Just a short note before I return to the book.
Today (April 27 2013) is the twentieth anniversary of the day John C. MacPherson met Jesus face to face. I’m not sure what time of day it was and frankly at this point it doesn’t matter. On the morning, I was up well before the crack of dawn preparing the engine rooms and auxiliary equipment on the USS Hunley for a departure from Miami Florida. As one of only two people qualified to run the propulsion plant on board, I had many things on my mind.
I only allowed myself one happy thought that morning. One of my kids came and told me they saw the outgoing chief engineer Paul Lachance leaving the ship with all of his bags. After making my life a living hell for two years I really was ready to see the bastard fall into the deepest part of the dark ocean. Just knowing he was gone was enough for a small bit of joy. In the back of my mind I knew I had outlasted the jerk and that was a mighty nice thing to think about between getting the main engines warmed and on line.
Class Photo from the Hunley (Minus the worlds smallest man)
The Hunley set sail and a few hours after we had passed the breakwater the Captain called me to his stateroom to inform me of my Dad’s death. The ship was past the point of being able to send me back and besides, with Lachance gone there really only were two of us who had qualified as EOOW. The ironic thing is that we were the ones he made life most miserable for and his golden children never did quite get the hang of running the ship. Sadly, that old bastard killed more careers than I can count including his buddies. I later learned that karma finally caught up with him but that story is for another day.
We did get home a few days later and I made it in time for the funeral. Before they closed the coffin I slipped in my Hunley ball cap. Dad had lasted just long enough to see me through the hardest times. Believe me, he earned the hat even though he never saw my last ship.
Thanks Dad. I wish I could have told you that in person but know that I will get the chance someday.
Chapter Two – Boot Camp
Sunday the 8th of April, 1945 marked the beginning of the fifth week John C. MacPherson was at Naval Training Station Sampson in Seneca New York. During this week, he was experiencing what was politely known as “Hell Week” a term never officially recognized by the US Navy but certainly recognized by the hundreds of thousands of Navy men who went through boot camp. This week was designed to start testing and bringing the men up to a fighting edge. It was intentionally hard so that they could find out where there true strengths lay. Most of them would end up on fighting ships or in far away locations with none of the comforts of home. So even though the Navy did care about morale, it cared a lot more about survival. Stories of men languishing on lifeboats or in the open seas with just their personal flotation device were testimonies to the difficulties of a life at sea. Most of the recruits had never really faced difficulty before so the training they would receive would mean the difference between survival and not surviving.
Meanwhile, on Okinawa, the Army and Marines had arrived at the first of three defense lines established by the Japanese. It was here that some of the bloodiest fighting of the Pacific occurred in terms of US and Japanese lives. The Japanese, far from defeated, launched attack after attack at the fleet that was supporting the invasion. From the archives:
CINCPOA COMMUNIQUÉ NO. 326, APRIL 8, 1945
On the afternoon of April 7 (East Longitude Date) the Twenty‑Fourth Army Corps drove into heavily defended terrain in the southern sector of Okinawa and captured the villages of Uchitomari and Kaniku. The enemy resisted stubbornly from numerous pillboxes and blockhouses which are emplaced to take full advantage of the broken terrain. In the north, Marines of the Third Amphibious Corps continued to move northward rapidly against negligible opposition. Four enemy aircraft appeared in the Okinawa area on April 7 and all were shot down.
On the following day Twenty‑Fourth Corps troops made small gains against heavy opposition in the south. By 1800 of that date the front line on their right had moved forward about 200 yards and on the left about 400 yards. Heavy artillery was used by the enemy throughout the night and day. Our troops are being supported by ships’ gunfire, carrier aircraft and field artillery. In the northern sector of the island on April 8, Marines of the Third Amphibious Corps had moved 3,000 to 4,800 yards westward along Motobu peninsula by nightfall.
Fighters of the Second Marine Aircraft Wing have begun to use the captured air fields on Okinawa. Major General F. P. Mulcahy, USMC, is present in command of the tactical air forces on shore at Okinawa. Nine enemy aircraft were destroyed on April 8 by various forces.
By the end of April 7, 30,000 civilians were under care of the U. S. Military Government on Okinawa. Native housing is being utilized fully.
Letter from Joe Kreta to the MacPherson family in Boston PA April 8 1945
I saw Foo today and he’s on his workweeks so he asked me to drop a line to you. He doesn’t have time to write, and I doubt if he has time to take a smoke. He’s looking swell and as dumb as ever (maybe I shouldn’t have said that.)
Well, Navy life as far as I am concerned is swell. It’s a little tough, but it’s a great life. They believe in keeping you busy, but you have Sunday afternoon off except when you are on work week.
How’s Cal take it about Foo being gone? I haven’t seen him after Foo left so I wouldn’t know.
Well I have to get ready for church, so I guess I better close. Take care of yourself and write to Foo. Be seeing you in a few weeks.
From the Sampson USNTC Bulletin, “WHILE THE CHURCH PENNANT FLIES” for Sunday, 8 April, 1945
“Send this home to your folks:
“What does it mean to be a Christian?”
A good many people seem to feel that it is just a matter of trying to be good and courteous. To them, Christianity is the Sermon on the Mount and the Golden Rule. “The man who has enough willpower to live by these teachings most of the time is the true Christian”, they say, “and whether he goes to Church or stays away is not too important. Of course a good sermon and good church music help one to be good and courteous during the week, but often the sermon is weak and the music is sour, so church going shouldn’t be relied on too heavily. After all, a man worthy of the name should be able to pull himself up by his own bootstraps and not depend too much on outside help.”
The man who holds this very common point of view may think that he is being practical and respectable – and Christian. Actually, he is worshipping himself and his own will power, not Almighty God, and no matter how good he may be in most respects, he is still breaking the greatest of all commandments, which is to love God with heart and mind and soul. An old catechism says that “the whole duty of man is to know God and to enjoy him forever”. But a man cannot know and enjoy the companionship of God when he is busy surrounding himself with barriers of spiritual isolationism, when he is intent on building graven images to his own determination and strength of character. No man can serve two masters lest he will learn to hate the one and love the other. That is the whole point of “deciding for Christ” as against deciding for oneself.
This is the heart of Christianity, the opening of one’s heart of Christ the King. Wherever Christ our Lord is allowed to enter in to human hearts and human relationships, there is the Kingdom of God. When Christ enters and reigns, evil departs; to be replaced by the flowers of good works and the fragrance of holy living.
C. F. Minnick
Royce Chapel, Camp Sampson
Royce Memorial Chapel (named after a Spanish-American War chaplain), a unique worship center at the station, built to seat 1000, equipped for interchangeable use by Protestant, Catholic or Jewish worshippers, was dedicated August 15, 1943. A cathedral-size altar, on a turntable, with three complete altar faces and screen arrangements of walnut and oak, manually operated, was used by any religious group. At no other house of worship in the nation was such a manner and speed of change possible.
The chapel was designed under the supervision of Chaplain Captain William W. Edel, USN (senior chaplain of the 13 Protestant Chaplains) who had built more Navy chapels than any other man. He also was responsible later for the Roman Catholic Chadwick Chapel, named for the Chaplain on the Maine.
CINCPOA COMMUNIQUÉ NO. 327, APRIL 9, 1945
About half of Motobu Peninsula was brought under U. S. control by Marines of the Third Amphibious Corps on Okinawa on April 9 (East Longitude Date). A general advance of 3,000 to 4,000 yards was made during the day against opposition which continued to be scattered and ineffective. Advance element of the Third Corps on Ishikawa Isthmus were reported in the vicinity of Kushibaru Town.
The Twenty Fourth Army Corps made small local gains in the southern sector against enemy opposition which continued to be heavy. The volume of enemy small arms and machine gun fire on the southern front increased during the day of April 9, and mortar and artillery fire continued to be heavy. Heavy gunfire from fleet units was concentrated on enemy installations in southern Okinawa during the day resulting in destruction of guns, emplacements, barracks, and small craft. Carrier air craft from the Pacific Fleet and both Army and Marine artillery supported the attacking U. S. Army troops. During the evening of April 9 about 10 enemy aircraft attacked our forces in the area of Okinawa. Seven were destroyed.
CINCPOA PRESS RELEASE NO. 65, APRIL 9, 1945
During the heaviest aerial attacks on our forces around Okinawa on 8 April (East Longitude Date), Vice Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner, U. S. Navy, received the following report via. voice radio from a minesweeper under his command
"We have been hit twice in attacks by two aircraft but we splashed the third one. Six wounded in action. We are now taking a damaged destroyer in tow."
Letter from John to his parents April 9th, 1945 3:15 PM (Company 510 Barracks G5L Postmarked April 10 1945 9AM
Dear Mom and Pop
I’m terribly sorry about my writing. I can imagine how you feel about me not writing, but I’m busier that ever now. I’m a life guard at the swimming pool and its pretty hard work. It kind of makes you a little nervous. We pull out a lot of kids in one day, no kidding. I have to wash officer’s towels on this job. Next Thursday we start our second work week. They told us we were doing so good that we are going to another swimming pool over in H unit. We start at 7:30 in the morning and quit at 10:30 sometimes later at night. That’s a long day. Besides that you stand watch at the barracks every other day 11-3 or 3-7 at night. It doesn’t bother me very much, I mean not much sleep because we are used to it. The weather is swell. I didn’t have time to go to chow today but I’m hoping for the better tonight. I wish you would send me a box for I am very hungry and they don’t seem to feed us much to eat.
There is no classes in the pool now so I thought I better catch up on my writing. I do have more time to read my letters now so I wish you would tell some of the kids to write. About my birthday present, if you can’t get a radio forget about it because jewelry and junk like that don’t agree much with the Navy. You can sell my portable and maybe that means a little more money towards a radio for pop’s car. There is a crew of twelve here in the pool. Bill Dietz and I are together. He is from McKeesport too.
Some skin heads came in for their first swim test and darned if I didn’t see a couple of kids from school. Boy we were happy to see each other. I hear a lot from Eleanor Hector and I think its pretty swell of her because she keeps me up to date with the chatter about the kids. I got to go to church yesterday morning but I didn’t get much out of it because I was dead tired. I’m getting to be a good swimmer now. I have to be to pull kids out of the pool.
Gee, we don’t hear too much news cause there is no paper or radios around here. The kids that joined the Seabees left last Saturday morning. It won’t be to long till I’ll be leaving the old son of a gun place “Gestapo Unit” Boy what a place. The rest of the kids in our barracks are on regimental guard and they guard the unit. Boy those poor kids have it tough. They walk in their sleep. Well, I hope you share this letter with Ixxy and Jack and my little niece Nancy because I know they realize that I am a little busy. Well, old Goofer has to get back on his little chair so be good. So long for a while,
God keep you all safe and strong. Mom, Pop, Ixxy, Jack, Nancy
Your sailor boy Goofer Butch
Swimming pool at Camp Sampson
Gilmore (Fifth Regiment) Opened 10 November, 1942. Named after Commander Howard S. Gilmore, USN, Commander of the submarine Growler. He was wounded on the deck during action in the Pacific and ordered the crew to "take her down" rather than jeopardize his ship and crew. He was liked.
CINCPOA COMMUNIQUÉ NO. 328, APRIL 10, 1945
After beating off two small counterattacks on Motobu Peninsula on the evening of April 9 (East Longitude Date), Marines of the Third Amphibious Corps on Okinawa continued their advance on April 10, moving their lines generally about 2500 yards westward to the Manna river on the south and Unten Bay on the north. Enemy submarine pens at Unten Bay and other installations were captured. On Ishikawa Isthmus, Marines moved northward to the vicinity of Tsuwa Village.
The Twenty‑Fourth Army Corps in the southern sector of the Okinawa battle continued to meet stubborn enemy resistance along its entire front. At 1800 on April 10 there were no substantial changes in the lines. Backed by heavy artillery fire, the enemy made several unsuccessful counterattacks against our positions. Army troops were supported by intense Marine and Army artillery fire by carrier aircraft and by Naval gunfire from major units of the Pacific Fleet.
Elements of the Twenty‑Fourth Army Corps landed on Tsugen Island about ten miles off the east coast of Okinawa on the morning of April 10 en. countering some enemy resistance..
At the end of April 8 our forces on Okinawa had killed 5,009 of the enemy and had taken 222 prisoners of war. At that time 43,378 civilians were under care of the U. S. Military Government.
From the World War II Chronicles:
Apr 10, 1945 The Allies liberated their first Nazi concentration camp, Buchenwald, north of Weimar, Germany.
Apr 10, 1945 German Me 262 jet fighters shot down ten U.S. bombers near Berlin.
Apr 10, 1945 In their second attempt to take the Seelow Heights, near Berlin, the Red Army launched numerous attacks against the defending Germans. The Soviets gain one mile at the cost of 3,000 men killed and 368 tanks destroyed.
Letter from John to his parents in Boston PA, Wednesday April 11, 1945 Postmarked 5PM
Dear Mom and Pop,
Well, today’s another day, and boy what a day. I haven’t been feeling so well the last three days. I have a sore throat. The day before yesterday I got two hours of sleep out of 37 hours and that’s not very much, is it? We leave the swimming pool tomorrow and go to another unit to work for another week. Time passes very fast. I can hardly talk, and the other night I had watch form 11-3 and Lieutenant Truman came in for barracks inspection and he asked me to give my general orders and I couldn’t talk, I was too horse. I guess he thought I was trying to pull something because he gave me heck anyway. Boy what I wouldn’t like to do to some of those brass hats. The weather out is pretty nice. This week went by pretty fast. I’d write more letters but I haven’t had time – that’s tough I know but I can’t help it. Boy, I’m pretty sleepy. Tell the kids I said hello. I got a letter from Filson and I don’t know whether he likes it or not. I wish I could get home pretty soon. I need a good nights sleep. You can’t get your picture taken unless you stand in line for about 2 days and I haven’t time to do that. Well, I think I’ll quit for now.
Be good and God Bless you both Mom and Pop
I got a letter from Russ Weicher. It was interesting. I’ll send it home if I find it
CINCPOA COMMUNIQUÉ NO. 329, APRIL 11, 1945
No substantial changes were made in the lines on Okinawa on April 11 (East Longitude Date). In the south the enemy continued to resist attacks of the Twenty Fourth Army Corps with artillery, mortar and small arms fire. In the north Marines of the Third Amphibious Corps met some organized resistance on Motobu Peninsula but continued to advance northward on Ishikawa Isthmus.
Army troops of the Twenty‑Fourth Corps reduced enemy points of resistance on Tsugen Island off the east coast of Okinawa and occupied the island on April 11.
Direct support was provided for our forces by carrier aircraft, Naval gunfire and Marine and Army artillery. Our forces in the Okinawa area were attacked sporadically by enemy aircraft, four of which were destroyed.
United States forces on Okinawa had lost 432 killed at the end of April 9. Our wounded for the same period were 2,103. A total of 180 were missing.
N. D. COMMUNIQUÉ NO. 592, APRIL 12, 1945 Pacific Area.
1. The submarine USS Scamp is overdue from patrol and presumed lost.
2. The LCS (L) (S)‑49 was lost in the Philippine area as the result of enemy action.
3. The next of kin of casualties have been informed in both cases.
APRIL 12, 1945
DEATH OF PRESIDENT TOLD TO NAVAL SERVICE IN MESSAGE FROM SECRETARY OF THE NAVY FORRESTAL
News of the death of President Roosevelt was dispatched to all ships and stations of the United States Navy tonight in a message by Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal, who called upon the Nation’s sea forces to pay tribute to the memory of the Nation’s leader by carrying on "in the tradition of which he was so proud."
The Secretary’s message follows:
"I have the sad duty of announcing to the naval service the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the President of the United States, which occurred on twelve April.
"The world has lost a champion of democracy who can Ill be spared by our country and the Allied cause. The Navy which he so dearly loved can pay no better tribute to his memory than to carry on in the tradition of which he was so proud.
"Colors shall be displayed at half-mast for thirty days beginning 0800 thirteen April West Longitude Date insofar as war operations permit. Memorial services shall be held on the day of the funeral to be announced later at all yards and stations and on board all vessels of the Navy, war operations permitting.
"Wearing of mourning badges and firing of salutes will be dispensed with in view of war conditions."
Apr 12, 1945 Robert Daniell (1901-1996), British tank commander, entered with his tank crew into Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. He found some 10,000 corpses killed by the guards as the allies approached. Of the remaining 38,500 prisoners, barely a third survived.
CINCPOA COMMUNIQUÉ NO. 330, APRIL 12, 1945
The Sixth Marine Division on Okinawa moved forward against sporadic resistance by the enemy on Motobu Peninsula on April 12 (East Longitude Date). On Ishikawa Isthmus our troops continued to press northward over rugged terrain and extremely poor roads. The First Marine Division continued mopping up in its zone of action.
There was virtually no change in the lines in the Southern sector of Okinawa where the Twenty‑Fourth Army Corps, including elements of the Twenty‑Seventh and Ninety‑Sixth Divisions, continued to meet strong enemy resistance on April 12.
On April 12, large numbers of enemy aircraft made desperate suicidal attacks on our forces in the Okinawa Area. Early in the morning, seven enemy aircraft were shot down in the vicinity of the Hagushi beaches. During the afternoon, ships’ guns, carrier aircraft and shore‑based antiaircraft shot down 111 of the attackers. One of our destroyers was sunk during these attacks and several other surface units were damaged but remained in operation.
Letter from John MacPherson a/s to Mr. and Mrs. J.C. MacPherson Smithfield Street, Boston, PA postmarked April 12th, 1945 3 PM
Dear Mom and Pop,
Well, today ends our first week of work and I do mean work. I thought the National Tube used to work me too much but I found different. I got the pen and thanks a lot, it sure writes swell. Boy, just think after next Thursday only four more weeks to go. Boy that will be swell. The Chaplains up here are trying to get 14 days leave instead of 7. If it goes through, it goes in effect May 1. Boy that would be wonderful. There is not much to talk about working in the swimming pool so I can’t think of much to say. Tell everybody I said hello and I would like to call you up but I can’t seem to find the time. That surprise I had, I can’t get yet. It is navy pins for Mom and Ixxy but every time I go to buy them they are sold out, but maybe I can find them someplace. I hope Jack doesn’t have to go. Tell auntie and Nancy I say hello but I can’t find hardly time to write you. Well, I’ll close for now. God be with you all and keep you all safe Mom and Pop.
CINCPOA COMMUNIQUÉ NO. 331, APRIL 13, 1945
During the early morning of April 13, the enemy in the Southern sector of Okinawa counterattacked in battalion strength but was beaten back with numerous losses by the Twenty‑Fourth Army Corps, supported by Naval gun fire and artillery. No substantial change was made in the lines in the South during the day.
On Motobu Peninsula in the North, Marines of the Third Amphibious Corps continued to engage groups of the enemy in sporadic fighting. Third Corps troops on Ishikawa Isthmus continued to press northward against Ineffective resistance.
Aircraft from fast carriers of the U. S. Pacific Fleet shot down over 100 enemy planes in the area of the Ryukyus on April 11‑12, in addition to those reported destroyed in communiqué No. 330. At Tokuno and Kikai Islands, eight more planes were destroyed on the ground and fuel dumps and warehouses were damaged or set afire.
On April 12, Shinchiku and Kiirun airfields on Formosa were attacked by Seafire and Hellcat fighters of the British Pacific Fleet. Sixteen enemy planes were shot out of the air, one was destroyed on the ground, and five were damaged.
On the following day, U. S. carrier aircraft shot one plane down and destroyed 12 others on the ground in the Northern Ryukyus. Attacking shipping end ground installations in and around the Ryukyus our planes destroyed 23 Barges and small craft, damaged airfields and set buildings afire.
During the period March 18 to April 12, inclusive, U. S. Fast Carrier Task Forces under command of Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher, U. S. Navy, shot down 841 enemy planes in combat, destroyed 73 by gunfire and destroyed 363 on the ground.
CINCPOA PRESS RELEASE NO. 72, APRIL 13, 1945
The Commander in Chief, U. S. Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas, has authorized the following, statement:
For some months the Japanese have been employing aircraft on a gradually increasing scale in suicidal attacks upon our forces in the Western Pacific. These aircraft were initially piloted by a group of pilots who were known as the "Kamikaze Corps" by the Japanese. The enemy has made much in his propaganda of this "sure death‑sure hit" suicide technique which is simply an attempt to crash planes on the decks of our ships.
The enemy has expended a large number of planes and personnel on missions of this nature with negligible effect on the continuing success of our operations. Some major units of the fleet have been damaged, but no battleship, fast carrier or cruiser has been sunk. Some smaller ships have been sunk, but in the great majority of cases they have remained in operation after being struck by one of these suicide planes. This reflects considerable credit on our officers and men and also on the designers and builders of our ships.
Effective methods of meeting and destroying suicidal attacks have been developed and will continue to be employed to increase the toll of Japanese aircraft shot down by our aircraft and by our antiaircraft guns.
The "suicide attack" and the so‑called "Kamikaze Corps" are the products of an enemy trapped in an increasingly desperate situation. Pushed back upon heir own inner defenses the Japanese have resorted to fanatical methods which, from a purely military viewpoint, are of doubtful value.
The "Kamikaze Corps" is apparently being used not only to attempt to damage our ships but also to stir the lagging spirits of the Japanese people. Although these "sure death‑sure hit" pilots are reported to be volunteers, many have very willingly become survivors of "suicide" missions and are now prisoners of war.
The enemy claims for the accomplishments of "suicide swimmers, human torpedoes and suicide speed boats" hardly need comment. In the majority of such attacks up to this date these personnel have failed completely in their missions but have been successful in committing suicide.
The "suicide" technique is continuing at the present time. Although it is always considered and prepared for as a factor in estimating the enemy’s capabilities it cannot prevent our continuing success in the war in the Pacific.
CINCPOA COMMUNIQUÉ NO. 332, APRIL 14, 1945
Elements of the Marine Third Amphibious Corps on Okinawa Island on April 14 advanced northward to the vicinity of Momubaru Town on the west coast and Arakawa Town on the east coast. Resistance was negligible. The Marines on Motobu Peninsula are now in possession of most of that area and are attacking small concentrations of enemy troops which continue to resist.
In the southern sector during the early morning hours of April 14, the enemy mounted a small counterattack which was immediately beaten off by troops of the Ninety Sixth Army Division. Enemy positions were brought under fire of field artillery, ships’ guns, and carrier and land‑based aircraft.
A few enemy aircraft appeared in the area off Okinawa during the day and nine were shot down by our combat air patrols.
Well, that ends the fifth week of Dad’s boot camp. I hope you are doing well. I talked with your mom today and she is very proud of you, as we all are.
September 5, 2005
Week 6 15-21 April
John C. MacPherson, from Boston PA, has been in boot camp now for six weeks. His letters are starting to show how he is beginning to adapt to the new life. In the rest of the world, President Roosevelt has just died and President Harry S. Truman has just been elevated to the position of Commander in Chief. While he adapts to his new role, he hears for the first time about a project called Manhattan which will change the world and the way major wars will be viewed forever. In the Pacific theater however, the threat of the day is still the kamikaze attacks. Navy officials are watching with horror as more and more ships are targeted by this new type of weapon and they realize that an invasion of the homeland of Japan will result in massive attacks never seen before.
CINCPOA COMMUNIQUÉ NO. 333, APRIL 15, 1945
Three enemy counterattacks in the Southern sector of Okinawa were broken up by Marine and Army artillery on the night of April 14‑15 (East Longitude Date). At noon on April 15, the Twenty‑Fourth Army Corps lines were unchanged.
In the north, Marines of the Third Amphibious Corps continued to mop up small units of the enemy. In the Western area of Motobu Peninsula one isolated group of the enemy was offering stiff resistance.
Ground forces continued to receive effective support from Naval guns, carrier and land-based aircraft, and field artillery.
CINCPOA ADVANCE HEADQUARTERS, GUAM, APRIL 15, 1945
1. Elements of the Marine Third Amphibious Corps on Okinawa Island on April 14 advanced northward to the vicinity of Momubaru town on the west coast and Arakawa town on the east coast. Resistance was negligible. The Marines on Motobu Peninsula are now in possession of most of that area and are attacking small concentrations of enemy troops which continue to resist.
2. In the southern sector during the early morning hours of April 14 the enemy mounted a small counterattack which was immediately beaten off by troops of the Ninety Sixth Army Division. Enemy positions were brought under fire of field artillery, ships’ guns and carrier and land‑based aircraft.
3. A few enemy aircraft appeared in the area off Okinawa during the day and nine were shot down by our combat air patrols.
April 16, 1945 Letter from John C. MacPherson to his parents in Boston PA (postmarked April 17 at 9 AM)
April 16 1945
Dear Mom and Pop
Well, our work weeks are about over only 2 more days. We were taken off swimming pool last Thursday and put on regimental guard over in H unit. Boy, you don’t get much sleep. That is why I don’t write more often, because when I get a chance, I sleep. My sore throat is all gone and I am glad. I am glad to hear you are both feeling better. I slept all afternoon in the library at ships service. On Sunday, the whole unit went into the drill hall at 10:00 o’clock and they had a prayer and played taps. They sang one verse of America and boy that was a big thrill to hear that many fellows singing at one time. You couldn’t hear yourself. Well, a week tomorrow we get our first liberty to go to Geneva NY. Its not much of a place but it will be a break away from this place. It sounds as though Nancy is growing up. Boy, I would like to see her. I’ll bet she’s as cute as a picture. You forget about my birthday present because I know how hard things are to get. That guard duty I have is at night from 2:00 till 8 and boy is it spooky. Most of H unit is deserted and it makes it worse.
We always go in ships service about 20 times a night to eat. The only one there is a guard and most of the time he is our good friend. Daddy, you know how it is when a sailor is hungry on guard. He eats everything in sight. Anyhow, we are allowed (I think). Another boy and I have this beat we walk – its about a mile. We just try doors and stuff like that. On Saturday afternoon, everyone on the base went out on the drill field and stood at attention for five minutes in honor of our Commander in Chief. We had inspection Saturday and it was very, very good. Well, tell Jack and Ixxy to be good and I intend to write them soon. God keep you all strong and safe, your son and brother,
PS. That bag was wonderful; I really enjoyed it very much. It was packed wonderful. Thank you from the bottom of my heart
CINCPOA COMMUNIQUÉ NO. 334, APRIL 16, 1945
Supported by carrier aircraft and by naval gunfire, elements of the Twenty Fourth Army Corps landed on le Shima, an island west of Okinawa, on the morning of April 16 (East Longitude Date). Advancing inland rapidly against resistance which was initially light but later stiffened, our troops captured the enemy airfield and secured most of the area west of that point. The greater part of the enemy defense force has been driven back to defensive positions in the pinnacles southeast of the airfield.
Marines of the Third Amphibious Corps continued to attack groups of the enemy on Motobu Peninsula, Okinawa, on April 16. Marine forces continued to advance northward in the rugged terrain of the island north of the peninsula.
There was little change in the lines of the Twenty Fourth Army Corps in the southern sector of Okinawa. Naval guns and carrier planes attacked enemy positions in the south.
At the end of April 13 our forces on Okinawa had killed 9,108 of the enemy and captured 391 prisoners of war. About 85,000 civilians had come under jurisdiction of the U. S. Military Government on the island by the end of April 15. Our Military Government authorities have constructed one large camp and have taken over thirteen villages for use of civilians. Civilian foodstuffs are being salvaged and used. Our medical facilities have proved adequate for treatment of civilians thus far.
Fast carrier task forces of the U. S. Pacific Fleet attacked aircraft, airfields and other military installations in the northern Ryukyus and on the island of Kyushu during the period April 12 to 15 (East Longitude Dates). In sweeps over airfields on Kikai and Tanega our planes shot down 77 enemy aircraft from April 12 to 14. Attacking major air bases at Kanoya and Kushira on Kyushu on April 15, U. S. carrier planes shot down 29 aircraft, destroyed 58 on the ground and damaged 60 more.
The enemy launched heavy air attacks against our forces in and around Okinawa on the morning of April 16. Strong combat air patrols from the fast carrier task forces of the U. S. Pacific Fleet met the attacking enemy aircraft and preliminary reports indicate that our planes shot down 62 enemy aircraft over the Okinawa area. Fighters, sweeping Kyushu, shot down 22 more, antiaircraft guns of the fast carrier forces shot down 15, and 67 more were shot out of the air by combat air patrols in the Ryukyus area.
Ship’s antiaircraft fire off the Okinawa beaches destroyed 38 Japanese planes on April 16. Land‑based aircraft shot down an unreported number.
CINCPOA COMMUNIQUÉ NO. 335, APRIL 17, 1945
About two thirds of the area of le Shima was brought under the control of the Tenth Army on April 17 (East Longitude Date) as our attacking forces wheeled eastward to occupy a line running from the northeast corner of the airfield along the base of the island’s central pinnacle and through the town of Iegusugu to the southern coast. Resistance was moderate throughout the day.
Small pockets of the enemy continued to resist attacks of Marines of the Third Amphibious Corps on Motobu Peninsula and in northern Okinawa.
In the south there was no change in the lines of the Twenty‑Fourth Army Corps.
Our troops in both the northern and southern sectors were supported throughout the day by heavy Naval gunfire, carrier aircraft and Army and Marine artillery. A few enemy reconnaissance planes were in the Okinawa area during the day.
United States forces attacking the home islands of Japan and the island groups of the Ryukyus since initiation of the Ryukyus campaign on March 18 to April 17, inclusive, have, destroyed more than 2200 Japanese aircraft in the air and on the ground. Aircraft from the fast carriers of the Pacific Fleet have destroyed more than 1600 of this total. In addition, units of the British Pacific Fleet operating in waters off the Sakishimas and Formosa have destroyed more than 80 enemy planes.
Mopping up operations on Iwo Island continued during the month of April as our forces developed that island as an air base. A total of 22,731 of the enemy were killed on Iwo from February 19 to April 14, inclusive, and 624 were captured.
CINCPOA PRESS RELEASE NO. 79, APRIL 17, 1945
On the morning of April 16 large numbers of enemy aircraft attacked one of our destroyers for more than two hours off the coast of Okinawa. The ship took two bomb hits and four suicide hits.
But she shot down 6 dive bombers and proceeded to operate as ordered.
CINCPOA COMMUNIQUÉ NO. 336, APRIL 18, 1945
Tenth Army Troops in Ie Shima made substantial gains in the Northeastern area of the Island on April 18 (East Longitude Date). The enemy in the area of Iegusugu Peak gave stiff resistance from dug in positions and pillboxes. On the third day of the action, preliminary reports show that 388 of the enemy have been killed and one prisoner taken. In the same period our forces lost 15 killed and 73 wounded. Five are listed as missing.
Elements of the Marine Third Amphibious Corps have reached the northern end of Okinawa Island. The Marines on Motobu Peninsula continued operations on April 18 against isolated groups of the enemy in that sector.
There were no changes in the lines of the Twenty‑Fourth Army Corps In the Southern Sector of Okinawa. Naval guns and carrier aircraft continued to attack enemy strong points in the south. As of April 18, according to the most recent reports available, 989 officers and men of the U. S. Pacific Fleet had been killed in the Okinawa operation and associated attacks on Japan, 2,220 were wounded in action, and 1,491 were missing in action. At last report the soldiers and Marines of the Tenth Army had lost 478 officers and men killed, 2,457 had been wounded and 260 were missing.
Letter from John C. MacPherson to his parents Wednesday Morning April 18th
Dear Mom and Pop
Well, today’s another day. Last night was another night of guard duty. I’m getting used to it now. Well, I’ll be eighteen years old tomorrow, boy I feel older already. It’s a swell morning. The sun is shining like a million dollars. Tuesday we go to Geneva. Boy, big time. My shipmate and I though we saw a prowler last night, and chased him but we were disappointed there wasn’t anybody. We are wearing white hats now. Some of the kids look like salts that have been in the Navy for about twenty years including myself. (Squared white hats you know Pop). Boy are we salty. We have a jazz session every night about nine o’clock and everybody in the unit moons. Boy, what singing. Well, I can’t think of much more to say. I’m glad you both are feeling better and I feel good too so everything s hunky-dory.
Letter from John to his Aunt Miss Elizabeth MacPherson on Smithfield Street in Boston Pennsylvania dated April 18 1945 (postmarked on April 19 at 9 AM)
Well, I’ve finally got around to writing. I hope you forgive me. I really have been very busy. I know you are keeping up the old school (ha-ha) How’s that principals job anyway? Gee, that candy was swell, boy I really enjoyed it very much. In fact it kept me awake all night. I was on guard duty from 0230 till 0800 or 8 o’clock and we got about two hours of sleep last night. Well Aunti, it won’t be long before I am home for a couple of days (hot days) The food is better and I am feeling great I hope the same for you.
Love your nephew,
CINCPOA COMMUNIQUÉ NO. 337, APRIL 19, 1945
The Twenty‑Fourth Army Corps launched an offensive of substantial force against enemy defense lines in the southern sector of Okinawa on April 19 (East Longitude Date). In the early morning hours, powerful concentrations of Army and Marine artillery joined with battleships, cruisers, and lighter units of the Pacific Fleet to deliver one of the largest bombardments ever made in support of amphibious troops. Under cover of this fire and supported by great flights of carrier aircraft, Army Infantrymen of the Seventh, Twenty‑Seventh and Ninety‑Sixth Infantry Divisions moved off to the attack between 0600 and 0800. By noon the left and right flanks of our lines were reported to have moved forward from 500 to 800 yards and our forces captured the village of Machinato. The enemy was resisting our advance stubbornly with artillery, mortars, and light weapons. Our troops are now striking at a fortified line which is organized in great depth and developed to exploit the defensive value of the terrain which is dissected by ravines and terraced by escarpments. These fortifications whose northern perimeter follows an uneven line across the island at a point where it is about 8,000 yards wide are about four and a half miles north of Naha on the west coast and three and a half miles north of Yonabaru on the east coast. They include interlocking trench and pillbox systems, blockhouses, caves and the conventional Japanese dug‑in positions. During the forenoon, U. S. Army Infantrymen were engaged in knocking out strong points and penetrating and destroying segments of the outer lines.
Tenth Army troops in Ie Shima continued to advance on April 19 moving their lines forward south of the Iegusugu Peak. The enemy continued to resist from concealed fixed positions. Some of our observation planes have landed on the island airstrip.
Marines of the Third Amphibious Corps continued to extend their control over the northern areas of Okinawa. On Motobu Peninsula, mopping up operations were still in progress.
From the Naval Historical Archives, another ship recovers from a kamikaze attack
The Birthday Poem (From Jack and Isabel Patrick)
CINCPOA COMMUNIQUÉ NO. 338, APRIL 20, 1945
After a day of heavy attacks on the enemy’s fortified positions in the Southern Okinawa Sector, the Twenty Fourth Army Corps had advanced about 1,000 yards generally by the morning of April 20 (East Longitude Date). The Seventh Infantry Division penetrated enemy defenses up to 1,400 yards in its zone of action near the east coast. Heavy Naval guns continued to bombard enemy strong points and Marine and Army artillery supported the advancing infantry with carrier aircraft delivering close support. Most of Yonabaru Town was destroyed. The enemy resisted our attacks bitterly in all sectors of the fighting in the south.
On Ie Shima, Tenth Army troops continued to drive eastward against strong resistance from isolated enemy positions on April 20. Simultaneously, operations were began to destroy enemy forces holding Iegusugu Peak. At the end of April 18, 736 of the enemy had been killed on the island.
Patrols of the Marine Third Amphibious Corps continued to cover the rugged country in Northern Okinawa on April 20 while operations against small groups of the enemy in Motobu Peninsula were continued.
In the early morning hours of April 20 several small groups of enemy aircraft approached our forces in the Okinawa Area and retired without causing damage.
The following is the complete list of ships sunk by enemy action in the Okinawa operation and the associated attacks on Japan from March 18 to April 18:
Halligan, Bush, Colhoun, Mannert L. Abele, Pringle
During the same period the following Japanese ships and aircraft were destroyed by our forces participating in the same operations:
2,569 Aircraft destroyed
One Yamato class battleship
Two light cruisers
Five destroyer escorts
Four large cargo ships
One medium cargo ship
28 small cargo ships
54 small craft
Numerous enemy torpedo boats, speed boats and other types of small craft.
CINCPOA COMMUNIQUÉ NO. 339, APRIL 21, 1945
The Twenty‑Fourth Army Corps pressed its attack against the enemy in the southern sector of Okinawa on April 20 and 21 (East Longitude Dates) making small gains through heavily defended areas. On the approaches to Hill 178, the high ground changed hands several times on April 21 in the bitterest kind of fighting. Small gains were made by our forces in other segments of the lines. Naval guns and Army and Marine artillery continued to bombard enemy emplacements with heavy fire and carrier aircraft attacked troop concentrations in the southern part of the island.
Marines of the Third Amphibious Corps reduced the remaining pockets of enemy resistance on Motobu Peninsula on the afternoon of April 20 and brought the entire area under their control.
Tenth Army troops placed the United States Flag on the summit of Iegusugu Peak on Ie Shima on the morning of April 21 after overcoming bitter resistance from caves, pillboxes and other strong points. Our forces are engaged in mopping up operations on the island which is now in our possession.
On the night of April 20‑21, enemy aircraft attacked Yontan and Kadena airfields causing minor damage. Carrier aircraft from the U. S. Pacific Fleet attacked air installations in the Sakishima group on April 19 and 21, shooting down one plane and strafing several others on the ground.
Hellcat and Corsair fighters of Fourth Marine Aircraft Wing bombed targets in the Palaus on April 21.
That’s all for this week Theo. I hope you are doing well and look forward to seeing you soon.
Next Chapter: Boot Camp May 1945