96th Infantry Division Deadeyes Asssociation

A Trucker' Stories
 
 
   As a 96th Infantry Division Quartermaster Company Truck Driver, I had an opportunity to confiscate supplies. I would take large cans of fruit cocktail, peaches and pears and put them in my toolbox, behind the seat or wherever I could find a place to stash them.

   Once in a while I was assigned the job, along with other drivers, to drive up near the front lines to haul out spent troops. As soon as we got behind range of enemy artillery fire, I would stop the truck and dig out my stash of canned fruit and toss the cans into the back of the truck.

   Those men had been on the front line for around 30 days, as I remember, and had not had the opportunity to wash their hands, let alone bathe. They would cut the cans open with bayonets and with bare hands, grab the fruit and devour it.

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   I got around the island (Okinawa) quite a bit. In my travels I picked up a pair of Japanese style sandals as a souvenir and had them on the seat of my truck as I backed onto an LST to haul supplies.

   A sailor saw them and offered me ten dollars for them. I declined his offer. Another sailor stepped up on my running board and asked what I would take for them. I told him they were not for sale. Then he asked me, "What can you think of right now that you would most like to have?" I thought for a moment and said, "A loaf of fresh bread." He left without a word and soon returned with three loaves of fresh bread. He claimed the sandals and I was satisfied.

   But the first sailor was not. He gave me a bad time and asked why I hadn't told him what I wanted. The fact is, the sandals were not for sale, but three loaves of fresh bread as a great price for them!
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   In July 1945, I was in the first part of the 96th Infantry Division that embarked from Okinawa on some LSTs for the Philippines to rest up and prepare for the invasion of Japan. I was with the 96th Quartermaster Company and my truck and I were in that group.

   About July 24,1945 as we were between Formosa (Taiwan) and the Philippines when the convoy was attacked by submarines. I was on the deck of our LST looking back at a destroyer escort moving rapidly forward. I looked forward to see what they were after and when I looked back, I saw a column of smoke, flame and debris about 400 feet in the air where the ship had been. They rammed a suicide sub that blew up, with the loss of the ship and about 118 men. A couple of smaller ships picked up survivors and deposited about 55 of them on board the ship I was on.  Of the men we had aboard, two of them were buried at sea the next day and many were wounded.

   My hat is off to the Navy and particular to the men of the USS Underhill, DE-682.

Thank you!

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Web Editor's Comment: A sailor's recall of the attack on this convoy is at
http://www.ussunderhill.org/html/eyewitness_account__2.htm