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Marine Vignettes

By Charles M Paty Jr.
August 27, 1998
I had joined the Navy in December 1941 and, following boot camp, was assigned to the battleship USS NORTH CAROLINA (BB55).  My first berth was in the Marine Compartment.  The ship participated in almost every island campaign and naval battle in the Pacific, but by mid 1945 it was still not clear how and when we would finally defeat the Japanese.  I had chosen to remain on the USS NORTH CAROLINA because I felt it was the safest passage home.
During 1945, the Pacific war had reached an agonizing point for both the Japanese and the Allies.  Although we were winning, it was at great cost and an even greater cost for the Japanese.  They were now fighting with more desperation than ever before.
We were experiencing Kamikaze air attacks on almost a daily basis.  We had seen many of our sister ships hit which caused terrible casualties.  We heard many rumors about the forthcoming invasion of the Japanese mainland.  We felt that this was going to be a real blood letting for the Marines, the Army and the Navy.  The experience of both Iwo Jima and Okinawa was fresh in our minds.  The �Bomb� saved us all.
During the afternoon of 15 August, we received an ALNAV message to cease all offensive operations against Japan as the Japanese had accepted our surrender terms.  I don�t remember any shouting or celebrating.  We just felt �thank GOD its over� and that we as individuals had survived almost four years of war.
 As the NORTH CAROLINA and other ships of  the Task Force cruised off the coast of Japan, many messages were exchanged with the Japanese to work out the details of the surrender and occupation.  After a few days, volunteers were called for to form �Prize Crews� to man the surrendered Japanese Naval vessels.  I became part of Prize Crew #1 which consisted of two USN officers and 33 enlisted people from all divisions of our crew.  I was the one radioman, but there were gunners, machinists, electricians, etc.   At 0730, we transferred to the fast transport USS RUNELS (APD85) which was a converted destroyer escort. For those not familiar with a Destroyer Escort, it is an extremely crowded and hot vessel, but her meals were good!  This transfer was made underway so we went over by breeches buoy.  Not the most pleasant way to transfer from one ship to another.  Prior to our transfer, we had been issued a Springfield 1903 with bayonet, field pack, ammunition, C rations,  web belt and leggings.  Most of us had not touched a rifle or any firearm since boot camp. On the 21st, I was assigned a watch detail in  Main Radio.   The next day, they began giving us shots for everything.  The Typhus shot was the worst shot I have ever received.  We were now with a group of transports containing the initial occupation forces.
The Japanese mainland was sighted at 1135 on 27 August.  At about 1545, we sighted Mount Fujiyama.  It was a beautiful sight as the sun set behind it.  We dropped anchor at 1830 in Sagami Wan  about 2000 yards off shore.  The bay was full of Allied Naval vessels at anchor.  On the 28th, two British Marines were rescued on the beach by a picket boat from one of the ships.  They had been captured at Hong Kong and had been held prisoner nearby for three years.  The Japanese civilians were now beginning to venture out and gaze at us.  On the 29th, white flags were visible on land from a number of points around the bay.  We assumed these were military installations.  During the morning, a Japanese submarine stood in escorted by one of our Destroyer Escorts.
30 August 1945 (local time) we were underway at dawn and proceeded into Tokyo Bay.  We passed many forts with white flags flying.  Any one of these forts could have played hell with our little transport if they had fired on us.   We also passed many small villages and industrial sites before we dropped anchor off Yokosuka Naval Base.  As we disembarked into landing craft, we received word to head for the beach and arrived there at 1200. Our main concern was that there were still diehard Japanese Naval or Marine units in the Naval Base who would seize this opportunity to launch a final suicide attack.  A Marine combat unit was the first to go in and landed some minutes ahead of us and deployed along the beach.  The beach was a narrow, pebble strewn beach with a slight rise up to what appeared a parade ground faced by several large buildings.  After landing, we gathered our detachment and slowly began our advance inland.  It should be noted that although we had ammunition, we had been instructed �not to load until ordered�.   Obviously, it was for safety reasons.  Since we had not handled a piece in so many years, we might accidentally  have shot several of our own including the Marines.
Following a slow and careful crossing of the parade ground, we arrived at a large two or three story building.  Up to this point, we had seen no sign of life.  Upon arriving at this building, we noted a number of bicycles racked outside and a lone Japanese naval sentry standing at the door, unarmed.  We walked right past him and entered the building.  It was an erie feeling.  There were offices that looked like the staff had just been evacuated leaving all desks, paper work etc.  There were offices of individual officers who left everything on and in their desks as well as pictures hanging on the wall.
Next, we went up one deck and found the base telephone exchange.  We also found two or three enlisted Japanese navy personnel manning several of these switchboards, but there must have been 30 places unmanned.  The operators were talking to someone and when we came in, one turned and asked in some sort of English, �would we like to talk to the girls?� .   Obviously, this was an offer too good to pass up.  He passed the mouthpiece and headset to one of our guys who said something and listened for a few seconds.  The �girls� were speaking Japanese and we could not understand a word.  We learned later that the operator was talking to commercial telephone operators in Tokyo.  We spent several more minutes going through the building, and collecting souvenirs.  We were now ordered to assemble outside.  Upon arriving there, we found that several of our guys had liberated some bicycles and were wheeling around the parade ground.  After a few minutes of that, we were ordered to fall in and we marched over to Barracks #42 which would be our home for the remainder of our stay.
It was now 1500 and our officers instructed us to scrub the barracks from one end to the other.  This was a two story building and some of us were assigned to the first deck and some to the second.  I was on the second deck with about 15 others when a shot rang out and a bullet came up through the deck, very close to one of our men.  It turned out that it was fired by one of our own guys who had loaded his rifle and was fiddling with it.
As night approached, our orders were to stay in the barracks.  No roaming around looking for souvenirs.  Marine sentries had been posted around the base with orders to shoot anything suspicious and we heard several shots during the night.  We never learned the results of those shots.  That evening, we had �K� rations which was somewhat of a different fare from what we experienced aboard ship.
The next day, we were given a little freedom to move around the base and discovered that our barracks were right next to a steep hill which was honeycombed with tunnels.  Several of us poked into one of these tunnels and found it contained large caliber projectiles in great quantities.  On the 30th, we were given the privilege of exploring the base to the limits and found many interesting scenes.  One was a huge dry-dock filled with midget submarines in various stages of construction.  Also noted was a number of Japanese naval vessels sunk or damaged, but there was very little damage to the buildings on the administration side of the base.
The supply situation was very bad and we were not permitted to eat any Japanese food, canned or otherwise.  On 1 September, we ran out of food and crackers leaving us with nothing  but stew beef to eat for all three meals. By this time, several other prize crew units had landed.  They were from the USS BATAAN (CVL29) and the USS MONTEREY (CVL26).  Those guys found a Ford passenger car and rode around the base in it.  On 2 September, we saw a number of Japanese Captains and Commanders at the headquarters building.
On 5 September, Lt. Modle, one of our officers, offered us a Japanese souvenir rifle or pistol from a huge stack on the ground.  We then loaded up in trucks and headed out the main gate to the �fleet landing�.  In doing so, we passed through the city of Yokosuka and got our first view of Japanese civilians and the town.  Of course, we passed a number of attractive Japanese girls and the guys hooted and whistled as we went by.  When we reached the fleet landing, we were greeted by several motor launches from the NORTH CAROLINA.  It was wonderful to see those boats and some familiar crew members manning them.  After pulling away from the dock, we looked out into the bay and there, among hundreds of Allied ships at anchor, was our home, the USS NORTH CAROLINA.  She was a beautiful sight.
On 6 September 1945, we were underway at 1500 for our return to Boston, USA.  It was over and we had survived.
In October 1961, the �Showboat� came �home� to Wilmington, N.C.  She is open to the public and serves as a living Memorial to all who served in World War II.  The USS NORTH CAROLINA BATTLESHIP ASSOCIATION holds an annual reunion in Wilmington.  Other Veterans Associations have held events there including our sistership, the USS WASHINGTON (BB56)
Footnote:  I would be most interested to hear from any Marine who has first hand knowledge of this event.
 I understand that a unit of the 4th Regiment, Sixth Division Marines participated. I would also like confirmation about the date of the landing.
Email address: FCTB95A@PRODIGY.COM

Letter From ....
By Charles Rapp
September 7, 1998
Hi Rats:
So I'm off my butt and writing---
Let's go back to an era we will always remember, i.e. the Korean War and to one day in August 1950--
We had been camped out atop this mountain (hill) in South Korea and really hadn't had any contact with the North Korean armies until this very hot afternoon. Small arms fire was coming from the hill to the north of us, and at first we thought it was from some of our own troops. We were going to find out it was the enemy we had been looking for.
We soon were engaged with the enemy and it was very frustrating to me because we had not sighted anyone. I found myself on the hillside and bullets digging in the dirt all around me. I soon discovered some wise guy was doing doing an old movie trick with his helmet held up atop his bayonet and rifle to draw the enemy fire--and it was working. I yelled to the wise guy drawing fire to knock it off, but to no avail. By this time I found myself spreading my prone legs out further as the bullets richocheted in a wider and wider pattern between them.
Finally I got up the courage to scramble up the hill and to a better position. What an experience it was to the introduction of our first combat. As time passed, we started coming in contact with bodies of slain enemy troops and heavier fire. I carried a B.A.R. and it was obvious, as we had been trained, that the enemy went after the automatic weapons.
As time passed, I became worried that the ammunition I was carrying may run out. I had an assistant barman named Ankinson, who was of little help because of heat prostration. Mortar fire was coming in and it was getting closer and closer with one round that hit so close it threw me for a distance and slammed me back to the ground. I felt as if my body had just been overinflated with air. My hand was spurting blood and my facial area was also bleeding profusely. I was very very lucky that it seemed to be only minutes before a Corpsman was attending me.
I was evacuated by train to Pusan where I was placed in a tent awaiting a turn in surgery at the Pusan hospital. My turn came late one afternoon, and after the surgery, I lost track of time. Eventually I was taken aboard the British hospital , Her Majesty's Ship Maine, and taken to the Osaka General Hospital. During my stay at Osaka, I was surprised to see Captain Fegan at the hospital. Also during this time, a typhoon hit and I again felt helpless as I watched from my bed as the window panes bowed and broke from the sheer force of the storm.
Now later I was transferred to the hospital at Koyota and later again to Yokosuka Naval Hospital. My next move took me from Tokyo to Tripler General Hospital in Hawaii and from there to Mare Island at Vallejo, California. I continued to be moved and ended up at Great Lakes Naval Hospital in Illinois where I was finally placed on the permanent disability retired list in September 1952.
Semper Fi!
H-3-5 News 3/98
Editor: Jim "RATs" Ratliff

Uncle Sam
By Richard Gaines
September 8, 1998
Did A Real Uncle Sam Ever Exist?
               We all know Uncle Sam as the bearded character, who, in his
               red, white and blue outfit represents America, but did a
               real Uncle Sam ever exist? And if he did, how did he come
               to be the personification of the United States?
               Until recently, no one was sure of the origins of the Uncle
               Sam character, but recent discoveries show that Uncle Sam
               is based on a man named Samuel Wilson. Wilson was an
               American patriot who, at age eight, was a drummer boy whose
               drumming at the sight of redcoats kept the British from
               advancing on Montgomery during the American Revolution.
               After the war, Wilson opened a meatpacking business, where
               his fairness lead people to affectionately refer to him as
               "Uncle Sam." This reputation for fairness also won Wilson a
               military contract to provide meat to soldiers during the
               War of 1812.
               To indicate which of his crates were meant for the
               military, Wilson used the initials "U.S."--as in "United
               States." At the time, however, the abbreviation U.S. had
               not yet become popularly associated with the United States,
               so many soldiers assumed that the initials stood for "Uncle
               Sam." Before long, all government food was said to have
               come from Uncle Sam, while government issued supplies were
               said to belong to Uncle Sam, and the soldiers even referred
               to themselves as Uncle Sam's men. To the army, Uncle Sam
               represented America.
               The public at large was introduced to Uncle Sam a little at
               a time. At first he appeared in newspaper illustrations as
               a clean-shaven figure wearing a top hat and black tailcoat.
               Abraham Lincoln inspired the addition of the beard.
               Cartoonists dressed him in the nation's colors to make him
               look more patriotic. With each change, Uncle Sam became
               more national figure and less Samuel Wilson, until few
               remembered that one was based on the other.
               Sources:THE AMERICAN HERITAGE
by Charles Panati)
              This article first appeared in the
               trivia mailing. To subscribe for free,

More Fun With The Grunts
By Ed Henderson
September 9, 1998
Here's another of my favorite Sea Stories--A 2nd Lt. This Time!
Here's another of my favorite Sea Stories.
As a young Sgt. in Okinawa attached to a CH-46 outfit, there was a re-treaded Sgt living across the hall. He'd joined, gotten out, and rejoined twice. The second time he came back in, he lost his stripes down to L/Cpl, but he got them back fairly fast. In his travels he'd had two tours in Vietnam as a H-46 crew chief, who had flown over 9000 flt. hours in combat; and had been very, very highly decorated. But he was one of those people that don't age. He looked like he was about 16 or 17, when he was actually 33. And had the most mischievious 'Dennis the Menace' expressions and temprement.
He'd been back in for about two years when I met him, he'd come from Santa Ana, Calif. One day he had duty NCO there---as a L/Cpl. Late that night, the Grunt Duty Officer strolled in. The Duty Officer was a young 2nd Lt. who had been in the Marine Corps....ohhh....probably all week. They exchanged formalities, and proceeded to tour the barracks. The 2nd Lt. kept looking at those several rows of ribbons.... worn by this kid....and a young one at that.
After they completed their tour, not finding anything amiss, the 2nd Lt. sat down in his chair at his duty desk and asked him, "where did you get all those ribbons and decorations?"
"At the PX Sir, and they were expensive too."
2ndLt, "Do you know what they all mean?"
Author's Note: Some Grunt officers will just jump up and go crazy, others play the 'nice cop' and chat with you awhile so you can incriminate yourself as much as possible. This young Lt. was of the latter type.....
It takes having flown 21 missions in a combat zone to rate one Air Medal, multiple awards are displayed with a number on the original ribbon.
"Yes Sir, I wouldn't have bought them if I didn't. This here is the National Defense ribbon, this one is the second award for Good Conduct, this green and yellow one is the VietNam campaign ribbon, this is a Presidential Unit Citation, this is a Purple Heart, this is the 105th award of the Air Medal ribbon, this is the second award of the Distinguished Flying Cross, this is a Silver Star, these are Air Crew Wings with the maximum number of stars on it, over here is the 3rd award for Rifle Expert, this is the 2nd award for Pistol Expert," and on and on some more....
The 2nd Lt, "Do you have your Commanding Officer's phone number handy?"
"Yes Sir. but I really don't want to call him this late."
2nd Lt, "Get him on the phone, I'd like to talk to him."
"Yes Sir, " and called the CO at home.
After exchanging formalities, with the Pilot he'd help raise since he was a wide eyed 1stLt. in VietNam, he passed the phone over to the 2nd Lt. "It's for you, Sir."
After a few moments of conversation, the young Lt. came to attention, looking over at this pair of twinkling eyes saying, "I got your a$$ good, huh....sucker?" ....and several ...."Yes Sir....Yes Sir....He didn't say that Sir, No Sir I wasn't aware....Yes Sir, Good evening to you too, Sir." Handing the phone back ...."It's for you."
As the young Lt. was putting on his cover and walking out....getting away from those crazy Wingers as fast as possible....the Skipper told him, "If you knew how hard it was to be a 2nd Lt, you wouldn't tease them like that."
Semper Fi,

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