even though I shared a foxhole with him for a week or so.  Our squad was the first one in our area to attack Dick Hill.  As we were going across a valley toward Dick, we were paused, not knowing what to do as the 1st scout and I had never been in this position before.  I remember the assistant scout leader, or the scout leader told us to get up and move out to take the hill. The 1st scout just seemed to freeze, so I did the only brave thing I remember doing, I took off and headed for the hill.  We made it to the crest of Dick (I believe it was referred to as Dick North) without opposition.  The assistant scout got us to digging a foxhole so two could sleep while one stayed on guard.  I believe it was the second morning there that the assistant squad leader raised up too high and a Jap machinegun wounded him.  We called for the medics and they came and hauled him away.  I do not remember his name, or never heard if he lived or not. 

 

   That evening we were brought a case of hand grenades. After dark the Japs attacked the hill.  We, during the night, threw most of that case of grenades down the hill.  Someone taught me if you wanted to get an air burst, to change the way we held the grenade before pulling the pin, to hold the handle in our fingers and the rest of the grenade in our palm and after pulling the pin, to release the handle held by our fingers which would start the four-second timer, and to hold the grenade for a second or two before throwing it.  This should maybe cause an air burst or nearly so.  Anyway, it could not be thrown back at us.  

 

   I think a 19 year old boy grew up to full grown on Dick Hill.  One early morning at about dawn I saw a Jap crawling up a slope to my left.  I cut down on him and he dropped.  Someone yelled out "Good shot Boyd"  Seemed like I was back in Texas dove hunting with friends and being congratulated for a good shot.

 

 

 

 

 

  Our next hill to attack was Oboe, which was on May 21.  In going across a valley approaching Oboe, I passed a dead Jap officer with a nice pair of binuculars lying on his chest.  I was tempted, but after hearing the stories of Japs being booby trapped, I resisted the temptation and left it for someone else to make a decision whether or not to take a chance.  At that time I was not into taking more chances than was neccessary.  Anyway we made it to the crest of Oboe, must have been late morning.  Exchanged fire with a Jap over on another hill for some time.  He won that battle, as I was hit in the left ear (a complete hole outside the edge or my head.  I immediately rushed down the hill to the medic, who bandaged up my wound with bandage completly around my head and gave me sulfa tablets and water from his canteen, as I had left mine with all my equipment up on the hill.  I told him after he had bandaged me that I needed to go back up and retrieve my equipment, as I had nothing except what was in my pockets.  He made a statement that I will always remember.  "Which would you rather have, your equipment, or your life?  My advice is for you to get on that jeep over there with other wounded and get out of here".  I never regretted taking his advice. 

 

   After getting back to the field hospital and being sewed up and re-bandaged, the doctor who treated me made another memorable statemant which is still in my memory bank,"You have a million dollar wound, and it will get you off the Island"  After spending the night in the hospital tent, sleeping on an army stretcher (it rained much of the night and I could not escape thinking I was so glad I was not in a trench up on Oboe.  Oh, what a sad day when the next morning I was put on a plane, no seats, just stretchers for the wounded to go to a hospital in Guam.  I can't honestly say I was sorry to leave you guys back on Okinawa, but I did pray for you.

 

   After a week or so in the hospital on Guam, the hospitals were so full they had to ship out those able to travel, so they put those able to travel on a hospital ship to send back to Hawaii.  Another sad day, when we arrived they found all the hospitals there were also full, so reluctantly, I let them transport me back to San Francisco.  That probably caused me to miss out on the trip back to the Philippines to prepare for the invasion of the Japanese homeland.  What about all that for the greatest luck a guy could have?

 

  I went through rehab at Letterman General Hospital in El Paso and a while in Brooke Hospital in San Antonio, just four hours from home.  After release from rehab I was assigned to a replacement battalion and shipped to Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo.  It was in January and here wasn't adequate heat in barracks, I let another guy from my hometown talk me into reinlisting for one year, with the assurance I would get out of the army in one year.  At that time I had very few discharge points, so I agreed.  Did get an enlistment bonus of I believe $200.00 and a forty-five day forlough, in advance of my enlistment.  It was a fortunate time for me, as I got to spend lots of time with my sweetheart and became engaged.

 

   I reported back to Ft. Sam Houston, San Antonio  for assignment.  I was put on a troop train and sent to Camp Picket, Virginia, where they assigned me to go to Europe.  I landed in Le Havre, France, where I witnessed (not participated in) the free life of France.  A couple of French girls could be seen strolling nearby.  In a matter of minutes, a horde of GI's would be following them over a hill, where they were taken  care of (if that is the right expression).  If an officer saw what was going on he would go out and march the men back in formation.

 

   From there we were shipped accross Germany into Austria where I spent the balance of my year's enlistment in a Military Police battalion.  Our duty was guarding railway military supply trains throughout Austria, mainly between Salzburg and Vienna.  It was pretty good duty.  Got to see lots of beautiful country and to spend lots of quality time in Vienna.  Gradewise, it was my most productive time during my 2-1/2 years of military service.  I advanced to the rank of Staff Sergant in a matter  of 3-5 months.  I was one of the few who had combat service, as the veterans started going home soon after I arrived.  Our company commander was an old time Army officer, who I think favored veterans, and he considered me one.  When I was scheduled to leave for the States, he told me he would make me 1st Sgt. if I would reinlist and stay with him.  I told him I was going home to get married and was not interested.  He said he might have me listed as essential and keep me.  I told him I would not like for him to do that, so never heard any more about that.

 

   I shipped out of Bremmerhaven, Germany in late January, 1947.  I was discharged in February, 1947 At Ft. Dix, N.J..  Was talked into remaining in the army reserves for three years, with the incintive if I was called back into the service, I would keep my rank of Staff Sgt.  I sweated out that entire three years until receiving my discharge in the mail.  Was not too long after that the Korean war began.  Another piece of the Walter Boyd good fortune.

 

   After all my later military experience, C Company, 382nd, 96th Infantry Division stands out as the most special time I spent in the military, even though I was only with them (and you guys) for 21 days.  This has been enhanced by the 7-8 reunions of the 96th that I have attended  You are a special bunch and it is a privilege to be accepted as a member of such an elite group.  I have gone on and on about my military service, but us old timers have to get these thoughts out there somehow.