SEA BEE WAR STORIES OF THE BATTLE OF OKINAWA, 1945....

Discussion in 'The VMBB True Story Tellers' started by rooter, Apr 1, 2020.

  1. rooter

    rooter *VMBB Senior Chief Of Staff* Supporting Member

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    A FEW STORIES ABOUT SEABEES DURING THE OKINAWA LANDING"
    APRIL 1, 1945
    OKINAWA - April 1, 1945: One of the largest Seabee stevedore assault operations in the Second World War was handled by 11th Special NCB at the invasion of Okinawa. The assignment began in February 1945 when the battalion was joined by two base companies of untrained personnel. Indoctrination of these recruits in the Seabee stevedore tradition, “keep the hook moving,” was started immediately. The big battalion was split into two divisions of nine nine-man teams each. The divisions separated, each going to a different staging area where the 18 teams were assigned to 18 different assault ships. Once at the staging area, each team loaded its assigned vessel and then rode that vessel to Okinawa. When the ships arrived off the coast of Okinawa on April 1, 1945, they were spread the entire length of the northern beaches. These were the beaches hit by the Third Amphibious Marines. Once landed, the Seabees unloaded on a 24-hour basis. Unloading was performed under extremely hazardous conditions. Enemy air raids persistently hammered at the shipping. Fourteen casualties were suffered by the 11th Special NCB during the early stages of the campaign. On the day after the invasion, April 2, 1945, six cranes, five bulldozers and a number of floodlight trailers were on the beaches as far north as Nago on the still bitterly contested Motobu peninsula. When the discharge of assault cargo was completed, the Seabee stevedores had a lull of about a week before the second echelon of supply ships arrived. However, during this week the men were not idle. They did excavation and construction work, roughed in roads and helped install anti-aircraft emplacements. Despite the week-long pause in stevedoring and the reduction of working time due to air raids, the end of April saw more than 70,000 tons of ammunition, guns, vehicles and supplies safely ashore and in the hands of the swift-moving assault forces.
    William Smith enlisted in the Seabees and was assigned to the 11th Special USN Construction Battalion. Basically we were stevedores, We loaded and unloaded ships. But the 11th Special also carried Marines in.
    The 11th Special was also known as the "Can-Do Boys" because there weren't many things they couldn't do. One of those things was go into battle once their other duties were completed. We carried in supplies and built camps and dug foxholes and got in them, Smith said. We were in on invasions in the Pacific Islands as we moved the Marines from one island to another.
    We were handed four packs of K-rations, two canteens and told to go in and get em. The 11th Special went in behind the Marines. We were the mop up crew. Everytime the Marines pushed on, we went right behind them.
    We were in a foxhole one night on Okinawa, and bombs were dropping all around us and gunfire was spraying around us like a 4th of July sparkler. We were all afraid. It was the toughest night of my life. Nearby a bomb exploded, setting the sandbags around a foxhole on fire. The sandbags fell in the foxhole on the men and set them on fire, Smith said. They were screaming for help and I started to move out. My foxhole buddy, wouldn't budge. He was frozen in fear.
    Smith got help from Soldiers in another foxhole and they pulled the two men from the burning hole. We were screaming for help and there was a Doctor in one of the foxholes but he wouldn't come out. Some Corpsmen came and helped us and men's lives were saved.
    A short time later, Smith's foxhole buddy went berserk. He crawled out of the foxhole and was standing out there in all the gunfire, screaming at the top of his lungs. Smith said, I crawled out and pulled him back in. I had to report him and the next day he and the Doctor were taken off the island. War is terrible he said.
     
  2. rooter

    rooter *VMBB Senior Chief Of Staff* Supporting Member

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    "AHEAD OF OKINAWAS FRONT LINES"


    AHEAD OF OKINAWAS FRONT LINES WENT A FIVE MAN SEABEE SURVEYING TEAM TO LAY OUT THE SITE FOR A NEW AIRFIELD. CCM DOYLE L. CROWELL AND HIS MEN WORKING IN "NO MANS LAND" FOR TWO DAYS - SOMETIMES MORE THAN A HALF-MILE IN FRONT OF THE FIGHTING. THE MARINES DIDN'T CATCH UP WITH THE SURVEYORS UNTIL THE THIRD DAY
    145th Seabees - April 1, 1945

    NCB Cruisebook: OKINAWA, April 1, 1945.

    Many of our men got in on the very beginning of the landings. We on the LST's had ringside seats, but we didn't get in until L-plus- two. We did get our share of action for our camp was situated on farmland between two airstrips and a harbor full of ships.

    The Japanese flyers that came over lived up to their reputation of being nearsighted, for although there were a number of nearby targets more important than we, the flying sons of heaven dropped "hot stuff" too close to us for comfort. The evening of D-plus-two, when we pitched camp, we joked and grinned in levity over the adventure, but after a few experiences of zooming, bombing Japanese planes, flak filled skies, and moaning sirens out interests in abodes centered on safety. Comfort ran a poor second.

    Biggest joba in April were construction of two roadways, Route No. 1 and Route No. 3, which included access roads; the improvement of Yellow Beach No. 3, one of the main man and supply landings, and access roads to it. One of the most important jobs was the construction of a 150-foot double-double Bailey bridge over the Bishi Gawa at Hiza.

    This was on Route 1, the main artery feeding supplies south to the battlefront. A crew of 80 men of the 145th built the bridge in two days and a night. The Japanese didn't want the bridge built, and signified their feelings in futile, but dangerous, air raids on the bridge site throughout the night.

    For their rapid and successful completion of the project, the workers were commended by commander White of the 44th Regiment. Also during April, the 145th constructed a camp for the Island Command, operated DDT mixing station at Yontan airfield, constructed the 3rd Amphibious Corps hospital, operated a water station at Hiza, furnished a bomb and mine disposal crew for all our own projects, numerous others, and for the policing of a large area for unexploded ordinance.

    The 145th road crews maintained and improved a section of Route No. 6 from Tokeshi to Yamada. Our surver parties did reconnaissance work on airfield sites, and another crew operated coral pits on around the clock schedules. During April the 145th suffered two casualties.

    In May, men of the 145th constructed a camp and facilities for the commander of construction troops. worked on the first Marine Division cemetery, constucted a large number of facilities for Yontan airfield; helped the 146th battalion establish an advance base construction depot, built the giant Machinato causeway and pontoon dock for unloading ships, salvaged materials and supplies at Naha, constructed many miles of new roads and improved many more miles of existing roads.

    All of this time other work was being done on our own camp. Our electric shop salvaged and put into operation Japanese equipment such as transformers. our sign shop painted signs that posted almost the whole island; messing facilities and showers were built, and almost from the start we had movies projected on a plywood screen while we sat on coral blocks, boxes and the ground. Throughout this entire period we experienced at least one air raid every night; some nights, an almost continuous succession of them.

    When an air raid stopped the movies, and they often did, we'd run for our foxholes and then return the next night to see more of the same movies from where we left off.

    It was toward the end of May that the Japanese tried one of their most daring attacks in our vicinity. With suicidal plans of wrecking grounded planes with grenades and scattering to the hills, they tried an airborne landing of troops on Yontan airfield, just above our camp.

    Only one plane made a successful landing on the field. Good quality and quantity of our anti-aircraft fire accounted for the others.

    The Japanese who did land, damaged a number of our planes, but they never got off the field alive. The following morning presented a bloody scene in the vicinity of Yontan airfield.

    During the next two months our road crew continued their endless job of networking the island wide, smooth, coral-topped highways to replace the one way cart trails that composed most of Okinawa's roadways.

    And the coral diggers and hauers continued to move out coral for these and other jobs, such as the construction of taxiways at Yonabaru airfield. Workers built a fleet post office at Naval Operations Base to handle the Navy's mail on the island.

    The 145th also furnished a crew of men and a fleet of trucks in operation of the islands provisional trucking company. In July we moved to a new camp and were back on the pacific ocean again. It was at least a help to look out over the ocean and know you were looking toward home and not China.

    The battle for Okinawa ended officially on June 22 when the American flag was raised over the island. Lt. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr., Commander of the Tenth Army on Okinawa, was killed Monday, June 18.

    The Okinawa campaign occupied 82 days of fighting. a total of 100,000 Japanese were killed, paid for in American dead at a one-to-13 ratio. It was on June 22 that the 145th was detached from the First Marine Division, to which we had belonged since December 3, 1944.
     

  3. rooter

    rooter *VMBB Senior Chief Of Staff* Supporting Member

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    THE STORY OF OKINAWA - By Carl Dorman, Jr. 71st Seabees.
    April 1, 1945 - Easter Sunday arrived with a calm sea and a clear blue sky. The sun was two hours above the horizon. The serene South China Sea was fogged with the ghostly gray mist of the smudge pots. Behind the curtain of smoke, landing barges circled restlessly, waiting. In the distance boomed the heavy naval guns. At 0830 the barges flashed across the line to the beach. The battle for "Bloody Okinawa" was on.
    This was the moment we had sweated out for thirty days aboard ship. Thirty days of playing cards and checkers and reading books, magazines and the news reports; thirty days of boredom and anxiety. The trip up had been the same as all boat trips; the food was fair and the living quarters crowded. There had been a Victory dinner on Good Friday with steaks large enough to cover a standard navy tray and all the trimmings necessary to make a good dinner.
    Aboard the USS Dickman we tried vainly to see what was going on. The wall of smoke obliterated everything outside a radius of two hundred yards, tides of the battle were pure conjecture. Scuttlebutt spread widely through the ship: The Japs are shelling! Someone had seen several unaccountable splashes near the next ship in line. On our bit of the U.S.A., isolated from the world and the news and in the midst of significant historical events, we depended on the latest developments from the coxswains passing by in landing barges. No one hit on the fourth wave. The sixth wave went in standing up! Our bird's eye view of the battle was minute indeed.
    The original plan of operations called for construction troops to be landed on D-plus-3, but the negligible resistance on the beaches speeded up the assault. D-Day for Seabees was April 2nd, and the first groups of the 71st Naval Construction Battalion stepped ashore at Blue Beach to the first nearly civilized country they had seen in eighteen months. There, not six yards from the beach, was part of a real house with the wreckage of some natives possessions strewn about. In a sweet potato patch the battalion awaited orders to move into a bivouac area. Occasionally a shell would go whistling overhead on it's way to the Nips or a patrol would pass through on it's way to the lines.
    From Blue Beach we marched five miles, carrying the equipage necessary to existence (a mere 60 to 100 pounds) on our backs, to a former Japanese airfield, Yontan, and prepared to bivouac. Within a few hundred yards of the camp were a number of Nip planes in all states of disrepair.The first night passed quietly. The following day everyone set about building temporary homes; putting the camp area in order. There was little work to do until the LST's were beached and unloaded. The first days on Okinawa were little worse than an extended picnic. The equipment had not arrived, so there was little work to do. Enemy planes made their first formal appearance at 0320, April 6th. No bombs were dropped in the camp vicinity, but old hands neatly hit holes dug for that purpose. Later in the day planes made a strafing run on the camp, setting fire to and completely destroying the Frank type Nip plane which was parked near the camp. The first casualty due to enemy action occurred, a slight shoulder wound caused by falling flak. The most severe cases were those individuals unfortunate enough to have been carrying open cans at the time of the raid. Despite annoying air raids, one LST was completely unloaded and the other started. One carpenter crew, previously assigned, worked at the 3rd Corps Medical Battalion Hospital.
    On April 8th, grading started on Route 1 from Yamada to Onna, the main road which led north on the China Sea side of the island. This stretch of road formed the backbone of the battalion's job on Okinawa. The next day the first part of the battalion moved to a more suitable position north, following the Marines of the 3rd Corps and keeping the roads open. The month of April brought cold weather miseries to the men. Eighteen months in the torrid heat of the South Pacific had weakened the resistance of the men to the mild cold of Okinawa. Cloudy, rainy days and cold nights brought on the worst colds and grippe in two years. Nights were spent with all available clothing wrapped around the body, and baths from buckets and helmets were no longer cool and refreshing as they had been in the tropics, but ordeals to be endured only when the odor became overpowering. Also in April came terrific hailstorms of steel to those remaining encamped beside Yontan. Shore installations and ships in the harbor threw up such a tremendous barrage in each raid that the harbor vicinity for miles around was prey to the never ending rain of metal. On 16 April mortar shells aimed at Yontan landed around the camp area. During the previous night the first and only death due to enemy action occurred. There were air raids to numerous to count, but usually the planes merely passed over on their way to more important targets. On several occasions bombs were dropped nearby, but they were just close enough to make a few more Christians.
    By April 29th the battalion road responsibility extended from Yamada to Nago, a distance of more than 20 miles. The road was an old Japanese road which followed the China Sea coastline as much as possible. It was narrow, as it was built to take the narrow beamed Japanese trucks. Throughout the entire distance the road was widened sufficiently to accomodate the northward drive of the 3rd Corps, and was repaired as best as possible under existing conditions. A Piper Cub strip at Onna was begun on April 16th. By April 20th enough of the strip had been completed to enable the first plane to land. The strip, 1000 feet long and 130 feet wide, with all necessary accessories, was finished April 24th. At the village of Kise, a concrete bridge had been badly damaged by combat action and was repaired by cribbing along the broken span and back filling with rubble. Many of the bridges on Route 1 were damaged, seemingly beyond repair. Each bridge was repaired by crib and back fill or with shoring. These bridges were the only ones on the island made passable by using salvage material and drift wood.
    On April 26th improvement was started on Route 6 crossing the isthmus near the middle of the island at its narrowest point, from the villages of Nakadomari to Hizonna, a distance of 3 miles. Work was started at the west - it's junction with Route 1 at Nakadomari. The road was widened for two lane traffic, and a new section was built from Yamagusuku, northwestward to straighten the route. On the 6th of May the main part of the battalion moved south with the 3rd Phib. Corps. A camp was established west of junctions of Routes 1 and 32, on Route 32. This was camp #2 long remembered for the mud and ugly living conditions. A condition black existed on the night of May 6th. Two nights previous the Japanese attempted a landing on the beach below the camp. During May, Camp #2 was under enemy artillery and anti-aircraft fire. The Japs would set their anti-aircraft shells to go off fifty or sixty feet from the ground, spraying the area with shrapnel. One night a cache of oil drums was hit by artillery fire, but did not explode or burn. Two men were wounded by sniper fire. At the same time Camp #!1 was beginning to have difficulties. On several occasions Japs ambushed vehicles and bivouacs within a few miles of the camp. The war was catching up to the 71st.
     
  4. rooter

    rooter *VMBB Senior Chief Of Staff* Supporting Member

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    The improvement of Route 1 was started by a battalion of Marine Engineers, but was taken over by the 71st May 7th before much work had been done. Widening was started at RJ 32 and the road widened for two lane traffic. Convoy traffic over Route 1 to the combat area was extremely heavy and interfered greatly with the progress on road work. However, the road was kept in passable shape and was coral surfaced to RJ 34 by the 16th of May when the first heavy rains started. On may 19th and 21st, two attempts were made by Japs, who infiltrated American lines, to blow up two separate bridges. On May 19th, a single-span concrete bridge was skillfully drilled, but the failure of the entire demolition charge to go off minimized the damage and the damage was quickly repaired by crib and fill. On May 21st, during daylight, in an area alerted by previous attempts, another attempt was made by the Japs to blow up a second bridge. Again the failure of the charge to go off prevented serious damage. The extremely heavy rains on May 25 and 26 brought the road improvement to a standstill. All efforts and resources of the road gangs were taxed to keep traffic moving. On May 30th conditions had not improved and road work went on a 24-hour basis. Prior to May 30th night lighting was not permitted in the combat area because of enemy artillery and air attack. Due to the emergency, field lighting was authorized and about sixty Marine Military Police were assigned to out-post sentry duty at construction operations and isolated equipment. Thus all battalion manpower was engaged on Route 1 in order to keep it open to traffic.
    On June 10th, in order to keep pace with the forward movement of the combat zone, the 71st N.C.B. was assigned road responsibility in a more forward area, and the forward camp # 3 was established at the junction of Routes 5 and 44. Camp # 3 had a nightly show of fireworks. Japs were infiltrating back from the lines carrying demolition charges. To make matters more interesting, on a hill behind and slightly to the left of the camp was a "boot" Seabee outfit just out of the states. They were trigger happy. Behind the camp was another outfit, the Army. They too were apparently just out of the states. They were trigger happy too. From dusk to dawn the tracers careened over and through Camp # 3. Several nights there was danger of a war developing between neighboring outfits, especially those nights when the Nip's weren't around to be shot at. One night the "boot" battalion guards did manage to get a Japanese.
    Building construction consisted entirely of camp and hospital facilities, construction of a temporary nature typical of forward areas where camp locations are frequently changed. Carpenter crews worked with the 3rd Corps CP, 3rd Corps Medical Battalion, 3rd Corps Evacuation Hospital, No. 2, and 3rd Corps Rest Camp.