Thursday, March 27, 2014

Van T. Barfoot

United States Army

Recipient of the Medal of Honor

Van Thomas Barfoot (born Van Thurman Barfoot; June 15, 1919 - March 2, 2012) was a United States Army officer and a recipient of the United States military's highest decoration "the Medal of Honor"for his actions in World War II.


Barfoot was born on June 15, 1919, in Edinburg, Mississippi. His grandmother was Choctaw, but Barfoot himself was not an official member of the Choctaw Nation; although he was eligible, his parents had never enrolled him.

After enlisting in the Army from Carthage, Mississippi, in 1940 and completing his training, Barfoot served with the 1st Infantry Division in Louisiana and Puerto Rico. In December 1941, he was promoted to sergeant and re-assigned to the Headquarters Amphibious Force Atlantic Fleet in Quantico, Virginia, where he served until the unit was deactivated in 1943. He next joined the 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division, and was shipped to Europe.

During the Italian Campaign Barfoot participated in a series of amphibious landings: the Allied invasion of Sicily in July 1943, the invasion of mainland Italy at Salerno in September, and finally the landings at Anzio in late January 1944. His unit pushed inland from Anzio, and by May 1944 had reached the town of Carano. They set up defensive positions and Barfoot conducted patrols to scout the German lines. When his company was ordered to attack on the morning of May 23, Barfoot, now a technical sergeant, asked for permission to lead a squad. Because of the patrols he had made, he knew the terrain and the minefield which lay in front of the German position. He advanced alone through the minefield, following ditches and depressions, until he came within a few yards of a machine gun on the German flank. After taking out the gun with a hand grenade, he entered the German trench and advanced on a second machine gun, killing two soldiers and capturing three others. When he reached a third gun, the entire crew surrendered to him. Others also surrendered and Barfoot captured a total of seventeen German soldiers and killed eight.

When the Germans launched an armored counterattack later in the day, Barfoot disabled one tank with a bazooka, then advanced into enemy-held territory and destroyed an abandoned German artillery piece. He returned to his own lines and helped two wounded soldiers from his squad to the rear.

Barfoot was subsequently commissioned as a second lieutenant. His division moved into France and by September was serving in the Rhone valley. Barfoot learned he would be awarded the Medal of Honor and chose to have the presentation ceremony in the field, so that his soldiers could attend. He was formally presented with the medal on September 28, 1944, in Йpinal, France, by Lieutenant General Alexander Patch.

Having grown up in the strictly segregated south, Barfoot was noted for a comment he made in 1945 regarding African-Americans. Mississippi senator and Ku Klux Klan member Theodore G. Bilbo asked Barfoot if he had much trouble with the African-American soldiers he had served with during the war. To Bilbo's embarrassment, Barfoot responded, "I found out after I did some fighting in this war that the colored boys fight just as good as the white boys...I've changed my idea a lot about colored people since I got into this war and so have a lot of other boys from the south".

Barfoot later served in the Korean War and the Vietnam War, and earned a Purple Heart. He reached the rank of colonel before retiring from the Army. In retirement he lived in Amelia County, Virginia and later, Henrico County, Virginia, near his daughter. On October 9, 2009, the portion of Mississippi Highway 16 which runs from Carthage through his hometown of Edinburg to the border between Leake and Neshoba counties was named the "Van T. Barfoot Medal of Honor Highway".

Medal of Honor citation

Second Lieutenant Barfoot's official Medal of Honor citation reads:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty on 23 May 1944, near Carano, Italy. With his platoon heavily engaged during an assault against forces well entrenched on commanding ground, 2d Lt. Barfoot (then Tech. Sgt.) moved off alone upon the enemy left flank. He crawled to the proximity of 1 machinegun nest and made a direct hit on it with a hand grenade, killing 2 and wounding 3 Germans. He continued along the German defense line to another machinegun emplacement, and with his Thompson Submachine gun killed 2 and captured 3 soldiers. Members of another enemy machinegun crew then abandoned their position and gave themselves up to Sgt. Barfoot. Leaving the prisoners for his support squad to pick up, he proceeded to mop up positions in the immediate area, capturing more prisoners and bringing his total count to 17. Later that day, after he had reorganized his men and consolidated the newly captured ground, the enemy launched a fierce armored counterattack directly at his platoon positions. Securing a bazooka, Sgt. Barfoot took up an exposed position directly in front of 3 advancing Mark V1 tanks. From a distance of 75 yards his first shot destroyed the track of the leading tank, effectively disabling it, while the other 2 changed direction toward the flank. As the crew of the disabled tank dismounted, Sgt. Barfoot killed 3 of them with his tommygun. He continued onward into enemy terrain and destroyed a recently abandoned German fieldpiece with a demolition charge placed in the breech. While returning to his platoon position, Sgt. Barfoot, though greatly fatigued by his Herculean efforts, assisted 2 of his seriously wounded men 1,700 yards to a position of safety. Sgt. Barfoot's extraordinary heroism, demonstration of magnificent valor, and aggressive determination in the face of pointblank fire are a perpetual inspiration to his fellow soldiers.

Flag controversy

In December 2009, the homeowners' association (HOA) of the Sussex Square, where Barfoot lived in Henrico County, Virginia, ordered him to remove the flagpole from which he flew the US flag. This news story first became public when Barfoot's son-in-law reported the story on local talk radio show, Elliot in the Morning. Fox News and several other national news networks picked up the story. The HOA retained Coates & Davenport to help enforce their order. The association's bylaws do not forbid flagpoles, but the HOA ruled Barfoot, then aged 90, would not be allowed to use it "for aesthetic reasons." Barfoot contested the order, and received support from politicians, including Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb, and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. The association dropped its request on December 8, 2009, ending the controversy.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Battle of Okinawa
The end of World War II

Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945, my 1st Marine Division invaded the island of Okinawa. It was the last Pacific island infected with Japanese soldiers before invading mainland Japan. 

Okinawa was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific War of World War II. The 82-day-long battle lasted from early April until mid-June 1945. After a long campaign of island hopping, the Allies were approaching Japan, and planned to use Okinawa, a large island only 340 miles away from mainland Japan, as a base for air operations on the planned invasion of Japanese mainland (coded Operation Downfall

Four divisions of the U.S. 10th Army (the 7th, 27th, 77th, and 96th) and two Marine Divisions (the 1st and 6th fought on the island. Their invasion was supported by naval, amphibious, and tactical air forces.
The battle has been referred to as the "typhoon of steel" in English, and tetsu no ame ("rain of steel") or tetsu no bofu ("violent wind of steel") in Japanese. The nicknames refer to the ferocity of the fighting, the intensity of kamikaze attacks from the Japanese defenders, and to the sheer numbers of Allied ships and armored vehicles that assaulted the island. The battle resulted in the highest number of casualties in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Based on Okinawan government sources, mainland Japan lost 77,166 soldiers, who were either killed or committed suicide, and the Allies suffered 14,009 deaths (with an estimated total of more than 65,000 casualties of all kinds). Simultaneously, 42,000-150,000 local civilians were killed or committed suicide, a significant proportion of the local population. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki caused Japan to surrender less than two months after the end of the fighting on Okinawa.

Although Allied land forces were entirely composed of U.S. units, the British Pacific Fleet (BPF; known to the U.S. Navy as Task Force 57) provided about ? of Allied naval air power (450 planes). It comprised a force which included 50 warships of which 17 were aircraft carriers, but while the British armored flight decks meant that fewer planes could be carried in a single aircraft carrier, they were more resistant to kamikaze strikes. Although all the aircraft carriers were provided by Britain, the carrier group was a combined British Commonwealth fleet with British, Canadian, New Zealand and Australian ships and personnel. Their mission was to neutralize Japanese airfields in the Sakishima Islands and provide air cover against Japanese kamikaze attacks. Most of the air-to-air fighters and the small dive bombers and strike aircraft were U.S. Navy carrier-based airplanes. The U.S. Navy sustained greater casualties in this operation than in any other battle of the war.


The Japanese land campaign (mainly defensive) was conducted by the 67,000-strong (77,000 according to some sources) regular 32nd Army and some 9,000 Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) troops at Oroku naval base (only a few hundred of whom had been trained and equipped for ground combat), supported by 39,000 drafted local Ryukyuan people (including 24,000 hastily drafted rear militia called Boeitai and 15,000 non-uniformed laborers). In addition, 1,500 middle school senior boys organized into front-line-service "Iron and Blood Volunteer Units", while 600 Himeyuri Students were organized into a nursing unit. The Japanese had used kamikaze tactics since the Battle of Leyte Gulf, but for the first time, they became a major part of the defense. Between the American landing on 1 April and 25 May, seven major kamikaze attacks were attempted, involving more than 1,500 planes.
The 32nd Army initially consisted of the 9th, 24th, and 62nd Divisions, and the 44th Independent Mixed Brigade. The 9th Division was moved to Taiwan prior to the invasion, resulting in shuffling of Japanese defensive plans. Primary resistance was to be led in the south by Lt. General Mitsuru Ushijima, his chief of staff, Lieutenant General Isamu Cho and his chief of operations, Colonel Hiromichi Yahara. Yahara advocated a defensive strategy, whilst Cho advocated an offensive one. In the north, Colonel Takehido Udo was in command. The IJN troops were led by Rear Admiral Minoru Ota. They expected the Americans to land 6?10 divisions against the Japanese garrison of two and a half divisions; the staff calculated that superior quality and numbers of weapons gave each U.S. division five or six times the firepower of a Japanese division; to this would be added the Americans' abundant naval and air firepower.

Naval battle

The United States Navy's Task Force 58, deployed to the east of Okinawa with a picket group of from 6 to 8 destroyers, kept 13 carriers (7 CV and 6 CVL) on duty from 23 March to 27 April and a smaller number thereafter. Until 27 April, from 14 to 18 converted carriers (CVE's) were in the area at all times, and until 20 April British Task Force 57, with 4 large and 6 escort carriers, remained off the Sakishima Islands to protect the southern flank. The protracted length of the campaign under stressful conditions forced Admiral Chester W. Nimitz to take the unprecedented step of relieving the principal naval commanders to rest and recuperate. Following the practice of changing the fleet designation with the change of commanders, U.S. naval forces began the campaign as the U.S. 5th Fleet under Adm. Raymond Spruance, but ended it as the 3rd Fleet under Adm. William Halsey.
Japanese air opposition had been relatively light during the first few days after the landings. However, on 6 April the expected air reaction began with an attack by 400 planes from Kyushu. Periodic heavy air attacks continued through April. During the period 26 March-30 April, 20 American ships were sunk and 157 damaged by enemy action. For their part, the Japanese had lost up to 30 April more than 1,100 planes in the battle to Allied naval forces alone. Between 6 April and 22 June, the Japanese flew 1,465 kamikaze aircraft in large-scale attacks from Kyushu, 185 individual kamikaze sorties from Kyushu, and 250 individual kamikaze sorties from Formosa. When U.S. intelligence estimated 89 planes on Formosa, the Japanese had approximately 700, dismantled or well camouflaged and dispersed into scattered villages and towns; the U.S. Fifth Air Force disputed Navy claims of kamikaze coming from Formosa. The ships lost were smaller vessels, particularly the destroyers of the radar pickets, as well as destroyer escorts and landing ships. While no major Allied warships were lost, several fleet carriers were severely damaged. Land-based motorboats were also used in the Japanese suicide attacks.

Operation Ten-Go

British Pacific Fleet

The British Pacific Fleet, taking part as Task Force 57, was assigned the task of neutralizing the Japanese airfields in the Sakishima Islands, which it did successfully from 26 March-10 April. On 10 April, its attention was shifted to airfields on northern Formosa. The force withdrew to San Pedro Bay on 23 April. On 1 May, the British Pacific Fleet returned to action, subduing the airfields as before, this time with naval bombardment as well as aircraft. Several kamikaze attacks caused significant damage, but since the British used armored flight decks on their aircraft carriers, they only experienced a brief interruption to their force's objective.

Land battle

The land battle took place over about 81 days beginning on 1 April 1945. The first Americans ashore were soldiers of the 77th Infantry Division, who landed in the Kerama Islands (Kerama Retto), 15 mi (24 km) west of Okinawa on 26 March. Subsidiary landings followed, and the Kerama group was secured over the next five days. In these preliminary operations, the 77th Infantry Division suffered 27 dead and 81 wounded, while Japanese dead and captured numbered over 650. The operation provided a protected anchorage for the fleet and eliminated the threat from suicide boats.
On 31 March, Marines of the Fleet Marine Force Amphibious Reconnaissance Battalion landed without opposition on Keise Shima, four islets just 8 mi (13 km) west of the Okinawan capital of Naha. 155 mm (6.1 in) "Long Tom"s went ashore on the islets to cover operations on Okinawa.

Northern Okinawa

The main landing was made by XXIV Corps and III Amphibious Corps on the Hagushi beaches on the western coast of Okinawa on L-Day, 1 April, which was both Easter Sunday and April Fools' Day in 1945. The 2nd Marine Division conducted a demonstration off the Minatoga beaches on the southeastern coast to confuse the Japanese about American intentions and delay movement of reserves from there.
The 10th Army swept across the south-central part of the island with relative ease by World War II standards, capturing the Kadena and the Yomitan airbases within hours of the landing. In light of the weak opposition, General Buckner decided to proceed immediately with Phase II of his plan the seizure of northern Okinawa. The 6th Marine Division headed up the Ishikawa Isthmus and by 7 April, had sealed off the Motobu Peninsula.
Six days later on 13 April, the 2nd Battalion, 22nd Marine Regiment reached Hedo Point (Hedo-misaki) at the northernmost tip of the island. By this point, the bulk of the Japanese forces in the north (codenamed Udo Force) was cornered on the Motobu Peninsula. Here, the terrain was mountainous and wooded, with the Japanese defenses concentrated on Yae-Take; a twisted mass of rocky ridges and ravines on the center of the peninsula. There was heavy fighting before the Marines finally cleared Yae-Take on 18 April.
Meanwhile, the 77th Infantry Division assaulted Ie Island (Ie Shima)?a small island off the western end of the peninsula?on 16 April. In addition to conventional hazards, the 77th Infantry Division encountered kamikaze attacks, and even local women armed with spears. There was heavy fighting before Ie was declared secured on 21 April and became another air base for operations against Japan.

Southern Okinawa

While the 6th Marine Division cleared northern Okinawa, the U.S. Army 96th Infantry division and 7th Infantry Division wheeled south across the narrow waist of Okinawa. The 96th Infantry Division began to encounter fierce resistance in west-central Okinawa from Japanese troops holding fortified positions east of Highway No. 1 and about 5 mi (8.0 km) northwest of Shuri, from what came to be known as Cactus Ridge. 
The 7th Infantry Division encountered similarly fierce Japanese opposition from a rocky pinnacle located about 1,000 yd (910 m) southwest of Arakachi (later dubbed "The Pinnacle"). By the night of 8 April, U.S. troops had cleared these and several other strongly fortified positions. They suffered over 1,500 battle casualties in the process, while killing or capturing about 4,500 Japanese, yet the battle had only just begun, for it was now realized they were merely outposts guarding the Shuri Line.
The next American objective was Kakazu Ridge, two hills with a connecting saddle that formed part of Shuri's outer defenses. The Japanese had prepared their positions well and fought tenaciously. The Japanese soldiers hid in fortified caves. The U.S. forces often lost men before clearing the Japanese out from each cave or other hiding place. The Japanese sent Okinawans at gunpoint out to acquire water and supplies for them, which led to civilian casualties. The American advance was inexorable but resulted in a high number of casualties on both sides.
As the American assault against Kakazu Ridge stalled, Gen. Ushijima, influenced by Gen. Cho, decided to take the offensive. On the evening of 12 April, the 32nd Army attacked U.S. positions across the entire front. The Japanese attack was heavy, sustained, and well organized. After fierce close combat the attackers retreated, only to repeat their offensive the following night. A final assault on 14 April was again repulsed. The effort led 32nd Army's staff to conclude that the Americans were vulnerable to night infiltration tactics, but that their superior firepower made any offensive Japanese troop concentrations extremely dangerous, and they reverted to their defensive strategy.
The 27th Infantry Division?which had landed on 9 April?took over on the right, along the west coast of Okinawa. General John R. Hodge now had three divisions in the line, with the 96th in the middle, and the 7th on the east, with each division holding a front of only about 1.5 mi (2.4 km). Hodge launched a new offensive of 19 April with a barrage of 324 guns, the largest ever in the Pacific Ocean Theater. Battleships, cruisers, and destroyers joined the bombardment, which was followed by 650 Navy and Marine planes attacking the enemy positions with napalm, rockets, bombs, and machine guns. The Japanese defenses were sited on reverse slopes, where the defenders waited out the artillery barrage and aerial attack in relative safety, emerging from the caves to rain mortar rounds and grenades upon the Americans advancing up the forward slope.
A tank assault to achieve breakthrough by outflanking Kakazu Ridge, failed to link up with its infantry support attempting to cross the ridge and failed with the loss of 22 tanks. 
Although flame tanks cleared many cave defenses, there was no breakthrough, and the XXIV Corps lost 720 men KIA, WIA and MIA. The losses might have been greater, except for the fact that the Japanese had practically all of their infantry reserves tied up farther south, held there by another feint off the Minatoga beaches by the 2nd Marine Division that coincided with the attack.
At the end of April, after the Army forces had pushed through the Machinato defensive line,[22] the 1st Marine Division relieved the 27th Infantry Division, and the 77th Infantry Division relieved the 7th. When the 6th Marine Division arrived, III Amphibious Corps took over the right flank and 10th Army assumed control of the battle.
On 4 May, the 32nd Army launched another counteroffensive. This time, Ushijima attempted to make amphibious assaults on the coasts behind American lines. To support his offensive, the Japanese artillery moved into the open. By doing so, they were able to fire 13,000 rounds in support but an effective U.S. counter-battery fire destroyed dozens of Japanese artillery pieces. The attack failed.
Buckner launched another American attack on 11 May. Ten days of fierce fighting followed. On 13 May, troops of the 96th Infantry Division and 763rd Tank Battalion captured Conical Hill. Rising 476 ft (145 m) above the Yonabaru coastal plain, this feature was the eastern anchor of the main Japanese defenses and was defended by about 1,000 Japanese. Meanwhile, on the opposite coast, the 1st and 6th Marine Divisions fought for "Sugar Loaf Hill". The capture of these two key positions exposed the Japanese around Shuri on both sides. Buckner hoped to envelop Shuri and trap the main Japanese defending force.
By the end of May, monsoon rains which turned contested hills and roads into a morass exacerbated both the tactical and medical situations. The ground advance began to resemble a World War I battlefield as troops became mired in mud and flooded roads greatly inhibited evacuation of wounded to the rear. Troops lived on a field sodden by rain, part garbage dump and part graveyard. Unburied Japanese and American bodies decayed, sank in the mud, and became part of a noxious stew. Anyone sliding down the greasy slopes could easily find their pockets full of maggots at the end of the journey.
On 29 May, Maj. Gen. Pedro del Valle, commanding the 1st Marine Division, ordered Company A, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines to capture Shuri Castle. Seizure of the castle represented both strategic and psychological blows for the Japanese and was a milestone in the campaign. Del Valle was awarded a Distinguished Service Medal for his leadership in the fight and the subsequent occupation and reorganization of Okinawa. Shuri Castle had been shelled by the battleship USS Mississippiifor three days before this advance. Due to this, the 32nd Army withdrew to the south and thus the marines had an easy task of securing Shuri Castle. The castle, however, was outside the 1st Marine Division's assigned zone and only frantic efforts by the commander and staff of the 77th Infantry Division prevented an American air strike and artillery bombardment which would have resulted in many casualties due to friendly fire.
The Japanese retreat, although harassed by artillery fire, was conducted with great skill at night and aided by the monsoon storms. The 32nd Army was able to move nearly 30,000 men into its last defense line on the Kiyan Peninsula, which ultimately led to the greatest slaughter on Okinawa in the latter stages of the battle, including the deaths of thousands of civilians. In addition, there were 9,000 IJN troops supported by 1,100 militia, with approximately 4,000 holed up at the underground headquarters on the hillside overlooking the Okinawa Naval Base in the Oroku Peninsula, east of the airfield. On June 4, elements of the 6th Marine Division launched an amphibious assault on the peninsula. The 4,000 Japanese sailors? including Admiral Minoru Ota - all committed suicide within the hand-built tunnels of the underground Naval headquarters on 13 June. By 17 June, the remnants of Ushijima's shattered 32nd Army were pushed into a small pocket in the far south of the island to the southeast of Itoman. On 18 June, Gen. Buckner was killed by enemy artillery fire while monitoring the forward progress of his troops. Buckner was replaced by Roy Geiger. Upon assuming command, Geiger became the only U.S. Marine to command a numbered army of the U.S. Army in combat; he was relieved five days later by Joseph Stilwell.
The last remnants of Japanese resistance fell on 21 June, although some Japanese continued hiding, including the future governor of Okinawa Prefecture, Masahide Ota. Ushijima and Cho committed suicide by seppukuuin their command headquarters on Hill 89 in the closing hours of the battle. Col. Yahara had asked Ushijima for permission to commit suicide, but the general refused his request, saying: "If you die there will be no one left who knows the truth about the battle of Okinawa. Bear the temporary shame but endure it. This is an order from your army Commander." Yahara was the most senior officer to have survived the battle on the island, and he later authored a book titled The Battle for Okinawa.


Okinawa was the bloodiest battle of the Pacific War. The most complete tally of deaths during the Battle are at the Cornerstone of Peace monument at the Okinawa Prefecture Peace Park identifies the names of each individual who died at Okinawa due to World War II. As of 2010, the monument lists 240,931 names, including 149,193 Okinawan civilians, 77,166 Imperial Japanese soldiers, 14,009 U.S. soldiers, and smaller numbers of people from South Korea (365), the UK (82), North Korea (82) and Taiwan (34). The numbers correspond to recorded deaths during the Battle of Okinawa from the time of the U.S. landings in the Kerama Islands on 26 March 1945 to the signing of the Japanese surrender on 2 September 1945, in addition to all Okinawan casualties in the Pacific War in the fifteen years from the Manchurian Incident, along with those who died in Okinawa from war-related events in the year before the battle and the year after the surrender. 234,183 names were inscribed by the time of unveiling and new names are added each year. Thirty thousand of the Okinawan civilians killed had been drafted or impressed by the Japanese army and are often counted as combat deaths.

Military losses

U.S. losses

U.S. manpower losses amounted to over 82,000 casualties, including non-battle casualties (psychiatric, injuries, illnesses) of whom over 12,500 were killed or missing. Battle deaths were 4,907 Navy, 4,675 Army, and 2,938 Marine Corps personnel. Several thousand servicemen who died indirectly (from wounds and other causes) at a later date are not included in the total. One of the most famous U.S. casualties was the war correspondent Ernie Pyle, who was killed by Japanese sniper fire on Ie Island (Ie Shima, a small island just off of northwestern Okinawa). Lt. Gen. Buckner's decision to attack the Japanese defenses head-on, although extremely costly in U.S. lives, was ultimately successful. Just four days from the closing of the campaign, Buckner was killed by Japanese artillery fire, which blew lethal slivers of coral into his body, while inspecting his troops at the front line. He was the highest-ranking U.S. officer to be killed by enemy fire during the war. The day after Buckner was killed, Brig. Gen. Claudius Miller Easley was killed by machine gun fire.
Aircraft losses over the three-month period were 768 U.S. planes, including those bombing the Kyushu airfields launching kamikazes. Combat losses were 458, and the other 310 were operational accidents. On land, the U.S. forces lost at least 225 tanks and many LVTs. At sea, 368 Allied ships?including 120 amphibious craft?were damaged while another 28, including 15 amphibious ships and 12 destroyers, were sunk during the Okinawa campaign. The U.S. Navy's dead exceeded its wounded with 4,907 killed and 4,874 wounded, primarily from kamikaze attacks.
The U.S. personnel casualties included thousands of cases of mental breakdown. According to the account of the battle presented in Marine Corps Gazette.

More mental health issues arose from the Battle of Okinawa than any other battle in the Pacific during World War II. The constant bombardment from artillery and mortars coupled with the high casualty rates led to a great deal of men coming down with combat fatigue. Additionally the rains caused mud that prevented tanks from moving and tracks from pulling out the dead, forcing Marines (who pride themselves on burying their dead in a proper and honorable manner) to leave their comrades where they lay. This, coupled with thousands of bodies both friend and foe littering the entire island, created a scent you could nearly taste. Morale was dangerously low by the month of May and the state of discipline on a moral basis had a new low barometer for acceptable behavior. The ruthless atrocities by the Japanese throughout the war had already brought on an altered behavior (deemed so by traditional standards) by many Americans resulting in the desecration of Japanese remains, but the Japanese tactic of using the Okinawan people as human shields brought about a new aspect of terror and torment to the psychological capacity of the Americans.

Japanese losses

The U.S. military estimates that 110,071 Japanese soldiers were killed during the battle. This total includes an unknown number of impressed Okinawan civilians who were killed during the battle.
7,401 soldiers surrendered or were captured during the battle. Additional Japanese were captured or surrendered over the next few months raising the total to 16,346. This was the first battle in the Pacific War in which thousands of Japanese soldiers surrendered or were captured. Many of the prisoners were native Okinawans who had been pressed into service shortly before the battle and were less imbued with the Imperial Japanese Army's no-surrender doctrine. When the American forces occupied the island, many Japanese soldiers put on Okinawan clothing to avoid capture and some Okinawans would come to the Americans' aid by offering to detect the mainland Japanese in hiding.
The Japanese lost 16 combat vessels, including the super battleship Yamato. Japanese aircraft losses were 7,830, including 2,655 to operational accidents. Navy and Marine Corps fighters downed 3,047, while shipboard anti-aircraft fire felled 409, and the B-29s destroyed 558 on the ground. The Allies destroyed 27 Japanese tanks and 743 artillery pieces (including mortars, anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns), some of them eliminated by the naval and air bombardments but most of them knocked-out by American counter-battery fire.

Civilian losses, suicides and atrocities

Some islands that saw major battles, such as Iwo Jima, were uninhabited or previously evacuated. Okinawa, by contrast, had a large indigenous civilian population; U.S. Army records from the planning phase of the operation make the assumption that Okinawa was home to about 300,000 civilians. According to various estimates, between one tenth and one third of them died during the battle, or between 42,000 and 150,000 dead. Okinawa Prefecture's estimate is over 100,000 losses, while the official U.S. Army count for the 82-day campaign is a total of 142,058 civilian casualties, including those killed by artillery fire, air attacks and those who had been pressed into service by the Imperial Japanese Army. During the battle, U.S. soldiers found it difficult to distinguish civilians from soldiers. It became routine for U.S. soldiers to shoot at Okinawan houses, as one infantryman wrote, "There was some return fire from a few of the houses, but the others were probably occupied by civilians and we didn't care. It was a terrible thing not to distinguish between the enemy and women and children. Americans always had great compassion, especially for children. Now we fired indiscriminately." Since many Okinawan residents fled to caves where they subsequently were entombed, the precise number of civilian casualties will probably never be known.
In its history of the war, the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum presents Okinawa as being caught between in the fighting between the United States and the Empire of Japan. During the 1945 battle, the Japanese Army showed indifference to Okinawans' safety, and its soldiers even used civilians as human shields against the Americans, or just outright murdered them. Japanese military confiscated food from the Okinawans and executed those who hid it, leading to a mass starvation among the population, and forced civilians out of their shelters. Japanese soldiers also killed about 1,000 people who spoke in the Okinawan language in order to suppress spying. The museum writes that "some were blown apart by [artillery] shells, some finding themselves in a hopeless situation were driven to suicide, some died of starvation, some succumbed to malaria, while others fell victim to the retreating Japanese troops."
With the impending victory of American troops, civilians often committed mass suicide, urged on by the Japanese soldiers who told locals that victorious American soldiers would go on a rampage of killing and raping. Ryukyu Shimpo  one of the two major Okinawan newspapers, wrote in 2007: "There are many Okinawans who have testified that the Japanese Army directed them to commit suicide. There are also people who have testified that they were handed grenades by Japanese soldiers" to blow themselves up. Thousands of the civilians, having been induced by Japanese propaganda to believe that U.S. soldiers were barbarians committing horrible atrocities, killed their families and themselves to avoid capture. Some of them threw themselves and their family members from the southern cliffs where the Peace Museum now resides. However, having been told by the Japanese military that they would suffer terribly at the hands of the arriving Americans if they allowed themselves to be taken alive, Okinawans "were often surprised at the comparatively humane treatment they received from the American enemy." Islands of Discontent: Okinawan Responses to Japanese and American Power by Mark Selden, notes that the Americans "did not pursue a policy of torture, rape, and murder of civilians as Japanese military officials had warned." U.S. Military Intelligence Corps combat translators such as Teruto Tsubota managed to convince many civilians not to kill themselves. Survivors of the mass suicides blamed also the indoctrination of their education system of the time, when the Okinawans were taught to become "more Japanese than the Japanese," and expected to prove it.
Witnesses and historians reported that soldiers on both sides had raped Okinawan women during the battle. Rape by Japanese troops "became common" in June, after it became clear that the Japanese Army had been defeated. Marine Corps officials in Okinawa and Washington have said that they knew of no rapes by American servicemen in Okinawa at the end of the war. The New York Times, however, reported on the 1945 alleged incident in the village of Katsuyama, where civilians said they had formed a vigilante group to ambush and kill three black American soldiers whom they claimed would frequently rape the local girls there.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Zackery Penner
US Navy Corpsman (Medic)
Awarded Silver Star

HM3 Zackery Penner, a Navy corpsman, presently stationed at the Pensacola Naval Hospital Pensacola, was awarded the Silver Star for his heroic actions on June 22 and 23, 2012, while serving with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marines in Afghanistan. For his actions on those two days, Penner was awarded the Silver Star, the third highest military decoration for valor, on March 19, 2014 at a ceremony in Pensacola, Florida. There are only two awards higher - the Navy Cross and the Medal of Honor.

On June 22, 2012, with approximately 30 days left in country, Penner’s platoon encountered Afghan insurgents on the first day of a seven-day operation, and a Marine was severely wounded on a nearby rooftop. Without hesitation, Penner ran to the Marine while exposing himself to enemy fire that was only 50 meters away. 

With rounds impacting all around him, he treated and evacuated the Marine. Though the Marine did not survive from the wounds he sustained, Penner’s actions reflected the relationship and camaraderie shared between Marines and corpsmen. 

“Marines love their corpsmen, and I love being with Marines,” said Penner, who enlisted in the Navy immediately after graduating high school in Sacramento, Calif. “I wanted to be a corpsman because I wanted to help Marines.”

Penner got to help a Marine again the very next day. 

While on a partnered patrol with Afghan soldiers, insurgents attacked his squad with machine guns and precision fire weapons. 

When two members of the patrol sustained injuries, a Marine and an Afghan soldier, Penner ran more than 100 meters through enemy fire to reach the casualties and quickly established a casualty collection point behind a wall. When the squad began receiving enemy fire from the rear, Penner shielded the casualties from enemy fire with his own body until the evacuation aircraft arrived. Both casualties would ultimately not survive, but Penner again sustained no injuries despite putting himself in harm’s way. 

“It never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t be hurt,” said Penner. “It’s actually hard to remember the events of those two days in detail now because I just reacted.”

The relationship between Marines and their corpsmen was further demonstrated as a large number of Marines attended the ceremony including Maj. Gen. Raymond Fox, commanding general, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

“The relationship the Marine Corps has had with corpsmen for a long time is what saves a lot of Marines,  and [Marines] cherish that relationship incredibly,” said Fox. “Every one of us should aspire to do what he did when called upon.” 

After returning from Afghanistan, Penner received orders to Navy Hospital Pensacola where he currently works in the emergency department. Initially, Penner planned on fulfilling his current enlistment and then leaving the Navy, but being stateside has given him a new perspective.

“The stress of working in the emergency room does not compare to the stress of combat,” said Penner. “Being stationed at a hospital stateside is a lot calmer.”

Penner is currently taking college classes and is now planning on continuing his career in the Navy. He is considering the Medical Enlisted Commissioning Program and hopes to eventually receive orders to a naval hospital in California to be closer to his family.

When asked about how he felt about receiving the Silver Star, Penner replied, “It’s humbling. I was in the right place at the wrong time, but any of the Marines would have done the same thing.”

NOAH'S NOTE: The United States Marine Corps is loaded with The Few, The Proud, but we have no medical services. However, we have no need for medical doctors and Corpsmen since we have the best attached to us from the United States Navy. Over the years, the doctors  and corpsmen have saved lives of many Marines on the battlefields. When the fighting got tough, it was common to hear Marines calling for a corpsman. They always come even through a line of gun fire to reach the wounded Marine. I remember during World War II, corpsmen were not allowed to be armed with a weapon and required to wear their helmet with a red cross painted on them. That became a perfect target for the Japs. The Marines are blessed to have a corpsman attached to every combat platoon and thanks to the Marines, they can fight on the battlefield like Marines. They do get Marine training when the Navy assigns them to the Marine Corps. The corpsmen are authorized to wear the Marine uniform while they are attached. Most, if not all, dress in Marine clothing.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Kurt Chew-Een Lee

First United States Marine Corps
officer of Chinese descent
Major Kurt Chew-Een Lee (Chinese) <> January 21, 1926 - March 3, 2014) was the first U.S. Marine Corps officer of Chinese descent. Lee earned the Navy Cross under fire in Korea in September 1950, serving in the 1st Battalion 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division

Lee and his younger brothers Chew-Fan Lee and Chew-Mon Lee all earned bravery medals in the Korean War.

Early life

Chew-Een Lee was born in 1926 in San Francisco and grew up in Sacramento, California. Lee's father was M. Young Lee, born in Guangzhou (Canton), emigrating in the 1920s to the Territory of Hawaii and then California. Once established in America, M. Young Lee returned to China to honor an arranged marriage. He brought his bride to California and worked as a distributor of farm produce to hotels and restaurants. Lee's brother Chew-Fan Lee was born in 1927 in Sacramento. In 1928, a third son was born to the family: Chew-Mon Lee. The Lee family included three daughters: Faustina, Betty and Juliet.

Military career

World War II

At the time of the Attack on Pearl Harbor, Chew-Een Lee was a high school student going by the nickname "Kurt", associated with the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (Junior ROTC). In 1944 when he was an 18-year-old student of mining engineering, Lee joined the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC). Small for a recruit, Lee was about 5 feet 6 inches (1.68 m) tall, and around 130 pounds (59 kg), but he was wiry and muscular. At the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Lee was assigned the task of learning the Japanese language. At graduation, he was retained as the language class instructor, a decision that disappointed Lee because he wanted to ship out and fight in the war. He earned the rank of sergeant and had just been accepted to officer training class when World War II ended.

From October 1945 to April 1946, Lee was enrolled in The Basic School, newly reactivated for USMC officer training. Second Lieutenant Lee graduated to become the first non-white officer and the first Asian-American officer in the Marine Corps. He deployed to Guam and China to interrogate Japanese prisoners of war.

Korean War

At the start of the Korean War, First Lieutenant Lee was in command of the 1st Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment training at Camp Pendleton under Colonel Homer Litzenberg. Soon, his unit received notice that it would ship out for the war zone at the beginning of September. Lee wanted to set a strong example of a fighting Chinese American. He said he "wanted to dispel the notion about the Chinese being meek and obsequious." He did not expect to survive the war, and intended his death to "be honorable, be spectacular".

Lee's brother Chew-Mon Lee had by this time joined the U.S. Army and was also training for Korea. Lee described the difficulty of leaving home as the family's first-born son:
I came from a family of limited means. My father, whose Chinese name was Brilliant Scholar, distributed fruit and vegetables to restaurants and hotels in Sacramento. He stayed home from work that morning, and my mother, whose Chinese name was Gold Jade, made a special meal. There was an awkward moment when the clock on the wall said it was time to depart. My mother was very brave. She said nothing. My father had been reading the Chinese newspaper, or pretending to. He was a tough guy, my father, and I admired his toughness. He rose from his chair and shook my hand abruptly. He tried to talk, but couldn't, and that's when my mother broke down.

Battle of Inchon

Lee's unit shipped out on September 1, 1950. For two weeks he drilled his men day and night on the deck of the ship, enduring derision from the other platoon leaders. After arriving in Japan for final battle preparations, Lee's superiors tried to reassign him as staff officer handling translation duties. Lee insisted that he was only there to "fight communists", and was allowed to retain command of his platoon.

The 1st Battalion 7th Marines, including Lee, landed at Inchon on September 21, 1950, to attack the North Koreans and force them to retreat northwards. The People's Republic of China sent troops to stiffen the North Korean fighting response. On the night of November 2?3 in the Sudong Gorge, Lee's unit was attacked by Chinese forces. Lee kept his men focused by directing them to shoot at the enemy's muzzle flashes. Following this, Lee single-handedly advanced upon the enemy front and attacked their positions one by one to draw their fire and reveal themselves. His men fired at the muzzle flashes and inflicted casualties, forcing the enemy to retreat. While advancing, Lee shouted to the enemy in Mandarin Chinese to sow confusion and then attacked with hand grenades and gunfire. Lee was wounded in the knee and in the morning light was shot in the right elbow by a sniper, shattering the bones. He was evacuated to a MASH unit (an army field hospital) outside of Hamhung. For bravely attacking the enemy and saving his men, Lee was awarded the Navy Cross, the second highest honor given for combat bravery.

Lee was under hospital care for five days when he learned he was to be sent to Japan for recuperation. Unauthorized, he and another wounded marine took an army jeep and drove it back to his unit, walking the last 10 miles (16 km) when the jeep ran out of gas. He was assigned to command the 2nd Rifle Platoon whose officer had been wounded. Lee exercised his platoon in combat maneuvers while his arm was in a sling. This extra training helped his platoon take a leading role in heavy fighting a month later.

Some time in mid-November 1950, Lee met up with his brother U.S. Army First Lieutenant Chew-Mon Lee at a Marine field headquarters. Both men had been wounded and were resting up before further battle. The Sacramento Bee  published a photograph and a brief report of the meeting. Chew-Mon Lee addressed his brother respectfully as daigo, meaning "elder brother", and gave him a gift of army-issue 30-round "banana" clip magazines which could be taped together to supply 60 rounds of carbine ammunition before reloading. This was regarded as superior to the USMC regulation 15-round clips then in service. A week or two later, on November 30, 1950, Chew-Mon Lee performed heroically in battle, earning the Distinguished Service Cross.

Battle of Chosin Reservoir

Late on December 2 after several days of exhausting combat during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, Lee's platoon was given the task of spearheading a 500-man thrust against the Chinese forces in an effort to relieve the outnumbered Fox Company of 2nd Battalion 7th Marines trapped on Fox Hill, part of Toktong Pass and strategic to controlling the Chosin Reservoir road. Lee's relief force was given heavier loads to carry through the snow, up and down lightly wooded hills, through extreme cold (-20 °F, -29 °C), and under the very limited visibility of snow blizzard and darkness. Lieutenant Colonel Ray Davis, commanding officer of 1st Battalion, had no instructions for Lieutenant Lee on how to accomplish the mission except to stay off the roads with their heavily reinforced roadblocks. As point man of 2nd Rifle Platoon in Baker Company, Lee used only his compass to guide his way, leading 1st Battalion in single file. Suddenly pinned down by heavy enemy fire coming from a rocky hill, Lee refused to be delayed in his mission. He directed the men to attack the hill with "marching fire", a stratagem used by General George S. Patton in which troops continue to advance as they apply just enough suppressive fire to keep the enemy's heads down. Upon reaching the rocky hill, Lee and the battalion charged, attacking enemy soldiers in their foxholes. Lee, with his right arm still in a cast, shot two enemy soldiers on his way to the top. When he reached the top, he noticed that the other side of the hill was covered with enemy foxholes facing the other way in expectation of an attack from the road, but the foxholes were now empty and the enemy soldiers were over 400 yards (370 m) away in rout because of the fearfully sudden 1st Battalion attack from their rear.

Following this success, communication was established with nearby Fox Company on Fox Hill. 1st Battalion directed mortar fire against the enemy and called in an airstrike, then Lee led Baker Company forward in an attack which forced a path to Fox Company. During this attack Lee took a bullet to the upper part of his right arm, above the cast on his elbow. Regrouping his men, Lee led Baker Company in more firefights against pockets of enemy soldiers in the Toktong Pass area, securing the road. On December 8, 1950, a Chinese machine gunner targeted Lee, wounding him seriously enough to end his Korean War service. Lieutenant Colonel Davis received the Medal of Honor for commanding the relief of Fox Company. Lee was awarded the Silver Star.

Throughout Lee's time in Korea, his brother Chew-Fan Lee was a student at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Pharmacy. Upon graduating in 1951, Chew-Fan Lee joined the Medical Service Corps (United States Army) at the rank of lieutenant, despite being a pacifist. In Korea, he performed bravely in action and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal.

Vietnam War

Lee served at The Basic School from 1962 to 1965, beginning as commanding officer of the Enlisted Instructor Company at the rank of captain. He earned the rank of major on January 1, 1963, at which time he was made chief of the Platoon Tactics Instruction Group. In his 27 months at this position he trained future Generals Charles "Chuck" Krulak and John "Jack" Sheehan. Lee served overseas in Vietnam during 1965-1966 as Division Combat Intelligence Officer for 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Amphibious Force. He organized a division-level translation team for quickly processing foreign language documents captured by marine field units.

Later life and death

Lee retired from military service at the rank of major in 1968 and worked a civilian job with New York Life Insurance Company for seven years. During this period, Lee's mother died in Sacramento, and Lee's brother Chew-Mon Lee died at the rank of colonel during army service in Taiwan. His brother Chew-Fan Lee advanced in his career as hospital pharmacist. In 1975, Lee began working as a regulatory compliance coordinator for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association; a position he held for almost two decades. Lee was married twice, producing no children. He had a step-daughter from his second marriage. Lee retired from his civilian career, living near Washington, D.C. in Arlington, Virginia.

Lee died on March 3, 2014 at the age of 88.


The vigorous fighting spirit that Lee gave to his USMC company resulted in it being allowed to keep the name "Baker Company" even after the U.S. military switched in 1956 from the Joint Army/Navy Phonetic Alphabet (B for Baker) to the NATO phonetic alphabet (B for Bravo)  In a 2002 speech about the Chosin Reservoir battle, General Ray Davis said that Lee was the bravest Marine he ever knew.

In 2000, the California Military Museum mounted an exhibit describing the bravery and military service of the three Lee brothers. Lee is a member of the Legion of Valor, and represented the group in a meeting with President George W. Bush in 2007.

The story of Lee's bravery in the Korean War was the subject of a documentary produced by the Smithsonian Channel. The documentary, titled Uncommon Courage: Breakout at Chosin, was broadcast on Memorial Day, May 31, 2010. David Royle of the Smithsonian Channel said that the filmmakers interviewed a number of veterans who served alongside Lee, many of whom believed that "he should have been awarded the Medal of Honor." Joe Owen was one of the marines fighting under Lee's leadership, and he told Smithsonian Channel documentarians that if it had not been for the death of Lee's company commander soon after the November 2?3 action, Lee would have been properly nominated for the Medal of Honor, the highest military honor of the United States.

Lee gave his final film interview for the Korean War documentary "Finnigan's War", directed by Conor Timmis.

Early in his career, Lee's superior officers criticized him for his aggressive chip-on-shoulder attitude. Lee maintained the pugnacious stance throughout his life. Lee responded to critics by saying that the chip is "my teaching tool to dispel ignorance."


Lee received decorations for bravery and service in the Korean War and in Vietnam. In addition to the Navy Cross, he also received the Silver Star and the Navy Marine Corps Commendation Ribbon with "V" Device (for valor in combat).

Navy Cross Silver Star Purple Heart w/ 1 award star

Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal w/ valor device Combat Action Ribbon US Navy Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon

Navy Unit Commendation Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal China Service Medal

American Campaign Medal World War II Victory Medal Navy Occupation Service Medal

National Defense Service Medal w/ 1 service star Korean Service Medal with 2 bronze service stars Vietnam Service Medal with 2 bronze service stars

United Nations Service Medal for Korea Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation Vietnam Campaign Medal

Monday, March 10, 2014

Who Was St. Patrick?

St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is one of Christianity's most widely known figures. But for all his celebrity, his life remains somewhat of a mystery. Many of the stories traditionally associated with St. Patrick, including the famous account of his banishing all the snakes from Ireland, are false, the products of hundreds of years of exaggerated storytelling.

It is known that St. Patrick was born in Britain to wealthy parents near the end of the fourth century. He is believed to have died on March 17, around 460 A.D. Although his father was a Christian deacon, it has been suggested that he probably took on the role because of tax incentives and there is no evidence that Patrick came from a particularly religious family. At the age of 16, Patrick was taken prisoner by a group of Irish raiders who were attacking his family's estate. They transported him to Ireland where he spent six years in captivity. (There is some dispute over where this captivity took place. Although many believe he was taken to live in Mount Slemish in County Antrim, it is more likely that he was held in County Mayo near Killala.) During this time, he worked as a shepherd, outdoors and away from people. Lonely and afraid, he turned to his religion for solace, becoming a devout Christian. (It is also believed that Patrick first began to dream of converting the Irish people to Christianity during his captivity.)
After more than six years as a prisoner, Patrick escaped. According to his writing, a voice, which he believed to be God's spoke to him in a dream, telling him it was time to leave Ireland.

To do so, Patrick walked nearly 200 miles from County Mayo, where it is believed he was held, to the Irish coast. After escaping to Britain, Patrick reported that he experienced a second revelation - an angel in a dream tells him to return to Ireland as a missionary. Soon after, Patrick began religious training, a course of study that lasted more than 15 years. After his ordination as a priest, he was sent to Ireland with a dual mission: to minister to Christians already living in Ireland and to begin to convert the Irish. (Interestingly, this mission contradicts the widely held notion that Patrick introduced Christianity to Ireland.)