WWII Memoirs – 1945 – The Entire Squadron Enters Combat
After thirteen months in “paradise” we were informed that the “Hawaiian Campaign” was over. No more charging into Honolulu for a relaxing afternoon on Waikiki Beach drinking rum and cocoa-colo. No more diving into the big breakers at Waimea Bay. Someone in the higher echelons had decided that it was time for the entire 28th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron to enter combat.
So we packed up our equipment, closed down our operation on Kualoa Field, and near the middle of April 1945 left Hawaii on board a naval attack transport. We soon joined a convoy of sub-chasers and destroyers and headed toward the only place where an invasion was taking place –Okinawa.
The Battle for Iwo Jima was over by the end of March, and Okinawa had just been invaded. It appeared to be the last major battle before the invasion of the Japanese mainland. But as it turned out, it was the last major battle of WWII.
Okinawa is part of a chain of islands in the Ryuku Archepelago that extends 700 miles from the southern tip of Japan. We anchored in on the west side of the Okinawa what had been Nagagusaka Wun. It was changed to Buckner Bay by the Americans to commemorate the general who was killed in action on Okinawa.
We lay at anchor for two days and two nights, and during that time heard on the radio that Nazi Germany had surrendered, thus ending the war in Europe. Those of us in the Pacific Theater were left with the last portion of World War II. Our elation over the victory in Europe was blunted by our having to stay on our ship another night. We had been informed that kamikaze action had been very intense in recent weeks and that Navy ships often were their main targets.
Finally we went ashore. The Marines had secured the area some time before, and our landing was uneventful. Our landing craft pulled alongside a small dock, and we calmly climbed out. But the quiet and unhurried landing gave no hint of the fierce fighting raging just a few miles away.
We had no immediate food available when we landed, but the marine outfit encamped nearby did not hesitate to share theirs with us. But I recall how sober and quiet the atmosphere was in that tent “dining room” while we ate. I soon learned why This Marine unit would soon be going up to the front. My heart went out to them, and to this day I sometimes wonder about
I mentioned in a previous article that a detachment from our Squadron had been sent to the Marshall Islands back in 1944. After that assignment it did a stint On Saipan, and now was rejoining the Squadron here on Okinawa. In fact, our “veterans” had arrived before we did, and had already been in operation.
They also had been in contact with the enemy. On an evening bomb run, the Japanese had hit and destroyed their photo lab; fortunately, no one was killed. The lab facility had been the enemy’s when they had occupied the Island, so they knew exactly where to bomb.
We replaced the lab with a quonset hut, a sturdy building anchored in a concrete base. Our drafting “facility” was a single-gabled tent stretched over a frame. A wooden floor was the only luxury. The two structures were located next to each other. Both were on the edge of our encampment, which was a bivouac of pyramidal tents. All of our facilities had electricity.
The U.S. forces had occupied the two major air bases on the Island, Yontan and Kadena, immediately following the invasion. Both were in operation. Our planes were based on Yontan, along with bombers, transports, and fighters, about a quarter mile from our camp.
So, with the planes flying and the Squadron functioning as a unit again, it was ready to carry out its first mission: To provide photographic support for the troops on the front lines.
Next Entry: WWII Memoirs – May 6, 1945 – Okinawa, The Last Battle of the War
Our squadron landed in early May and quickly joined the battle. Most of us were fortunate to be serving in a support role...