I have never forgotten hearing the radio announcement of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. I was riding in a car that Sunday afternoon in Miami with my family. My Dad was driving and when the news came on, he motioned us to stop talking as he raised the volume on the car radio. When he heard the news he groaned as if it were a great event. It was and as a sixteen year old boy, I had no idea how greatly it would impact my life.
It was on December 7, 1941. Our President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, said it was a day that would go down in infamy. It was an act that brought us into World War II. A war that would see us fight on two broad fronts simultaneously. We were unprepared for war. We had been in a great depression for many years. Our military was not ready for the greatest war in history.
However, America was a nation with great resources and its people were its greatest resource. Americans came together and went to work. The men who were able joined the military. Those who were not and those who were needed in other endeavors found their place and went to work to provide the ammunition, trucks, ships, planes, food, guns, and those other things needed to fight a war. Many of the things our citizens needed were rationed so that the war effort would be fully supplied. Eg. Food, sugar, shoes, gas, tires, clothes.
In three and one-half years the war was over. We had defeated the two greatest and most powerful military machines the world had ever seen. I was a senior in High School.
When war was declared, many of my classmates and acquaintances began to enlist in the armed services. Many never came back. There was a great increase in job opportunities for those who wanted to work. After my graduation, I took a job at the Naval Base in Key West as timekeeper for a construction company. My job was to keep up with about two hundred workers and be sure they were working. At this time, cars were allowed to drive at night only with their parking lights on. This was done so that the lights would not be seen by enemy submarines which may be lurking off the coast. The top half of car headlights had to be covered also. This restriction was mandated for all of the coastal areas of Florida during the war.
It was reported that German sailors captured off the coast of Florida had been in Miami and purchased supplies. Everyone was aware of the perceived danger of enemy vessels and what they might do in attacking coastal areas. The famous General Sherman who afflicted Hell on the South in the civil war said, "War is Hell!" And everyone who has been involved with war will agree.
Many things were rationed during the war. A ration board was set up. Stamps were allocated for such things as meat, gas, tires, shoes, and sugar. Each family was given an allotment of a certain amount for each item. These things could be obtained on the black market but it was against the law. Stamps were sometimes sold on the black market. Gas stamps were sold and traded more than anything. Sometimes you could buy gas from a filling station without stamps but it was much more expensive. However for the most part, people were willing to go without so that the war effort would be successful.
New cars and trucks were not made during the war. These industries were now totally involved in the war effort. Used vehicles had a ceiling price on them and it was against the law to sell for more than that price. Sometimes vehicles would be sold for the legal price and an amount other than that would be given under the counter. People are always finding ways to circumvent the laws they do not want to abide by.
Key West was an interesting place. My mother grew up in Key West and lived at 400 White street. I lived there with my grandmother while I worked at the Naval Base during the war. Drinking water was a scarce commodity. Most of the homes had cisterns which gathered rainwater off the roofs. Water was then pumped into the house. The city's businesses and the Navy obtained their water from tank trucks that drove down from Miami daily.
I vaguely remember riding the train from Miami to Key West with my Mother when I was a young boy. The train tracks were destroyed in the 1935 hurricane that devastated the Keys. As a lad, traveling to Key West was an experience. The only route was U.S. # 1. It was two lanes and you had to take two ferry's. By the time the war started, the highway had been completed and the ferry's were eliminated.
In June of 1943, I enlisted in the Navy and was sent to Camp Blanding, Florida for induction. They turned me down because of my eyesight. I returned home and one month later they drafted me for I had by then turned eighteen. I was given several choices of services and I chose to go into the US Naval Seabees which is what I wanted when I enlisted. I left a few days later for Camp Peary, Virginia which was near Williamsburg and Richmond.
Boot camp lasted for three months. I was assigned to platoon B. Platoon D was assigned also to our barracks. A Marine drill sergeant was assigned to train us. We began each day by arising at 5:30 AM and doing calisthenics. Then we had a few minutes in which to wash clothes by hand and wash up. We then went to breakfast. We fell out every morning at 8:30 for work assignments, hikes or drill. We were kept busy until 5:30 PM. We often had guard assignments with dummy rifles.
Platoon B became the best drill group on the drill field. Platoon D was the worst. After being humiliated for being so clumsy they asked the drill sergeant to work with them after hours.
He agreed and after many extra and determined hours of hard work they greatly improved. On the day of competition, we were all greatly surprised at their proficiency. In fact, they won the honor of being the best drill team in the competition. Hard work does pay off.
Camp Peary was not a pleasant camp in many ways. It was very cold on a Florida boy who had never seen snow. The barracks were far from airtight. The pot bellied stoves were grossly inadequate. The green wood that was supplied for the stoves would not stay burning and needed almost constant attention. Maybe all of this was by design to harden us for possible future hardship. Whatever, I was glad to get out of Virginia and Camp Peary. We left Camp Peary on April 12, 1944.
After six months at Peary, we were sent to Camp Endicott at Davisville, Rhode Island. The camp and facilities were so much nicer. The Barracks were steam heated and we could finally get warm. We had three weeks of military training and three weeks of technical training at this camp. The military training involved rifle marksmanship, heavy weapons, both machine guns, mortar, anti-aircraft, extended order and field problems. This was designed to train the battalion for combat duty. We were to learn to operate as a combat team. The Technical training involved some thirty eight schools and stevedore training. Every man was to be able to handle two jobs, one technical job and one military job. At Camp Peary, we had received preliminary training in marksmanship, bayonet, and the obstacle course. At Endicott the training was more advanced. We went on maneuvers here while we waited for departure news. On June 28, we left Endicott for Port Hueneme, California.
We arrived July 4, 1944 , after seven days on a troop train. The Camp was comfortable here as well. We enjoyed our stay in California. At Hueneme, we were given more extensive training in stevedore work. We were a construction battalion and also a stevedore battalion.
We, the Thirty First Special Seabee Battalion, left Hueneme September 11, 1944. We were on the Sea Marlin along with the 17th construction battalion. We were heading for Saipan in the south pacific although we did not know that for certain but it had been rumored. The men in our battalion had been trained for many eventualities. We had been trained by Marines for combat. We had learned to be proficient with our rifles and in hand to hand combat. We had been on maneuvers in Virginia and in Rhode Island. We were especially trained as a stevedore battalion for unloading cargo and ammunition ships either at docks or at sea. Since we were also a construction battalion, we had men who could do almost anything in the construction area. Most of the men in the Seabees were men who had worked in construction a good part of their lives. They ranged in age from eighteen to forty. We had been preparing for overseas service for a year and we were ready to go and contribute to the defeat of the Japanese.
Was I scared? Yes. I was eighteen years old and I did not know if I would come back or
not. Many were not coming back. I had been raised in Sunday School and church all my life. I
thought I was a born again Christian and that if anything happened to me I would go to Heaven.
However, I wanted to come back home. I knew my destiny was in God's hands. I knew also
that He was a loving Heavenly Father who I could talk to about my desires. As we pulled out of
the California harbor, I got alone underneath a lifeboat that was on the deck of that ship and I
prayed. I asked the Lord to keep me safe and to bring me safely back one day. I had a peace that
He would do as I asked and He did.
The following was taken from Edwin Bennett's fine book titled "Coming Through"
which was written about The Thirty First Special Construction Battalion. Mr. Bennett was a
member of our unit.
Eight o'clock of the morning of September 11th found the battalion boarding ship at the docks at Port Hueneme. The men, loaded down with paraphernalia, struggled up the gang-plank, across a hatch, down a hatchway, and were assigned bunks and ordered to remain below until released. The bunks were in several holds, six in a section, one above the other, and so close together that it took a real acrobat to project himself into one. Cramped and stuffy, the hold soon became rancid with the odor of sweating flesh. The confusion of finding bunks and getting settled finally smoothed it self out however, and by 1000 the battalion was secured. Another battalion, the 17th Construction, followed the 31st Special on board, and by noon, both battalions were reasonably well settled and ready to sail.
At 1400 the motors began to warm up, and at quarter past the ship slid from the dock and headed out to sea. Everyone was jammed along the rails, watching the shore disappear. There was no cheering, no shouting or singing among the men. A little burst of exhilaration and a feeling of excitement, perhaps, but no joy nor even sorrow. A few were unhappy, but most were steeled and tense, though they wouldn't admit it; the air was charged with that feeling. The ship was on its way, the battalion had embarked, and like it or not, "this was it." The shore lay behind, the open sea in front, and beyond that the war.
A voice broke the silence and the tenseness, a polished voice over the loudspeaker. It was the troop Commander, a Major, giving the orders for shipboard behavior. In each bunk there was a life-jacket, one of those bulky kapok affairs which were to become too familiar as the days wore on. The Major issued orders that never were the men to be without them, but always wear them, even to bed. They were to sleep in their clothes for safety's sake. The ship was to be kept clean, the water used sparingly, and the safety lights pinned on the jackets and never lit until they were in the water. They were to show position if the ship was sunk. The Commander closed by wishing them a pleasant cruise. Moments passed while all of this was digested, and then a voice again spoke, "Don't stand on the hatches, nor smoke there. Go forward on the starboard side, aft on the port. You, Buddy, put that life jacket on; they're made to wear, not sit on." Ad infinitum.
Among the first things were the abandon ship drill, anti-aircraft drill, and the fire drill. For the former all hands massed along the rails; for the second, all hands went below; for the third, all hands went topside. With delightful sense of humor, all three were called in succession one day. If you can imagine some two thousand men rushing to the rails, and then plunging down six hatchways to the holds, then climbing again, all at the same time, then you know what it was like. It was not very successful, for many just stayed where they were, and it was not tried again. The abandon ship drills continued, several each day, and as we drew nearer what were called "hot" waters, the morning and evening alerts were added. these periods were the hours preceding sunrise and following sunset, and all hands massed along the rails and peered into the dusk. They were told to look for submarines, but in the morning everyone was too sleepy, and at night too bored, to see anything.
Some more rules were announced: no smoking in the holds, or on deck after dark. The head was the only remaining place and that became so full of smoke that most abandoned it. The ship was blacked at night, and the curtains kept out the air, making the holds unbearable. The ventilators were too scarce to do much good.
The worst feature of the trip was chow. To get to the galley it was necessary to pass the boiler room where the temperature was almost unbearable. The galley was no icebox, and speed became essential. The food was poor in quality, worse in quantity, and the only salvation was the ship's store. In Pearl Harbor the ship's store was closed and the two meals per day were hardly enough. The potato binds grew empty, for raw potatoes were better than nothing, almost. If one was astute, it was possible to steal a few morsels from the crew's galley, but not much. The men are standing up, and when they were finished, walked--or crawled--up a slippery, greasy hatchway onto the after deck. Dante must have based his 'inferno' on the Sea Marlin's galley.
There were other little pleasantries aboard ship, too. One might wait an hour for a
shady spot on deck, and no sooner had he comfortably settled himself than little men with a long
fire hose would wash down the deck, making certain that every body got soaked in the process.
Everyone got a good suntan on the trip. In the evening there was a movie, always the 'Great
McGinty.' Salt water showers were not much help. Shaving was a major operation. Squeeze in
between two others, try to make the salt water lather, then try to shave in time with the roll of the
ship. Time was changed, not by any system, but whenever it was felt opportune to broadcast it.
As it got hotter the men began to sleep on deck, and soon one did not dare move after dark for
fear of walking on someone's face.
On September the 16th we anchored in Pearl Harbor. We were immediately reminded of the dastardly attack of the Japanese planes on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. We were anchored in the Harbor for six days and were not allowed off. We then sailed toward the South Pacific, leaving on the 21st of September. The trip to Pearl Harbor had been made alone, but from there on the Sea Marlin would be the flag ship of a convoy. The sea became more beautiful as we proceeded westward. Flying fish were more abundant, and frigate birds hovered over the convoy all day. The sunsets at sea were gorgeous.
We crossed the International Date Line on the 25th of September. Memberships cards in the Order of the Golden Dragon were presented to all on board. The line was crossed at 1520, at 15 degrees North Latitude, and it became Tuesday the 26th at once.
On the 30th of September, we anchored at Eniwetok in the Marshalls. The island had taken a terrific beating in battle and it was rather barren. We were not allowed off the ship. We left on October 1, and set sail for Saipan.
Life aboard ship was rather dull. We had to arise before day and line up on the sides of the ship and look for submarine periscopes. We were told that subs would travel alongside of ships at night and when day came they would attack. At dusk we had to repeat our observance for enemy subs. When we showered we used saltwater soap as the water for showering was salt water. We were a smelly mess after a couple of weeks on the sea. During the day we read books, told stories, had boxing matches, some of which I was a participant for I loved to box.
We left Eniwetok and set sail for Saipan, an island we knew little about. Some have considered the taking of Saipan the turning point in our battle with Japan. Thousands of men lost their lives in the battle for Saipan. It was conquered in July 1944.
Saipan was an island in the Marianna chain of islands in the West Pacific. It was fifteen miles long, seven miles wide, and comprised about 47 square miles. A mountainous ridge ran down the length of it. It had an airport at one end and a seaport near the other end of it. Its principle city was Garapan which had a population of 10,000 natives before we took it. Its harbor was one of the best in the Pacific. We built a very strategic airfield which we used to launch our planes to bomb Japan. Tinian was a smaller island just one mile to the south of Saipan. It had the longest air strip in the Pacific. We launched planes from there also. The Enola Gay, which was the plane that dropped the Atomic Bomb on Japan took off from Tinian.
Japan regarded Saipan as part of her homeland, as well as a link to her inner defense perimeter. The United States Pacific Fleet took command of the Pacific in April 1944, thus rendering Japan unable to reinforce Saipan when the American forces attacked. General Saito, was the Japanese island commander. Admiral Nagumo, who had lost his Carriers at Midway, was also on Saipan in command of a small- craft fleet and about 6700 sailors. Four carrier groups heavily bombed the Marianna airfields. Seven new battleships bombarded Saipan. Channels were charted by 'frogmen' through the lagoon that bordered the beaches on the leeward side of the island.
Saipan was invaded on June 15, 1944. Amphtracs full of troops came forth from the 64 LST's when they opened their maws as they approached land. Other marines came over the sides of big transports and headed for shore. The main work at Saipan was done by the foot soldiers of one U. S. Army division and two Marine divisions. The two marine divisions were the first and the fourth. The fighting on Saipan lasted for twenty five days, and it was not until the 9th of July, that organized resistance ceased, though mopping up continued for several months. On June 27, Mt. Topotchau was secured by a battalion of Marines. Both Captain Saito and Admiral Nagumo committed suicide when the island was secured. The capture of Saipan cost the U. S. Army and Marine Corps 3426 killed and missing in action. Over eleven thousand were wounded. About 24,000 Japanese were killed and 1780 taken prisoner. Hundreds of Japanese civilians committed suicide by jumping off the cliffs of northern Saipan and for days our patrolling warships sighted their floating bodies. Japan had a no surrender policy. We called these cliffs 'suicide cliffs'. General Togo and his cabinet resigned on July 18, the day that the loss of Saipan was announced. The immediate result of this victory was the fall of General Tojo and his government, and the formation of a new Japanese Cabinet under General Koiso.
We disembarked from our ship on October 6th, 1944. As soon as we landed we were put to work. I was given the job of riding shotgun on cargo trucks. My first truck went up into the hills to a cleared place where supplies were being stored. There were a few marines there guarding the area. There was no one there to unload the truck. The driver decided he should stay until someone unloaded his truck. I did not know what to do. I decided my Commander probably expected me back at the dock and that I had best go back although that meant walking back alone. I knew there were still a lot of Japanese soldiers still on the island but I feared my Commander more than the Japs. So I walked down the road toward the docks. I was scared and all I had was my 30 calibur carbine. I was ready to shoot anything that moved. I did not know it at the time but there were 10,000 Japanese soldiers still on the island that had not been captured. This was quite an experience for an eighteen year old boy but the Lord saw me through it and I made it safely back to the dock.
We made camp later that night or maybe it was morning on the beach near Garapan. We camped there in pup tents for the first week, two men in each tent. Our food was K-rations, morning, noon and night. We showered by watching for an afternoon rain coming over the mountain toward us. We would run down into the ocean, get wet, come on shore, lather up with saltwater soap, and rinse off in the rain.
Our camp was built up the ridge toward Garapan. It was made up of tents that would sleep eight men. We built a ditch on each side of the tent which was to be used as a foxhole in the event of a bombing attack. Our cots had mosquito nets which were very welcome. We stayed in these tents for several weeks while quonset huts were being built for us on the previous site of Garapan. While we were in the tents we had to guard the perimeter of the area. Each assigned guard would patrol about a 40 yard area. One night I had the duty and a very humorous thing occurred although it was not humorous at the time. As I walked my assigned post, I saw something run across the path that I had just walked. "I yelled, Halt! Who goes there"? I received no answer. I repeated the question and still no answer. There were some tarps laying on the ground near where the intruder had crossed my lines. I ran there and laid down behind them and repeated the question again. There was still no answer. I could hear some rustling in the bushes but no answer came from my calls. I decided I would go in after it. I started moving through the bushes and much to my surprise, I found a cow. I was greatly relieved to say the least.
After a few weeks we moved into our quonset huts. This was an improvement. There were about thirty men in each hut. We slept on cots. Toilet facilities were an outhouse with room for eight to ten men to use the facilities at the same time. Our camp was made up of four rows of tents. Each company was housed in each row. Crushed coral rock was spread over the camp area. On moonlight nights, it glistened and was very visible to enemy planes when they attacked us. They liked to attack us on moonlight nights. Consequently, when air raid sirens notified us of air attacks, we tried to get as far away from the camp as possible. We were ordered to build foxholes alongside each hut and we did, but we never used them. We usually ran out into an open field and hurriedly dug a foxhole when an air raid occurred and we were at our camp. We had a shovel at the end of our hut and when a siren blew, whoever got out the door first got the shovel. My cot was at the end of the hut and I was usually the first one out the door. During the air raid times we usual slept with our clothes on and our shoes in just the right spot for us to quickly get into them.
We worked the docks in eight hour shifts around the clock. We unloaded cargo which consisted of supplies and bombs for the B-29 Bombers that attacked Japan daily. Most of the bombs were 500 pound and 1000 pound incendiary bombs. The more explosive and dangerous bombs were unloaded out, in what we called 'the stream', which was away from the docks and land. When the docks were full of ships we would unload ships with other cargo in 'the stream', as well. Cargo was loaded into LCT vessels that could be driven up to shore and then unloaded. We received several commendations for unloading bombs rapidly for B-29's who were awaiting bombs so they could take off for Japan.
The Japanese bombing attacks were almost exclusively done by their Betty Bombers. They could fly from Japan and back to Iwo Jima for refueling and then back to Tokyo. They seemed to follow our B-29's as they came back from their attacks on Tokyo. They came over us at night and usually on Moonlight nights. Our anti-aircraft artillery would light up the night as they tried to knock them out of the sky. Most of the attacks were aimed at the airfield which was at the other end of the island. We felt the docks where we worked would be their second choice, so we felt anxious when they attacked. When we were working the docks and the air raid sirens sounded, we would hurry out of the holds of the ship, shut off the winches and head for the hills. We had a total of 24 air raids.
My first air raid was a memorable experience. As I ran up the hillside I could hear the Betty Bombers flying over head and artillery from various places on the island firing at them. I was running as fast as I could to get away from the docks and suddenly a 90 millimeter gun went off about fifteen feet from where I was and I thought a bomb had gone off. Then I noticed men there loading another shell and I realized what it was. I continued running to find a safe place to hide. As the bombers came at us again and the shells were falling I found an embankment and laid on its slope until they passed. When a respite came a man above me yelled for us to come up where he was for he thought it was safer. We crawled up the embankment and found a place that gave us protection from all sides. When the bombers had made another pass some one crawled up on the end of our safe haven, looked over the side and exclaimed, "Hey fellas, we are on an ammunition dump." We suddenly realized our safe haven wasn't as safe as we thought.
Our outfit had no casualties from the air raids but they were a nuisance. We often had to dig foxholes when we had the raids. I spent all of Christmas eve and New years eve in 1944 in a ditch that was being dug for a pipeline. I felt fortunate to have found it. At least I did not have to dig a foxhole those nights, which we usually dug with our helmets. We had gas masks that we wore around our belts and we carried them with us when we ran up into the hills during the raids. We were fortunate that the Japs did not gas us for some of the men left their gas masks on the ships and filled their gas mask bags with cans of beer for consumption while the raids went on. They did this because the raids were mostly targeted for the air fields and they felt there was little chance of bombs falling where we were.
One night we were in our barracks when the air raid came. There was a bunker that was next to our area and those of us who were fortunate to be near when a raid siren went off would try to get into it. It would hold about twenty men. When the bombers came over we could hear bombs whistling as they approached with their eerie sound. A Jewish man said, "If any one knows how to pray, please do it now". We all think of the Lord when we perceive death may be just ahead.
We heard the bombs explode a few hundred yards up the hillside where some Navy barracks were located. We ran up the hill when the raid was over and we found that the barracks had been hit. Five men died in one of the barracks because they did not heed the air raid siren. When the siren sounded they turned over in their bunks and went to sleep. They woke up in eternity.
We ate k-rations when we first arrived on the island. These were little boxes of food that were prepared so that they would not need refrigeration. There were three different kinds of boxes: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There was a wax lining covering the boxes so they could travel several weeks in water without being ruined. The food was not bad at first but it soon lost its appeal to us. After a couple of weeks we were given c-rations which were more tasty. However, after a few weeks, we were ready to go back to k-rations which some of us did for awhile. When our chow halls were setup, we were blessed by having cooked meals. The canned food was most welcome and appreciated. Our camp had refrigeration after we were setup. Refrigerated ships brought frozen food to the island and there were times when we unloaded them. However, it is a well known fact that Seabees had the best food on the island and many Marines came to our camp often to get a good meal.
Spam was a meat preparation that we were served very often. Our cooks tried to change its appearance and its flavor by many unique and various recipes. But it was still spam. In one of my letters home, I told my mother about the food situation. My mother wrote me often and that was such a blessing. She misunderstood my complaint about spam and thought I wanted some real spam, so she used her precious meat stamp allotment and sent me a can of spam. Great is a mother's love and greatly blessed was I to have such a sacrificing mother.
We later began to get a lot of New Zealand lamb. When we came from a day's work at the docks, we would pass our mess hall and yell out to those standing in line, "What are we having for supper?" often the reply was, "Baa!" We then knew it was New Zealand lamb.
We would sometimes finagle a meal from the ships crew on whose ship we were working. Such meals were always cherished for they had fresh vegetables, milk, and eggs. These crews were Merchant Marines and they were only out of the States a few weeks at a time.
After several months, we began to get Natives from the island to work for us on the docks. We used them at first to work in the holds of the ships which was very hot work. The temperature on the island was high, but it was much higher in the holds. We worked one hour shifts often because of the heat. We trained some of them to run the winches which brought the cargo up from the holds and placed it in trucks on the dock to be delivered at various and sundry places on the island.
Then we began to work Marines. We trained them as we did the natives. One of them was very cocky. I had taken a liking to him. We had a run in but had got our differences settled. He was a man that was unafraid of work, in fact he enjoyed it. One day we were going to lower a boom on hold three. We had a procedure where someone had to grip a line on a cable and hold it until we gave a signal to release it. He was given the instructions very carefully. However, when we began to lower the boom, he turned loose of his grip on the cable. When he did the boom started to fall, he stepped back into a coil of cable that was being pulled into the pulley. His leg was caught just below the knee and pulled into the cable. I was running the winches when it happened. We did not know what to do to get him out of the pulley. His leg was amputated but it was not bleeding. Our officers came and the ships officers including the ships captain. He was on the bridge just above where the marine was laying. Several solutions were offered as to how get his leg out of the pulley, but each one was overruled by the ships captain. The young eighteen year old marine pleaded with the captain. "Please Sir, Let them get me out of this." Finally the ships captain approved of a plan. The men put the plan into effect. I went to the winch levers. I am so glad they were electric and not steam winches which were almost impossible to stop when you wanted them to. They gave the signal and I backed the cable off so they could remove him from the pulley and the area. He was placed on a cargo pallet and I rode with him over the side of the ship and into a truck that took him to the base hospital. He survived and was sent home to Washington, D.C. It was an unforgettable experience.
Near the end of the first year, we were pulled off of the docks and a new phase of life began. We were now ordered to prepare for invasion of Japan. We started packing up our gear, supplies, cold weather clothes, and other things that were going to be needed in such an operation.
On August 6, 1945, a United States Army plane dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. We were stunned as the whole world was at the devastation that it wrought. We had no idea that a bomb of such power was being made. We had never even heard of an atomic bomb. It destroyed 4.7 square miles of the city, which at the time had a population of 500,000 people. An estimated 70,000 persons were either killed or missing, and about 70,000 were injured by the blast. The day after it was dropped we heard that Japan was not going to surrender. Many of us who knew we were heading for an invasion of Japan said, "they should drop another one." we knew we were going into Tokyo harbor, that it was well fortified, that many of us would not live through it. We were to be unloading ships in Tokyo bay while the fighting was going on and we were hoping that the war would end before we invaded. The bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, two days later. It was dropped on the heart of the city and destroyed an area of 1.8 square miles. There were 40,000 people killed or missing and 40,000 wounded from the blast. Japan decided to surrender. Many more would have lost their lives if the Atomic Bombs had not been dropped. We were ecstatic that the war was ended. Japan surrendered to the Allies on August 14, 1945.
Our battalion was thrice fortunate. We had been scheduled to be on the invasion forces for Iwo and Okinawa, but for some unknown reason the orders were canceled. This time there was no holding and in the secret file there were the preliminary orders for Operation Olympic, the invasion of Kyushu in November. When Churchill said that the surrender had saved a million lives, we who knew gave thanks, for we, the Thirty First Special Seabee Battalion, would have been in that number. And when the invasion date of November 1, rolled around, one man wrote home and said, "There but for the grace of God...." We were grateful for Peace.
After the war ended, our outfit was broken up. I was in D company. We stayed on the island and the rest of our unit went to Japan. However, they went to different areas and we were never in contact with them again. The next six months were taken up with various and sundry jobs. We were moved to two different camps and we felt like fish out of water. We were glad to leave. We set sail for the States in March of 1946.
We came back to the states in two weeks whereas it had taken us four to get to Saipan on our previous trip. We did not stop any where on the way back. We arrived at San Francisco and what a joy it was to see the Golden Gate. We sailed under it and to a camp where we disembarked. We were not there long when we were given a 30 day leave. I took an airplane to Los Angeles and then a train to Florida. I stopped in New Orleans for a day and then on to Florida. Bob got me off the train in Live Oak. The fellow who drove us to Gainesville got up to 80 miles an hour. I told him to slow it down or to stop the car and let me out. I had been through a war and I wanted to get home. He did and we arrived safely in Gainesville. In a couple of days I went on to Miami. What a joy to get home. The Lord answered the prayer I had made when I left the port in California in 1944.
At the end of my furlough, I reported to the Naval Air Base in Jacksonville, Florida. I received an Honorable Discharge from the Navy with the rank of Coxswain. I was discharged on April 26, 1946. I had served for thirty months, eighteen of which had been overseas.