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
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
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
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
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
I understand that a unit of
the 4th Regiment, Sixth Division Marines participated. I would also like
confirmation about the date of the landing.
So I'm off my butt
Let's go back to
an era we will always remember, i.e. the Korean War and to one day in August
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
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
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.
I'M PROUD TO
HAVE SERVED MY COUNTRY AND TO HAVE FOUGHT ALONG SIDE THE BEST.
Jim "RATs" Ratliff
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
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
ORIGINS OF EVERYDAY THINGS
This article first appeared in the MailBits.com
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Fun With The Grunts
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
"At the PX Sir, and
they were expensive too."
2ndLt, "Do you know
what they all mean?"
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.....
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.
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."
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