Marine proudly recalls service during World War II

Bowerston, OH

I was born, raised and educated in a small town in Ohio. I graduated from high school in June 1942. I worked at temporary jobs until I was drafted into service on Feb. 3, 1943, at the age of 19, in Akron, Ohio. Back then, every branch of the service relied on the draft, not just the Army, so I was inducted into the Navy and sent to the Cleveland Induction Center for processing. While there I was selected for additional duty with the Marine Corps.

I was sent to the Marine Boot Camp at Parris Island, S.C., for my initial training. After boot camp, I was selected for additional training in communications at Camp Lejeune, N.C, and I received my field training at Camp Pendleton, Calif. After I completed my training, I shipped out overseas. I ended up at the French colony of New Caledonia in the South Pacific, which lies across the Coral Sea from Australia.

After several months at New Caledonia, I was sent into combat on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands to join the 3rd Battalion, 4th Regiment, which was called the 4th Marines, made up of ex-Marine Raiders.

[“By 1 February 1944, four Marine Raiders battalions had been amalgamated into a re-established 4th Marine Regiment, bearing the name and honors of the original 4th Regiment lost in the Philippines in 1942. The 1st, 4th, and 3rd Raider Battalions became respectively the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd [Marine] Battalions, 4th Marines.” ] – Wikipedia

I stayed with the 4th Marines until the end of the war, serving as a communications specialist. The 4th Marine Regiment was recognized for fighting with distinction at Guam and Okinawa.

Battle of Okinawa

[The Battle of Okinawa, code-named Operation Iceberg, was fought on the Ryukyu Islands of Okinawa and was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific War of World War II. The 82-day-long battle lasted from early April until mid-June 1945. After a long campaign of island hopping, the Allies were approaching Japan, and planned to use Okinawa, a large island only 340 mi (550 km) away from mainland Japan, as a base for air operations on the planned invasion of Japanese mainland (coded “Operation Downfall”). Four divisions of the U.S. 10th Army (the 7th, 27th, 77th and 96th) and two Marine Divisions (the 1st and 6th) fought on the island while the 2nd Marine Division remained as an amphibious reserve and was never brought ashore. The invasion was supported by naval, amphibious, and tactical air forces.] — Wikipedia

[The battle has been referred to as the “typhoon of steel” in English, and tetsu no ame (“rain of steel”) or tetsu no bo-fu- (“violent wind of steel”) in Japanese. The nicknames refer to the ferocity of the fighting, the intensity of kamikaze attacks from the Japanese defenders, and to the sheer numbers of Allied ships and armored vehicles that assaulted the island. The battle resulted in the highest number of casualties in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Japan lost over 100,000 soldiers, who were either killed, captured or committed suicide, and the Allies suffered more than 65,000 casualties of all kinds. Simultaneously, tens of thousands of local civilians were killed, wounded, or committed suicide. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki caused Japan to surrender less than two months after the end of the fighting at Okinawa.] — Wikipedia

The Battle of Okinawa began April 1, 1945. Hostilities ceased on June 20, 1945. More than 10,000 American Army and Marine fighters died. More than 100,000 Japanese forces died.

The American forces consisted of four divisions of the U.S. 10th Army – the 7th, 27th, 77th and 96th divisions and two Marine Divisions (the 1st and 6th). The 2nd Marine Division was also present, serving as the Strategic Reserve, but they never fought on the island. The Japanese forces consisted of the 32nd Army and support divisions.

[The Japanese land campaign (mainly defensive) was conducted by the 67,000-strong (77,000 according to some sources) regular 32nd Army and some 9,000 Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) troops at Oroku naval base (only a few hundred of whom had been trained and equipped for ground combat), supported by 39,000 drafted local Ryukyuan people (including 24,000 hastily drafted rear militia called Boeitai and 15,000 non-uniformed laborers). In addition, 1,500 middle school senior boys organized into front-line-service "Iron and Blood Volunteer Units", while 600 Himeyuri Students were organized into a nursing unit. ] — Wikipedia

Little fighting was done by the 6th Division on the first day. The 6th Division Marines captured the Okinawa airport. The next morning elements of the 4th Marines moved north toward the north shore of Okinawa.

[The 10th Army swept across the south-central part of the island with relative ease by World War II standards, capturing the Kadena and the Yomitan airbases within hours of the landing. In light of the weak opposition, General Buckner decided to proceed immediately with Phase II of his plan — the seizure of northern Okinawa. The 6th Marine Division headed up the Ishikawa Isthmus and by 7 April 1945, had sealed off the Motobu Peninsula.] — Wikipedia

Before we started I drank a damaged can of orange juice and I came down with a severe case of ptomaine poisoning. Since we had no vehicles, I had to walk 18 miles to the north shore. One of our officers said, “Warner, you look more dead than alive!” I felt like it!

The Marine and Army corps that were south of us were having a tough time. The Japanese were shelling our Marine and Army troops from the caves in the mountains above Sugar Loaf Hill and the Shuri Line. At the front, the combat line was stalled. We of the 6th Marines were pulled from Northern Okinawa and sent south to fight in Southern Okinawa around Sugar Loaf Hill.

[While the 6th Marine Division cleared northern Okinawa, the U.S. Army 96th Infantry division and 7th Infantry Division wheeled south across the narrow waist of Okinawa. The 96th Infantry Division began to encounter fierce resistance in west-central Okinawa from Japanese troops holding fortified positions east of Highway No. 1 and about 5 mi (8.0 km) northwest of Shuri, from what came to be known as Cactus Ridge. The 7th Infantry Division encountered similarly fierce Japanese opposition from a rocky pinnacle located about 1,000 yards (910 m) southwest of Arakachi (later dubbed “The Pinnacle”) ] — Wikipedia

The next morning, May 18, 1945, the 4th Marines attacked Sugar Loaf Hill. We experienced heavy artillery fire from the caves in back of the mountain behind Sugar Loaf Hill, and mortar fire from the Japanese defenses sited on the reverse slopes of Sugar Loaf hill. Casualties were heavy.

[Buckner launched another American attack on 11 May 1945. Ten days of fierce fighting followed. On 13 May 1945, troops of the 96th Infantry Division and 763rd Tank Battalion captured Conical Hill. Rising 476 ft (145 m) above the Yonabaru coastal plain, this feature was the eastern anchor of the main Japanese defenses and was defended by about 1,000 Japanese. Meanwhile, on the opposite coast, the 6th Marine Division fought for “Sugar Loaf Hill”. The capture of these two key positions exposed the Japanese around Shuri on both sides. Buckner hoped to envelop Shuri and trap the main Japanese defending force.] — Wikipedia

My group leader said I had to work laying communications line on my own. The other two men and he were injured or shell shocked. As I started to lay my telephone line toward the break in the communications line last seen by our men, I was hit by an artillery barrage. When I came to, it was four hours later. I was in an open field approximately 300 yards south of Sugar Loaf Hill. Two Japanese machine gun nests were shooting at me, so I dropped into an artillery-made crater for protection. There was a broken telephone line in the crater, which I repaired.

A quarter of a mile ahead of me was a group of men who were in a trench. I ran toward the trench as fast as I could (assuming they were American Marines). The men in the trench were getting a kick out of my running. They said I would make a good football player.

Lt. Block, my platoon leader, said to me, “You repaired the telephone line so I called for a tank to wipe out the machine gun nests.” In a few minutes, the tank was there, destroying the machine gun nests. Lt. Block told me to walk behind the tanks to headquarters, saying, “You may be needed.”

Capt. Percy (the company commander) greeted me as I returned to headquarters. He told me the Japanese will make a heavy counter-attack tonight. “Get something to eat and dig a foxhole. Stand by — I’ll need you.”

The Marine artillery and ships in the bay were having their shells trained in the path of the Japanese counter-attack. The American shells just cleared the top of Sugar Loaf Ridge. The sky was red with American shells.

I went out to the front line once more to repair the telephone line during the Japanese counter-attack. However, there were Marines around me. The Japanese suffered a bad defeat.

The morning after the Japanese lost Sugar Loaf Hill, I went into Battalion Headquarters to obtain more telephone line. I ran into the communications officer and he told me he had heard good things about me. “However,” he said, “you know you’re not supposed to be up in the fighting area alone.” I just said, “Yes, sir.” He also told me, “You are too careless.”

With Sugar Loaf Hill falling, the Japanese started to retreat south toward the southern tip of the island. Several weeks after the fall of Sugar Loaf Hill and the rest of the Shuri Line, I was out repairing a telephone line when I felt two hits on my legs. Luckily, I fell into a ditch. I could have been killed. I had been hit by a Japanese machine gun. Since I was only about 50 feet from the company headquarters, smoke bombs were rolled towards me to screen me from the Japanese machine gun nests. I crawled through the smoke to the headquarters. The corpsman patched my wounds.

Since we were pinned down by the Japanese in the hills all around us, I could not be moved to the field hospital until after dark. While I was being evacuated from Okinawa along with other wounded soldiers, we passed through Battalion Headquarters, so I was able to say goodbye to my buddies.

I woke up on a hospital ship with a pretty nurse watching me. I thought of saying, “This must be heaven.” However, the nurse must have heard those remarks many times before.

The hospital ship dropped me off on a small island between Saipan and Guam called Tinian, in the Northern Mariana Islands. The Army had constructed a giant airbase on Tinian to support the 313th Bombardment Wing of B-29 Superfortress bombers. It was the largest airfield in the world at the time. I was a patient at the 374th General Hospital on Tinian for about three months. The hospital was situated on the high level area on the north side of the island overlooking North Field, where the B-29s were located.

After being discharged from the hospital on Tinian, I was ordered back to Guam, where I was temporarily assigned to a Rest and Recreation Camp to complete my recovery. I eventually rejoined my regiment. On arrival, I was told not to unpack my seabag, as we were going to be shipping out to Japan for duty as Occupation Troops. There was a rumor that the 4th Marines were supposed to be the first Occupation Troops to be sent to Japan. However, General MacArthur (with a company of paratroopers) went in ahead of us.

After serving for about three months in Japan, I finally accumulated enough points to be allowed to rotate back home to the U.S. mainland. I was glad to pass under the Golden Gate Bridge!

The battle of Sugar Loaf Hill is historically known to be where many of the American casualties on Okinawa occurred. My memories are centered around my buddies and the sacrifices that were made.

Cpl. Marion Warner, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines
Age 89
July 2013

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