4:36 | It was late night guard duty and Herman Buffington heard something. Then he saw a figure crouched in the brush. When the next flare went up, he sighted and fired. The figure didn't move so he shot him again. When he found out why there was no reaction, all he could do was laugh. He did get a souvenir out of the encounter, a silk Japanese flag.
Keywords : Herman Buffington Okinawa Japanese flag flare souvenir Rear Echelon
The training for Herman Buffington was centered around invasion assaults and he made many landings on the West Coast to prepare for the trials ahead. He shipped out for the Pacific just in time to take part in mop-up operations on Saipan.
Herman Buffington continued his training on Saipan, learning to coordinate with larger forces on amphibious invasions. There weren't many Japanese left, but some of the stragglers would sneak down out of the hills to watch, from a distance, the movies the Americans screened at night in the open air.
Herman Buffington explains how it's more difficult than it sounds to get from the rope ladder on a troop transport into the Higgins Boat waiting at the bottom. When they stormed ashore at Okinawa, there was no opposition at first, but that would soon change, especially the snipers. The Americans learned to judge how close the shot was by the sound of the bullets that missed them. If they got closer, you had to make some decisions.
Herman Buffington was First Scout, which meant he was alone and under fire often. He was always hoping the others would catch up and spread the fire around a little. The Japanese snipers were good shots, and way too many had survived the merciless shelling from the Navy's big guns. He was also the company Runner, a storied position in the Army.
Herman Buffington was hunkered down in his foxhole on Okinawa when a mortar round hit close by and a piece of red hot shrapnel tore through his leg. It sounded like bacon frying, but a medic got the bleeding stopped and he was going to be OK. He refused the morphine because he was already exhausted and didn't want anyone else to tend to his tourniquet.
They were about eight in number and they came in with a white flag. Suddenly they all dropped to the ground and began firing machine guns they had hidden on their backs. Herman Buffington recalls the incident on Okinawa when some desperate Japanese holdouts unveiled this suicide tactic. Known for not surrendering, many of them changed their minds when all hope was over and they massed on the beach and waited for the Americans.
They were trying to take a ridge on Okinawa where the Japanese had dug trenches and the persistent Americans tried repeatedly to take the position. Herman Buffington got close enough to vault over into a trench where he used the old helmet-on-a-bayonet trick to judge the enemy fire. He received the Bronze Star for his actions in this firefight.
Herman Buffington pays tribute to one of his Sergeants on Okinawa, William B. "Willie B" Holeman, who was known for not sending his men anywhere he wouldn't go. Willie B was trapped on a small hill and surrounded by the enemy when Buffington took a group of volunteers to get him and his men out of there.
Herman Buffington was taking some potshots at Japanese troops on the other side of a large ravine where they were foolishly cooking their rice out in the open. When an officer came by and asked how he was doing, he remarked that he was trying to mix a little lead with the rice. The man asked for the rifle so he could give it a try and he proved to be an excellent shot. Buffington could smell the brass and he was right. It was General Simon Buckner.
With many others, Herman Buffington was preparing for the dreaded Japan invasion when the atomic bomb ended the war. That was great news for him, just back with his unit. He had been in the hospital recovering from a shrapnel wound when a red haired lady from the Red Cross caught his eye. This was going to be trouble, he thought.
Herman Buffington recalls two peculiar incidents from his time in the Philippines after the war. One involved several hundred new Jeeps headed for the bottom of the ocean. The other involved a thankless assignment as a lifeguard.
The man had been shot up pretty bad, remembers Herman Buffington, who carried him back to the camp. All the way the wounded soldier had pleaded with him to leave him there, but once safe in a foxhole, he wouldn't let go of Buffington's hand, even when the medics prepared to evacuate him.
Herman Buffington displays his Bronze Star and Purple Heart, along with the rest of his decorations from Saipan and Okinawa. He pays tribute to today's soldiers and explains how he never understood the importance of what he was doing in combat.
When he got to postwar Tokyo, the old hands told him he had it made. It was an office job for General MacArthur. They were set up in a building with all amenities and Leonard Smith thought that, for an eighteen year old, he was doing pretty well. All he had to do was follow the General's simple rules. When he found out what he could do with his cigarettes, he quit smoking.
After an injury sustained in battle, Clifford Wilford found himself in the hospital out for a few days. The feeling of losing long periods of time due to sustained medical absence can leave you disoriented upon return. After his return, his company set out to capture Frankfurt, Germany.
After his call up, Jim Bard wound up at Fort McClellan for infantry basic training. To him, it was just an extension of the Boy Scouts and then he was sent to Auburn University, of all places. At the time, it was called Alabama Polytechnic Institute. It was the Army Specialized Training Program, an effort to build up the military's brain trust, but men were needed on the battlefield in Europe and the program was ended. He was sent to the newly formed 106th Division.
Choosing between the life of a small town doctor and an engineer was a decision John Miller had to make and he was certain he'd made the right choice. Life during the Depression was difficult for a small town farmer, but Miller navigated his way through it.
His Atlantic crossing was swift. The Queen Elizabeth could outrun any warship and delivered the men of the 106th Division to England in five days. Jim Bard had one furlough in London where he heard the explosions of V2 rockets. Ferried to Le Havre, the unit made it's way through France into Belgium.
While stationed in Iceland, Clifford Wilford remembers thinking that his infantry would be attacked due to their proximity to the Germans stationed in Norway. They were set on high alert on in one instance, not knowing whether they were soon to face combat.
Clifford Wilford's infantry faced a number of challenges while fighting in Northern France. While facing combat in chateaus around Angiers, France, Wilford remembers the sight of a pile of dead German soldiers that has stuck with him for 70 years. Continued from Part 1.
In what was supposed to be a routine sweep of a cellar in Metz, Germany, Wilford faced one-on-one combat with a German soldier armed with a concussion grenade. The quick instincts that defined his actions in that moment are what saved his life.
Michael Vernello made it to shore at Omaha Beach, but then he had to wait forty days for his weapon, a large artillery piece to arrive. Deep water and bad weather kept it off shore. Once they got going through France, they moved only forward.
Very soon after Jim Bard was captured by the Germans, he was amazed when an English speaking officer said to speak up about any casualties known to be out in the woods. They were marched off down the road, where he saw the macabre aftermath of a tank battle that didn't go well for the American armor.
John Miller remembers the camaraderie he felt with his battalion and the other men that he was serving alongside. A particularly close relationship with a high-ranking member of the British military allowed them to get a personal tour of some of the most famous English landmarks.
After examining the prisoners to see who was healthy enough to work, those deemed usable were formed into work parties for German factories. Jim Bard was sent to a snowbound little town that looked like a Christmas card, where his job was to stack logs for a wood chipping operation.
Clifford Wilford recalls when he was first diagnosed with his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a lot of which was attributed to his experiences with concentration camps. Seeing the inhumanity of those camps has not left him even after all these years.
The POW's were packed into boxcars and parked outside a prison camp where there was no room for them. When a British bombing raid began, Jim Bard bolted from the rail car and ran blindly in the dark right into a fence. Taken further down the line, he was almost a zombie when he arrived at another camp where British prisoners welcomed him.
To Jim Bard, the orders were confusing. The inexperienced 106th Division was told to move out, then to hold. When his unit finally moved out in the opening days of the Battle of the Bulge, they were quickly pinned down and surrounded. As he tried to dig a foxhole in the rocky ground, the 1st Sergeant approached with some startling news.
As Clifford Wilford's infantry diverts past Paris, they encountered a few additional obstacles that they had to overcome. Wilford had to drive a Jeep across an open battlefield while his commander mapped out the locations of German artillery stations, risking fire from incoming mortar shells.
The POW laborers were roused at night to see the firebombing of Dresden just a few miles away. It wasn't long before they began a road odyssey with their guards that took them around the area without apparent purpose. Then, the guards disappeared. Part 1 of 2.
The war was over and he had been freed when his German guards disappeared on the road, but Jim Bard and his buddies were stuck in Czechoslovakia with no contact. After staying with a German family for a while, they boarded a train that was supposed to take them to the American lines, but it kept getting sidelined. Finally they saw an American jeep with an American officer and they were on their way. Part 2 of 2.
He had opened his own hair salon and was doing well, but Michael Vernello was drafted into the Army where he was assigned to the field artillery. The whole unit went to Florida for swim training and they thought they were boarding trucks back to camp. Instead, they were taken to a dock.