By Barb Hauge
by Barb Hauge
The Havre Daily News
Tuesday, May 11
It was Easter Sunday, 1944, when I took a bus to Medford, Ore., where my husband was stationed. All the way young servicemen were singing and whistling popular tunes: Dont Sweetheart Me If You Dont Mean It and Have I Stayed Away Too Long? We went into each others arms like magnets drawn together; the world dropped away and time stood still. For us it was like a time of great happiness before he was killed in battle.
I had quit my job to spend the next three months traveling from Seattle to San Diego and back while Frank took invasion training with the 96th Infantry Division on the west coast. Armies of wives and children would meet their men at every port with a joyous welcome; far different from the murderous barrage they would get from the enemy on all those islands and continents liberated by Allied servicemen. Women and children were questioned as to whether this was essential travel. For many it was the last time ever spent with husbands and fathers. Yes, it was essential travel because when men are killed in battle there is no resurrection, no joyful reunion ever again.
Invasion training itself took a heavy toll on the lives of men. Average IQ of the original 96th Infantry Division was so low that military regulations prohibited them from shipping overseas. To overcome this, military brass transferred thousands of men with high IQs from army specialized training program into the 96th Division. Thats when my husband joined the outfit. He told me, If we win this war, it will be a miracle because the old 96th Division officers give such stupid commands. On one practice landing, when seas were heavy, every man who went over the side was being dashed against the ship and injured or killed. Finally a superior officer appeared and told the one on deck to either stop or he would be the next man overboard.
Easter Sunday, 1945 (Military Code name: Love Day) 50,000 Americans aboard transports were headed for death on Okinawa in the last horrible battle of World War II. Prior to the invasion, 1,500 Allied vessels had assembled at Mog Island. With thousands of men psyched up for combat, the military, in its infinite wisdom, decided to give them sports equipment with lots of baseball bats and all the beer they could drink. It turned into a riot and the 96th Division landed on Okinawa woefully under combat strength. The happy punishment for rioters was to deprive them from going into the even more deadly combat of war.
Landing on most of the Okinawa beaches would have been suicidal, so they went in from beaches on the East China Sea. The supply problem was complicated by the fact that General MacArthurs forces were engaged in the Battle for Luzon in the Philippines and appeared to have a supply priority.
Holy Week ended Saturday, March 31, with the fleet anchored off western Okinawa and on Sunday, April 1, the strange and terrible Easter Parade began. None of the men had heard about that secret weapon, the atomic bomb, being developed at Los Alamos. They knew invasion of Japan itself lie ahead, which would cost a million more lives and that the Japanese were prepared to sacrifice every available man to prevent the liberation of Okinawa.
After all that, we GAVE Okinawa back to Japan!