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Interview with Donald Carlton [11/18/2010]

Donald Carlton:

Hi my name is Donald Carlton, actually Don Carlton to everybody else. I was in the U.S. Army during World War II. I managed to stay out of the service for a while. I was working at Convair at the defense plant building B-24s. When I first started, they were building B-24s for Great Britain, and they had the big circles on the wings and on the body. And after December the seventh, they changed that all to the "stars and bars" for the U.S. Air Force.

I probably could have stayed out of the service if I'd wanted to because I had a couple of deferments, because my job was defense related. But I finally figured out I was missing out on some of the fun. I guess I saw too many John Wayne movies or something like that. So my buddy and I, the fellow I came out of Minnesota with, we both worked together back there.

We quit Convair and went back to St. Paul, where I let the draft board have their way with me. And I'll never forget, I went in there and the gentleman that was in charge of the draft board, he says, Mr. Carlton, he says, This is going to be one of the proudest moments of your life. He said, You're going to never regret this. Many a times I was laying in the mud and everything else like that and I thought, Boy I wish I had him here with me, I'd drown him right now.

So anyway, I went in the Army and I took my basic training in Camp (Fannin), Texas. And I'd been away from home for quite a few years. I hadn't lived with my folks, so I didn't have any problems adapting. It was just something different, which didn't bother me any. And my outlook on life was always that, you know, take it as it comes and enjoy the best part of it.

So basic training was -- actually it was more or less a lot of fun, because I had a couple of buddies who were in the same frame of mind as I was, and we managed to get into all sorts of mischief and get stuck on KP and everything. And one of the incidences that happened during basic training, they marched us all up 20 feet apart and all this red clay -- red dirt in Texas, we went up a road cut it was a hill on one side, and a drop-off on the other. And all of a sudden the first sergeant, he blew his whistle, Okay everybody stop right here, he said. We were on this road, it was about, oh, I'd say maybe 20 feet wide, and there was a hill on one side -- or a cliff on one side and a drop off on the other.

And he said, In 20 minutes a tank is going to come down this road and you're all going to be underground. You could see where the treads had been, so we picked a spot in the middle, of course, and everybody started digging, got our little entrenching tool out and started digging.

Well, I was kind of an opportunist, and a little lazy, so I took my entrenching tool, and I went around and chopped several places, finally I found a place where it was soft. Somebody had already dug a hole there and I thought, Well, this is going to be easy. So I just scooped out the dirt and I crawled in the hole. Twenty minutes, this big old Sherman tank came down the road. Boy the ground shook and everything else, and he went right over everybody. Everybody -- I think the ones who had hardly dug in weren't hurt because there was plenty of clearance under the tank.

Of course, we didn't know it at the time. So that was one of the nice incidence that was kind of fun to remember. We had a few more, managed to get on KP a few times because we were kind of goofing off. And one time we were put on KP in the middle of the night, and we came back and the mess sergeant said, Okay you're going to say in here and peel potatoes for the rest of the night, you know, You don't get to bed tonight. So the cooks all slept in the same building where the mess hall was, so we started singing and making a lot of noise and banging on pots and pans. That only lasted about a half hour and they figured, Well, with us there, they weren't going to sleep either.

So, one of the fellows that I went in the service with was married. Actually three of us went down to the induction center together. This fellow's wife drove us down, he was married and he had a boy. And on the way down to basic training, he said, Well, he said, You know, he said, I'm not going to take a chance on getting shot. He said, I'm going to kiss butt and do everything I can to stay in basic training and be cadre.

So I said, Well, you know, that's your prerogative if you want to do that. So he did. He was good soldier, but he kept, you know, he let them know right in the beginning that he would rather stay in Texas. So when we shipped out, you know, he come around and shook our hands and said, You poor s.o.b.s. You're going to get your butts shot off, and I'm going to be here in Texas. So we said, Well, that's the way things go.

Well the bottom line was when we -- during the Battle of the Bulge, we were, of course, overseas a long time, and they needed personnel pretty badly, so they called all these cadres in, and didn't even get a chance to go home, they shipped them right overseas. The poor guy was killed within 24 hours. So I guess that's part of the moral of the story that you got to live by, what's going to happen is going to happen and you can't worry about it.

So anyway that basic training was kind of nice we shipped out, and first place we went to was Fort Ord. We got a chance to go home and see our parents for 10 days, I guess, it was. Went to Fort Ord, California and stayed there probably about two weeks, I guess. And we were supposed to ship out from San Francisco or someplace, but I understand that the ship that was supposed to take us overseas didn't show up, or got sunk or something. So they put us on a train, and sent us up to the state of Washington to Fort (Lawton),I guess.

Stayed there about another week or so, and then they put us on what had been a Danish freighter a little small freighter, and the Merchant Marine were running it. And we started out, And the first -- {laughs} -- night out we hit a big storm. And we sat there, we got out of Puget Sound, I guess, and we hit this big storm and we stayed there. I woke up in the morning and I was right up chain locker, right up in the very bow. And it must have been going up and down 90 feet.

We'd go up, you know, your weight was almost three times your weight, and when the thing went down, you almost come up off the cot, or the piece of canvas you were laying on. So I got up and I thought, Well, I better go out and see what the weather's like, it sounds pretty good. So I got up, and I stood there hung on the stanchion, and got dressed started out there. In the middle of the hold there was a couple of big garbage cans with a bunch of guys with their heads in the garbage cans. And thought, Well I wonder what those guys are doing down here, I thought.

So started up the ladder, I got about half way up, and I thought, I think I'll go down and see what's in those buckets -- {laughs} --. So I went down, and after that I felt pretty good. So they wouldn't let us out on deck. We stayed there for three days just bouncing up and down, and the poor guy in the bunk below me, he didn't get out the whole trip, all the way to Hawaii, he just stayed there. We brought him back crackers and bread, and tried to get him to eat something. But that was a fairly rough trip all the way across.

Got to Hawaii and went to the 13th Depot. And I had some good times there. One of my buddies and I, we managed to do things a little differently. We decided we'd run the obstruction course before everybody else. We found out that there was, you know, the usual, the crawling under the wire. And one of the things that they had was a three-strand-rope bridge. It went across a canyon probably, oh, 75 feet across and maybe a 100 feet down. So we tried that, and we found out right away that if you put your weight on your feet and just use your hands to guide on the other two ropes, you could go fine, there was no problem.

You just walk across there like tight- rope walker and use your two hands to kind of steady yourself. If you put your weight on your hands, you immediately turned upside down {laughs}. So we thought, Well, that wasn't a very good thing, but at least we learned that. And beside it, right next to it is a big heavy ___ that had been stretched across there, you could go hand over hand, so when the day came to actually run the obstacle course, old Jim and I, we knew about it. So we got up there, we saw the big line, almost everybody was jammed up by the three-strand bridge there.

And I told Jim, I said, Let's try the single-strand because we're going to stay here all day if we don't. So we started across -- I went first, and about right in the middle, and there was a fellow that was on the three-strand bridge. And he had been a German prisoner of war, and he decided to join the army, so they sent him over there. And the poor guy got in the middle of the bridge, and he turned upside down. And I looked over at him, and his eyes were as big as saucers, and mouth was wide open. I tried to tell him to, you know, to let go of -- release the weight on his hands, you know.

And he couldn't do it. He just -- {laughs} -- was upside down and just terrorized. So it was a long way down to the bottom and nothing but rocks down there. So Jim started -- Jim and I started to laugh, and I thought we were going to fall off because we were laughing so hard. But finally the poor guy got somebody to help twist him around like that, and he went across. But we didn't stay in Hawaii too long. But a funny incident that happened, we fell out for assignments every morning. And one of the first sergeants, he'd read the -- he'd take roll and everything, and then -- and he said, well, we got so many duties to do today if you want to go out on a work party, and everything else like that, you can do that. So one morning he came out, he was looking on his clipboard and he said, We got room for four clerk typists, he said, Who are going to stay right here in Hawaii. And he said, If anybody can type 40 words a minute, and everything else like that, Raise your hand.

And I looked around, and some of these fella's hands, their fingers were -- they would have hit three keys at once, you know. And I think by then, we were getting kind of desperate and didn't want to go any further. But I had a pretty good laugh out of that. I figured these guys would be lucky -- might be able to write one word a minute with a pencil, but not with their fingers. So anyway, we left Hawaii and proceeded on and made -- I think it was a 28-day trip with a convoy zigzagging all around the Pacific, finally ended up in Leyte. And that's where I joined the Seventh Division, and they sent me into the first sergeant's tent, they were set up in a tent on the beach there. And he took one look at me and he says, Wow, he said, Look at the size of this guy, he said, He'd be good toting a machine gun. Found out it was a Dog Company which is a heavy weapons company.

And the old water cooled .30 caliber machine gun, the tripod weighed 70 pounds. And from then on, that was my task; running with that 70 pound tripod on my back, you know. But I found out if somebody was shooting at you, you could run pretty fast with your tripod and your rifle and your helmet and all your other gear hanging on to you {laughs}. But you do move pretty fast. So in Hawaii -- in Leyte, there was, -- I got there just in time to do some of the mopping up. We went on patrols out in the jungle, and we really didn't see a lot of action on Leyte. But then we were getting prepared to make the landings on Okinawa. And we were there the first day, April Fools' Day, and went into the beach, and I was supposed to be the left-hand end of the army.

The Marines were on our left, and the Army was to the right. And I was supposed to be -- the guy on my left was supposed to be a Marine. Well we went in and, of course, it didn't -- never goes according to the plan. The landing ship, the landing (LS DV? we were on, it hit some coral way out, must have been quarter of a mile from the beach. And I guess the coxswain didn't want to go any further. So he dropped the front, and out we went.

We were walking in water about chest high most of the time, and all of a sudden, we were spread out pretty good, although we weren't receiving any fire that we knew of. And the guy in front of me, he was walking, and all of a sudden he disappeared. I mean he just, whoosh, and down underwater he went. And I thought, Did he get hit? What happened?

I waited for him to come up, he didn't come up and I thought, Well, probably he stepped in a hole. So I thought well, I'm not going to follow him. So I moved off to the left about ten feet, I went in and never did find out what happened to him, he just disappeared. Of course, we were all carrying heavy packs and ammunition and weapons. So I don't know why he didn't just ditch everything and come to the surface. But nothing I could do for him, I had my own problems.

So when we got to the beach, the division between the Marines and the Army was supposed to be a little creek that ran from inland out to the ocean, and I was -- we were supposed to land on the right hand side of that creek. Well, naturally we ended up on the other side where the Marines were supposed to be. So the first thing we did, we kind of get organized and got back to where we were supposed to be. And we started inland. The Japanese weren't bothering us much, but by then the kamikazes were coming over, and we could look out over the ocean and see. And man the antiaircraft fire was just thick up there.

I don't see how those planes could get through. But the next time I looked up, I saw the perfect silhouette of a Jap airplane; I guess it was a Zero coming right at me. And he was -- come in low, and there was an LST just got onto the beach then dropped his bomb. As luck would have it he was short. It dropped about 20 feet behind it, and it exploded. And when he pulled up, I could almost reach up and touch the bottom of his airplane. I thought, Wow. That was close. And here I am standing with mouth open instead of being down on the ground. If he would have opened up with a machine gun, I wouldn't be here telling you about this.

But we got organized and started in, and the first couple of days we didn't have much problems. We cut the island in two, and then we turned our direction, and the Marines went their direction. And we started and then -- then that's where we hit problems. That's where the Japanese had been waiting for us. They knew we were -- they weren't going to try to defend us to cut across, but when we started on our end of the island, they decided they were going to dig in their feet. So one of the first real problems we had, we came up to a real -- road and then a real steep cliff.

It was probably, oh, 200 feet high. It wasn't a cliff, it was just a big steep hill, and the Japanese were on top, and they had their machine guns and their rifle fire and everything else up there. And we were in a ditch alongside the road, and every time we tried to get up that hill, they'd just knocked the heck out of us. So they called for tanks. They thought, Well, the tanks would probably do some good. So a couple of tanks came up the road, and they took their cannons and aimed them up the hill, and fired with their machine guns a little bit, and then blasted a few rounds.

But they really didn't have anything to shoot at because as soon as the Japanese saw the tanks coming, they just pulled back a little bit. And they couldn't depress their guns to hit them, so they were just shooting over the top. So that didn't work; so the tanks finally left, and we tried this for probably three days. And we weren't making any head way at all. Every time we would send in some patrols up there, they'd get knocked down and hit, and we'd have to drag the wounded back and everything. So they finally decided that they were going to need some air support. So the air support we had in those days, it was all the Navy -- the Hell Cats from the carrier plane.

So they came over in flights of three or four at a time. And in the movies they show these planes strafing the ground, and they hit one round, and then they skip 20 feet, and they hit another round , they're going almost parallel to the ground. Well these Hell Cats didn't do that. They came almost straight down, and they churned up with the .50 caliber machine gun, and they churned up dirt something awful.

So that finally got the Japanese moving back. So about that time, they decided, Well, we'll try another frontal attack, I guess they call it. Well the infantry, when they had air support, they always had a big orange panel. And that panel was supposed to be in front of you at all times, so that's where the flyers knew we were on one side of it, and the Japs were on the other side of that panel.

Well, we started up the hill and we were doing real well, we were not getting any resistance whatsoever. The unfortunate part, the fella that was supposed to bring the panel up didn't do it. I don't know what happened to him, somebody -- as usual something snafued. So by the time we get to the top of the hill it was great, man it was like shooting pigeons. These guys were running away.

I came up, and there was one of the Japanese machine guns standing there with the heat -- the heat waves just rippling off it, he had been peppering the heck out of us for a while. I ran past that, and these guys were running in front of us, and it was like shooting rabbits. We were banging away and all of a sudden, here comes the airplanes again. And they didn't know us from the Japanese. And the panel was behind us by then, and they made a strafing run on us, and it was a big disaster.

They -- we lost a lot of men that day. One of the nice guys who was a Mexican fellow who was always cheerful and laughing, and I don't remember his name now, he wasn't from our company, but he was from another company. He got hit. He was laying out in the open, he was hollering for help, and the planes coming over again, and nobody could get out and help him. And they must have tore him in a million pieces. They just really blasted him because he was exposed, and they didn't know the difference.

It wasn't the Navy's fault. I got up against a little stone wall around a building there, and I was pushing against it about hard as I could get, and I was trying to be small. I'm pretty big, I'm 6 foot 4, and I was wishing I was about 4 foot 2 about then, but couldn't do anything about it. A fellow sitting -- crawled behind me, he finally reached over and tapped me on the foot, and I turned around and he says, What's the matter, Slim, you nervous in the service or something? I thought, Boy, I thought, I was nervous in the service, but he was just as calm as could be. But we had -- I think they made four runs on us that day. And finally we got some smoke thrown out there some phosphorous grenades and stuff. And they pulled back and we proceeded.

But by then, of course, the Japanese had all scattered. We didn't have much hunting good after that. But that's one of the typical things that happens. It's, you know, it's somebody's fault, but you can't fault the poor guy that didn't bring the panel up because he was probably disoriented and everything else.

So anyway, we survived that, and we kept plugging away. We'd make -- some days we'd make good progress, some days we got stopped. And, of course, there were times when we had to wait for the rest of the line to catch up or they'd wait for us. So it was kind of a jump and start, jump and start business all the time. And we had good artillery support, and we got down to one place where we were having trouble getting up on a hill, I think it was Hill 178, if I remember right. And we were dug into a road cut which was fine. We had protection as long as we kept our heads down, and it was not a comfortable place, but we couldn't make any progress. Every time we'd try to send out a patrol or something like that, the Japanese would either machine gun or sniper fire, they were pretty good with their mortar fire too.

One patrol went out, and they only got about 50 feet in front of us, and a mortar shell landed right in the middle of it. The guy had a flame thrower, and it cut both of his legs off at the thigh. So, his buddies dragged him back, and they laid him in my hole which was the end one. And he was conscious, there was no blood coming out the stumps of his thighs, and he insisted on having his legs with him.

Well, somebody had managed to bring one of them back. And he said, Well, I'll go back to the States now and get some -- some new legs, and he said, You guys will be over here, at least I'm out of it. Well, he wasn't out of it. He died before we got the litter up to get him out. He evidently went into shock or something. But he was, he was gone.

Well, we stayed for there probably four days not making any headway at all. There was a cave that was about, oh, almost 90 degrees to us, and the Japanese had a small artillery piece in there, and every now and then they would pull the thing out, and turn it towards us, and fire three or four rounds, probably like a 75-mm. And it would, you know, we were all -- as long as we were under cover, it didn't really do us any harm.

But if you were caught in the open, of course, you were in big trouble. But then you would pull the thing back in there again but couldn't bring any fire to him, and our artillery was to one side, and they couldn't bring any fire. So one bright sunny day we looked out, we were right on the edge of the ocean.

We looked out, and we saw this destroyer, this Navy destroyer pull into this little harbor that was there, it wasn't a harbor; it was just a little inlet. And he was up pretty close, and all of a sudden he lowered his forward guns and wham, with one round or whatever it took for the volley to go, I guess he fired two guns at once, and we waited to see where they -- it landed, and didn't see anything.

We thought, well, That son of a gun missed completely. So pretty soon we see him fire up, and he backed away and left. I thought, well, jeez that wasn't much support. And then pretty soon -- so we looked, and there was smoke coming out of the cave. He put the rounds right into the cave right directly in there, and all the ammunition and everything else was burning, and we didn't have any more trouble with that artillery piece. They were pretty well quieted by then.

But we still couldn't make any headway. So -- and our artillery wasn't in a position to give us any good support, so one day they sent us a marine observer for their artillery. They were further off to the one side, and they thought they could help. So the observer came up, he came up to me, and he asked where they were getting most of their trouble from. And by then we had spotted some likely things.

Actually the machine gun wasn't much good, they were probably just a little out of our range. They were probably a 1,000 yards out, and we couldn't bring any effective fire to them. So we knew we'd have to have artillery support. So the observer came up, and I showed him as best I could where I thought the most trouble was coming from. And he started to climb up on this road cut, and I told him, I said, Don't get up there, I said, The snipers can pick us off if we leave our heads up at all, we'd get fires. I had my suspenders hanging on a bush there, and they put three holes in my suspenders in one day.

So I said, Keep your head down here, just look over the very edge with your binoculars. No, he said, I want to see where these go. So he gave the co-ordinance for his artillery and climbed up on the edge and pretty soon he said, you know, They're on their way, you know, The first rounds of smoke were coming, and about that time, he got hit right through the stomach. Tore out his whole backbone, just almost ripped him right in half, practically. He fell back into my hole, and we hollered for the medics, of course. And he bled -- I think he bled to death in our hole.

So anyway, they got him and they took him out. And we had so much blood in the hole that I -- my buddy and I decided we better dig out another shovel full deep so we didn't have to lay in somebody's blood all night. So I -- we were digging in the hole, and my buddy dug the first part, and then I started digging. And I was sitting on the edge of the hole, and about that time a mortar shell landed about four feet behind us. And it knocked me into the bank; knocked him about, oh, 30 feet.

He was over a couple of holes; knocked him out. And I knew I was hit, I could feel it like somebody holding a hot cigarette on my rear end. So I knew where it was, and I reached back there and come out with blood and thought, Oh cripes, here I am, you know, stuck in the hole with a hole in my butt end. So I waited until things cleared, and I got a little more of my wits about me. And I realized that whatever it was didn't go into anything else.

There was no hole come out the front, and I could move everything. So I figured I must have been pretty lucky. So they evacuated the wounded, quite a few guys got wounded when that mortar shell landed, because it was a big mortar. It wasn't one of the ___ mortars. So I went down to see the medic, and he had a big hold on the back of the next hill. And he asked me, What happened, and I said, Well I think I got hit in the rear end.

So he says, Well drop your pants and lean over the edge of the hole. So I did and he started digging in there, he started digging out pieces of shrapnel, and my pants, and my underwear, and everything else. He kept probing in there like that. He says, Well, he says, I guess I got most of it out. He said, If you get any infection or anything, come back and see me.

So I took my (wound) pills, and he put a bandage on me, and I put my bloody pants back on. And the fellow that had been with me, my buddy that was in the hole with me, he was laying in the bottom of the hole by then. And I asked, What happened to Frank? And he said, I don't know, we can't find any wounds on him, but evidently he's knocked out; he probably got a concussion.

So I looked over there, and as I was bending over there, I looked over, and I saw him there and he opened his eyes, and gave me a big wink. And he never come back, I don't know what happened, he probably -- probably got taken to the back and sent in as battle fatigue or something.

So anyway, I had to go back up on line. And the lieutenant came by a little while later and he says, Hey Slim, he says, I hear you got hit. I says, Yeah, and he says, Where'd you get hit, and said, Well I aint going to sleep on my back tonight, I'll tell you that. He says, I'm glad they sent you back up, he said, You know, your squad is down to two men you and one other guy. We landed two weeks before that, and we had 15 in the squad. So then we had lost 13 men.

They were not all wounded, but we had dysentery and different things like that, and some were killed, of course. But we finally -- we still couldn't get up on that ridge -- that Hill 178. So we stayed there and one night, it was as usual, we had been laying there alert, and everything. And sometime in the middle of the night, the Japanese opened up with an artillery barrage. And usually their artillery barrages were -- they didn't have an awful lot of ammunition to expend, so they usually lasted 10, 15 minutes, and that was all. Then we'd get the infantry attack. Well, this night they shelled us continuously for three hours.

Three hours lying there, and there never was a time when either -- when you couldn't hear one coming. You could hear one coming, it would hit, and immediately there was another one on the way. And that just about covered me up because they knew where we were. And, of course, if you're in a hole, you're fairly well protected unless something comes in with you. But it was a long three hours.

And when it got daylight, we waited for the infantry to attack, and they didn't. And we waited and we waited. Of course our nerves were on edge. We got the wounded evacuated, and we waited for something to happen, and nothing happened. So finally they said, Well, let's send a patrol out.

So the patrol went out, didn't receive any fire, they went clean across and up the other side of the -- up the front side of the hill and radioed back that the Japs had gone. They had just evidently used that three hour barrage to evacuate to a new position like that. So we got up on that hill all right, but not at a cheap cost. We lost a lot of people. But we continued moving, and we had to have a lot of replacements, of course.

And one night they called up on the walkie talkie they said, Send somebody back for replacements; we got some new fellows for you. So I said, Ok. So I decided I would go back myself, it was almost dark, and you didn't want to be running around too much in the middle of the night out there. So I went back, and they gave me four new men, and so I said, Okay, no time for introductions, just follow me, stay close, and stay down.

So we scooted back up to where our position was and I said, Okay, you go in that hole, and you go in that hole, and, you go in that hole, and you come with me. And so we started to go, and finally this one guy assigned to the hole, he said, Hey Slim, aren't you going to say hello? And I said, What? And he said -- I said, You know me, you called me Slim, I said, But I don't know you. And he said, You know me we went all through basic training together.

And I said, Who are you? And he said, My name is Jack (Rosey). And I looked at him again, and during our basic training, Jack was probably, oh, 5 foot 10 weighed 160 -- 70 pounds. Well the guy I saw in front of me weighed about 120. I said, What happened to you? I said, You look like death warmed over.

He said, I had the dysentery so bad, and they couldn't stop it. So he said, They sent me back and -- so I been back in the rear lines just, you know, losing everything I had and they finally stopped it. So they sent me back to active duty. I said, Boy, I hope you can lift your rifle. He said, Yeah I can do that. But he didn't last long, he got it again, and we had to send him back. But we were awfully short of help all the time. And one of the replacements -- we got a fellow, went back to get him, he came back up and he said, Well, he said, I got some replacements, but he said, This one guy, he said, Something's the matter with him, he said, You better keep an eye on him.

So I said, Okay, I said, Send him over to my hole, because I had lost my partner awhile earlier. So I come over there, and I looked, and his eyes were just fiery red. There was no whites at all in his eyes. So I said, jeez what's happened to you. He said, I've been scared crapless. He said, I've been setting back there, you know, waiting to come on line, because, he said, When they bring in a replacement they leave them at the rear area. He said, I haven't slept a wink for two weeks.

So I said, Well, you know, You aint going to get much sleep up here either, but I said, You know, rest assured that the anticipation of something like this here is probably a lot worse than when you actually get to it. When you get to a situation where you can do something, it's really not that bad, and you'll learn to acclimate. So he said, Okay. And I said, You get in the bottom of the hole tonight, even though I needed to sleep, I didn't trust him with his head out of the hole. So I had him sit in the bottom of the hole or sleep down there, and by the next day we started talking a little bit, and I found out that his name was Adam Hargrove.

And by that time there had been a movie out starring Adam Hargrove, and I said, You're not related are you? And he said, No. He was a good old boy from Deanwood, Arkansas, he turned out to be one of my best buddies. But he turned out to be a real steady soldier. He was -- he got over his anxiousness at the beginning, and so we got along real well after that. But before he came up, this hole -- I had -- we replaced the 32nd Infantry, it was. And I had inherited the hole that the fella had, and it was in a little bombed out village. And it was right at a little -- I guess you would call it a crossroads. It was a little dirt roads, and it was sitting right on the corner, and the guy had dug me a nice hole, so I put the machine gun up there.

And there was, across the road about, oh, 25 feet away, there was a rock wall, a stone wall that was built up there maybe three feet high. And -- so I had no field of fire that direction whatsoever. I could turn the machine gun down to the left, but there was really not much to shoot at down there. It was just like an open ground down there. And you knew the Japs weren't dumb enough to step out there in the open ground, and give me a shot.

So the machine gun was rather useless in that position. What happened at night, the Japanese would crawl up behind the wall. And they obviously knew where we were, and they tossed grenades over. So if they hit on the front of the hole, and it fell out into the road cut, it was fine, they would go off and they wouldn't hurt me. If they landed on the top of the hole around the edges, all I had to do was pull my head down and they would go off there. But once in a while they come in the hole. And at night it was kind of fun playing "try to get ahold of that grenade at toss it out before it went off."

And I had to take three of them out before they went off, just toss them away. So -- and then once in a while, I didn't think I had enough time to grab them out, so I would jump out of the hole. When one come into the hole, I would jump out of the hole, and lay on the ground, and when it went off, I would jump back in. So it was kind of a fun game, I guess. It wasn't much fun at the time. But they knew where we were and -- and, of course, we knew where they were.

But at night we couldn't do any good shooting over the top of the rock wall because they just tossed their grenades and ducked. So one morning, we had a small artillery attack, it wasn't very long, but then they came after us with everything.

They started throwing grenades over -- this was daylight now, and they could see us, and a head would pop up, and a grenade would come over. And the guys in the hole next to us, there were two men there the (BAR) men had expended quite a few of their magazines. So what there were doing, they were taking and pulling the .30 caliber machine-gun bullets out of their belts and filling up the (BAR) magazines.

So there were two of them sitting down in the bottom of the hole, and the grenades were coming over, and this one guy said to the other guy, he said, You keep an eye out for grenades and toss them out. I'm going to keep loading the machine guns -- or the (BAR) magazines. So about that time, they come over -- the grenades come over in three and four or five or six and a time, and man, we didn't -- we were just too busy. And the word come out, somebody hollered out, Fall back. So I thought, I wasn't going to argue.

So I took off with the guys on my right mostly, the guys on my left had the hole with the machine gun, so everybody on the right hand side fell back, and there was a ditch maybe 50 feet to the rear. We got in the ditch and -- so now they either ___ or had to come at us or over the wall because they couldn't throw the grenades that far and expose themselves. About that time an officer came up, and he said, Who in the hell left that machine gun out there?

Jeez, that was mine {laughs}. Well I didn't have an assistant gunner at the time, because I was short -- we were short a man. So ordinarily with a .30 caliber, the assistant gunner grabs the gun, he had a big asbestos mitt that he wore, if it was hot, he'd grab the gun off and take off, and then and I'd take off -- grab the tripod and come back. Well I didn't have an assistant gunner. And, of course, I was not going to wait when they said, Fall back.

So the officer said, Can't let that gun up there for the Japs to get it. So I said, It's mine, so I guess I got to go. So there was a rifleman a (BAR) man from A-Company a big -- a great big Arkie, he was, and that's what they called him, "Arkie". He was a real good (BAR) man. I said, Okay, you see where that wall is up there, and you see where that machine gun is? He said, Yeah. So I told him, I'm going to run straight at that machine gun.

I might go left, but I'll never go right, so he says -- I says, You should keep shooting off my right shoulder and keep peppering away the top of that wall so they can't stick their heads up. He said, Okay. So I started running right towards where these Japes were and probably the longest 50 yards of my life. And he kept shooting right over my shoulder, and they were popping right within a foot from my ear. So he kept shooting, they kept their heads down, and I went up, and I grabbed the machine gun, and brought it back.

And as I started back, I turned and I looked into the hole beside me, and the two guys in there were both wounded. They were bloody and not moving. So I got back, and I threw the machine gun down, and I told the officer, There's two wounded men in that hole. I said, We got to get them out. So he said, Okay, he says, Take a couple of guys.

So took another guy, and I took one guy with me and, I took two other guys, and I said, As soon as we get these guys out, I said, You come running up and get the other guy out. I said, We'll get one, and you get the other. So I told this Arkie, I said, Keep shooting over that wall, that's the only thing we got to count on because if they stick their heads up, we're within 20 feet of them, and they can't miss us there. And, of course, we didn't even have a weapon.

We were going out to help these guys out. So the two of us ran up there again, and we got in the hole, and we got one guy out and started him back. And as soon as we got him out, the other two guys came out and got the other guy out, and we got them back in the ditch. One guy had a hand blown off, and minor pieces of shrapnel around. The other guy had evidently had his mouth open when the grenade went off. And it hit him in the face and in the throat in the inside of his mouth, and he was bleeding from his mouth pretty badly.

The Japanese hand grenades break up in to real small pieces, they're not big and husky chunks like our grenades. They're made up of multiple small pieces probably an eighth of an inch by a quarter by a quarter, because they're little thin pieces, and you can get a lot of them in you in a hurry. So the fellow that was wounded in the mouth, we had to have him -- the medics had to lay him down on his stomach so he wouldn't drown in his is blood.

The other guy, they bandaged where his hand had been up his stump. And the Seventh Division, I will say one thing for them, the Division commander was very concerned with us being turned into drug addicts. So he gave the word, No morphine. The medics were not allowed to have any morphine. So the only thing they could give you was aspirin. That was the best they could do if you were wounded, is give you an aspirin or a couple.

So we had to keep our wounded there with no -- no way to relive their pain. We held our position there, and we got the -- eventually we were on a hill, actually, we were isolated out up in front of the rest of the line. And the tanks, they finally got some tank support, and they came up around the sides of the hill, and started getting the Japs out of our way.

So they finally beat off the attack, and the Japs fell back. So when he got to that position, I went up, and I got into our -- my own hole again and, found out that the machine gun was disabled, that evidently something had hit it and knocked the breech crooked, so you couldn't close -- close it anymore. So the machine gun was useless. So all I had was a carbine, and that really wasn't much of a pea shooter at any range. But down in the flat where we were, we could see about, oh, probably about 700 yards, there was a field a rice -- or a sugarcane field.

And there was a ditch that was fairly deep that ran out towards the ocean and a little footbridge that ran across the top. It was a concrete bridge -- or a cement bridge, and there was a little road alongside the ditch, and then there was this sugarcane field on our side. So we found out -- we looked, and the officer was behind me had binoculars, and he said, There's somebody in the sugarcane field.

You could see them crawling through the sugarcane field. So I went out in front, and I got a hold of a Jap rifle with some ammunition, and it had the old peep sights on it, the old iron sights, we used to call them, which I grew up with when I was doing hunting and everything in the -- in my youth in Minnesota. So I liked that better than the peep sight that the Grand had on it. So I raised it up close so I could get it to 700 yards, and I sighted down there, and this officer said, Here comes one. So he'd come out there, and he'd go through the sugarcane field, and then wait until it looked like the little road was clear. He'd run over the road , and dive under the bridge. I had a perfect shot right under the bridge. So I took all the time I needed, and squeezed off a round and, bump. He fell into the drainage ditch, and floated away. So I though, Man this is nice. So every couple of minutes, the officer would say, Here comes another one, Slim.

So I would bolt action, I'd get ready to go, and I had the thing nice and steady on the edge of the hole, and I could squeeze off the round and, popped another one. Well this went on most of the afternoon, probably -- I probably hit seven or eight of them before they kind of jammed up underneath the bridge. Some didn't fall into the drainage ditch, they kind of just laid there. So by then, the Japs, when they come over there, they saw these guys laying there, they decided they weren't going to stay {laughs}, so they just took off. So that was the end of our -- of my shooting ducks in a pond that day. But we had some pretty interesting things.

We had -- we finally got down to the end of a little town called Yanaburu. And, of course, it had been raining. You can't have a war -- the infantry can't fight unless it's raining, I mean, you know, that's part of the fun, you know, you got to get soaking wet and miserable and muddy. And so we tried to get into this town of Yanaburu and we finally got through there.

The Japs had pulled out, so it was just, oh, a quagmire of mud. The Jeeps couldn't move, the tanks couldn't move, nothing. But the infantry, of course, they could move. So we got up on the other side, and somebody got ahold of a copy of the Stars and Stripes, and brought it up and looked, and they said, "Yank's Seventh Division Slashes Through Yanaburu". And I said, Boy they didn't spell that as ___. It's supposed to be "Splashes Through" {laughs}. So we got to that point alright. And we were moving pretty good.

We had a lot of casualties, of course. We had a lot of replacements. But somehow or other I managed to elude all the bad guys. So we came down -- we were nearing the end of island now and compressing all the Japanese in one small area. And we came in behind a -- what had been like a coast artillery position, where the Japs had figured there was going to be a landing at that end of the island. And they had these big artillery guns out there, and they tried to shoot out towards the ocean. Well, we didn't know it.

We came out of this jungle, and started down this slope. And they could evidently turn these guns around, but they were out of ammunition. They didn't have any high explosives or any ammunition like that, so they stuffed the barrel with anything they could find, rocks, sticks, chains, everything else. They fired at us, and as we were coming down this slope, all of a sudden there was this god-awful explosion and a noise you never heard before in your life. You know, you're used to artillery shells coming at you, but all of a sudden here comes this noise. And I saw a chain come through there; must have been a six-foot length of chain.

And it was whipping around and it hit a tree and cut the tree off and everything else, I mean there were pieces flying all over {laughs}. I though man this was something unusual. But that didn't last long because I don't think they had any more ammunition to shoot. So we overran that position fairly easily, that was pretty nice. But we finally got them all captured down near the end of the island. And there was about 500 of them that were dug in at the end of the island. And there was the Marines on one side and we were on the other side.

And the orders were, of course, to dig them out. Well they were in caves, and there wasn't much good digging. So one day a flag came up with a white handkerchief on it and we thought, Ha, they're giving up. So here comes about, oh, it must have been 15 or 20 women; Japanese women come up out of there. And, of course, we knew that the soldiers were provided with female company at some time or other, we ___+ lucky enough. So anyway, these women came out, and they were pretty dirty, and they weren't too good-looking women.

So they come out and, we let them through the lines, and this one woman she had got shot through the breast. And it wasn't a real bad wound. But our medic, he hadn't seen a girl for three or four months by then, so he was going to take care of her. So he had her expose herself, and he bandaged that and caressed that, and I thought we was going to stay there forever. We finally told him, Put the bandage on and let her get back with the rest of them, so he reluctantly let her go back. But we had an awful time getting the rest of those out of there.

We finally ended up -- they had flame throwers and everything else, and I guess they finally got to the point where I think of a lot of them committed hara-kiri down there. So we finally got in, and managed to wipe everything up out there. So they said, Okay now you can move back. So that's great, we've been online for over three months.

And then they said, You can move back, and they said, Now make a big line across the island, and as you come back, bury all the Japanese dead. And we said, What? Bury their dead? I said, That's adding insult to injury. It took us three months to get there, and now to bury the dead?

So we buried them. We took and maybe covered -- we didn't dig any holes, we just took dirt and threw it over the top of them, and maybe covered them with a half inch of dirt over them, and that was about it. But one night, we were coming back, and we had a fairly new lieutenant, we had lost a couple of officers on our line and his name was Shorty. He was a nice fellow, and he was concerned about our safety.

So he said, Okay, we're coming back now. He said, Take the round out of your chambers, just keep the magazine loaded, and we won't take any chances of shooting each other. So everybody said, Sure. And we didn't. By then we knew that first round was the important one, and we weren't going to take time to work another round in the chamber if something happened. So we started back, and about the second day on the way back it had been rather -- it had been real uneventful; nothing was happening. So we got to this road, and there was a ditch with water in it. So he said, Shorty, he said, Here's where we're going to stay the night.

So we said, Okay. So the rest of us all went in the ditch, I guess you get to the point where eventually -- if you don't feel safe laying exposed on the ground, you want to be underground. So the rest of us got in the ditch. And Shorty and his radioman set up a little shelter half on the road. So we said, Okay. So I took the first shift. Nothing happened. And so when it was time for the second watch to go on, Charlie (Snipes) was an Indian from Arizona, he was next. So he said -- he had a .45 pistol.

So he says, Can I borrow your carbine? So I says, Sure. So I gave him my carbine, and I lay down in the ditch, and I hadn't lay there about 15 minutes. And all of a sudden he kicked me in the foot. So I thought, Oh crap, I gave him my weapon. So I reached over, and a fellow by the name of Walt was on the other side of me, and he had a carbine laying there. So I grabbed his carbine, and by the time I got up and looked out of the ditch, it was fairly moonlit night, and it was fairly easy to see four Japs coming right down the road, right towards this little shelter that Shorty and his radioman were in. The first one had a big samurai sword in his hand, and there were four of them running in a column.

So old Charlie, he was a good soldier. He waited until he knew I was ready, he could see out of the corner of his eye. And as soon as I got up, I snapped the safety off, and he fired once. He got the fourth guy. I fired once. The first guy, he fired and got the third guy. I got the second. Four rounds, we had four of them on the ground. And about that time, Shorty and his radioman come flying through the shelter. They didn't bother going through the entrance, they just stood up, and Shorty grabbed his carbine. And, of course, these four guys were lying on the ground, they weren't dead yet, they were thrashing around. And he took up and pointed and the thing went "click". No round in his chamber.

So he followed his own advice, and when he needed the round it wasn't there. So he threw the carbine, and jumped in the ditch with us. And, of course, by then Charlie and I'd finished the rest of them off. There were four of them. So they weren't moving anymore. So Shorty stuck his head in and he said, Man, he said, Look at there's a big samurai sword out there, he said, I think I'll go out and get it. So I told Charlie, I said, Hey buddy, go out there and get my samurai sword, there's going to be five bodies out there. So he didn't {laughs}. So I retrieved the sword the next morning.

So we pulled back. And, you know, the whole three months we had a 10-day rest, and had a chance to get looked at and stuff like that there. But as soon as we got back and started setting up in the squad tents again, where we could get decent food and everything else, I come down with the Dengue fever.

I had managed to survive the whole time without it, and then I got the Dengue fever. But all they do is give you the big pills and tell you to go rest as best you could. But that was about the end of our stay on Okinawa. We pulled back and got some rest and got fed a little bit better, and when they were supposed to give us -- they said they would give us three months to rest. Well their idea of rest was to send us to a big storage area, I guess you would call it, a dump unloading trucks. So we had eight hours on and 24 off.

So we'd spend our eight hours unloading trucks, and then we'd get some rest for 24 hours so you always had a different shift. So it was kind of -- kind of nerve wracking, but you do a lot better when you ___ get a shot at. So one night they had a movie, they had the movies on the hillside. So we decided to go to a movie, so still carried our weapons with us. And so we went up on the hillside, and they showed the movie on a big screen, and all of a sudden all the antiaircraft guns from the ship, they started going off. Man it was like 4th of July. There was fireworks going off all over. And we thought, Oh boy, you know, We're getting a counter attack.

So we said, Let's get back to our squad tent where we could find out what's going on. So we got back there, and pretty soon the truck come by, and everybody was hollering, The Japs surrendered, the Japs surrendered. So guys were going by, and they were shooting up in the air so we decided, well, that's good news. So we went to sleep in our tents, we had cots by then, and in the morning we got up, and we had about five holes through our tent where shrapnel had come down. Everything that goes up comes down someplace.

So I understand quite a few people got killed that night and that was just a dirty shame, because the war was ended, or rather the Japs had surrendered. So -- but that was our good news. So next day -- the next day or the day after, they loaded us aboard ship, and we got started up towards Korea. We were going to be the occupation force that was going into Korea to send the Japanese back to Japan. So we were the first ones in. We went up the Yellow Sea, and a strange situation was standing up in the boundary watching this little Navy minesweeper going ahead of us back and forth and back and forth and going up into the Yellow Sea. And we got up there, and we went on to -- we dropped anchor. We were so far out, you couldn't see land. So he took off, and it was about, oh, must have been 20 years later when I found out that the commander of that minesweeper turned out to be a husband of my wife's good friend.

He was in the Navy, and he was now in San Diego. So we got together, his wife knew my wife, and found out he was the skipper of that little minesweeper. So anyway, we went on to Korea, and got on trains, and went on up to Seoul, the main city. Got off at the train depot in Seoul and marched to what had been a Japanese headquarters, big parade ground, four great big buildings, two-story red brick with tile roofs, you know, a regular -- a permanent installation, because the Japanese had occupied Korea by -- for 40 years by then.

So they said, Okay, march out in the parade ground. So here's a whole shipload of us, we marched out in the parade ground, and they said, Okay this is it, you know, This is where you're going to spend the rest of the time while you are here. Of course, it was raining, and it was muddy and everything else like that, and we figured, Well, why couldn't we go in barracks?

Well, they explained that they thought they might be booby trapped. So they kept us out in the rain in the mud and, of course, by then nobody had shaved for a week or so it took us to get up there. And so one morning, whistles blow and everything else, and here comes a whole Japanese Division all spit and polish, brass all shiny, no weapons, they fell out of these barracks.

They'd been there the whole time, and we didn't know it. We never saw anybody out a window. Nobody was allowed to go near there, so we didn't -- so nobody went in. So they fell out in formation, and they marched them up spit and polish, I'd never seen such good-looking troops in my life. Went down to the end, and they made them left flank, and the other left flank, and they came right up past us, and here we are, unshaven, dirty, muddy laying on the ground - or sitting on the ground. And these troops marched past us and strict at attention, eyes straight forward, but I' m sure out of their peripheral vision they knew, and they could look and ___ they could say was, How in the hell did these guys ever beat us?

What a scroungy looking bunch of troops. But the bottom line was, if anybody asks me, Why did we beat them? We beat them because we had the resources. We had artillery. We had ammunition. We had food, such as it was. But the main thing was we had, we had support. We had air support. And where they had to conserve their ammunition and everything else like that, we could expend it.

One time, we'd been on Okinawa, we had been stopped, and the major came up to me, and he said, What's the trouble? And I said, There's a ridge over there, we're getting a lot of sniper fire. They had one of our patrols pinned down. And so he called for the artillery observer, and told them to blast that hill, which they did. And then he radioed up to the walkie talkie and told the patrol to try to move again. And they started, and they got pinned down again.

So he called for more artillery, and he turned to me and he says, he said, I don't give a damn if it costs the tax payers $10,000 for artillery shells, if I can save one man, he said, It's worth it. Naturally, we liked him. So -- but that's the reason we won. They were better soldiers; okay. Individually I think they were better soldiers than we were. They were no doubt better trained and -- but I think we had the fire power. And if it wasn't for that, I probably wouldn't be here because I think they would have won and not us. So that's my story.

Emmet E. Reed:

Thank you very much, sir.

Donald Carlton:

You're quite welcome.

Emmet E. Reed:

We appreciate it.

Donald Carlton:

Well, I can talk, that's one thing I've never been accused of ___+.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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