3:38 | 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.
Keywords : Herman Buffington Okinawa Japanese trench helmet flare scout
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.
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.
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.
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 was transferred to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar to play trombone in the band, Fred Webb was able to concentrate on improving his musicianship. He took lessons from a Hollywood studio player, played many Marine events, and then there was the occasional big band concert.
The men in the new 1st Airborne Task Force ranged from experienced paratroopers to misfit replacements. Hank Krum was neither, and he took to the glider training with interest. A Japanese-American Nisei unit was part of the outfit and he enjoyed it when they were in charge of the cooking. The task force was created for the invasion of Southern France.
After a couple of years playing in the band at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Fred Webb returned home for a few weeks, then it was off to New York to play with a touring Big Band. He had a chance to join a even better outfit, but he decided to remain at home, go to college, and work as a high school band director.
Called up in 1943, Herman Krum went to Camp Crowder in Missouri for basic training and radio school. While there, he learned that not everyone in the service was noble. There was also a fatal accident involving politicians and company officials flying in a glider demonstration. He didn't know it at the time, but he was going to get real familiar with gliders.
Byron Hale describes leaving England heading to Belgium in an LST filled with Artillery. The Battle of the Bulge is getting underway and Byron witnesses first hand being shelled by German 88's. Byron has to scramble to find medical attention for his 1st Lieutenant after receiving a shrapnel injury.
The troop ship landed in Oran, where you did not want to mess with the local women, as Herman Krum learned from the old hands. Soon he was sent to Italy on a slow, miserable convoy, though the cabin was nice. In Naples, his name was called and he set out with others to a seaside town where the men were told they were now in a glider unit. Some of them turned around and ran back to the trucks.
Twice he was approved for Officer Candidate School and twice he never got to the top of the list. Art Fox didn't like that but he did like the unit he deployed with. Great soldiers and high esprit de corps. His letters home reflected that and one was so inspiring, it was read by Raymond Massey on CBS radio.
After a pleasant stop in Nice where he got to know an atypical French girl, Herman Krum's unit headed North to Soissons. Then the glider unit was sent to England where the 1st Allied Airborne Army was being formed, with British and French troops joining the Americans. Krum got to see Berlin by the time the war was over.
Paul Hedges recounts his time as part of a B-17 crew flying missions in Europe. His most memorable missions include flying over the beaches on D-Day, and helping a fellow serviceman who had suffered a serious injury from flak during one of their flights over Europe. Part 1 of 2.
There was no obvious front line, says Herman Krum. In the push up through Southern France, he never knew what was really going on. The transportation was ad hoc and one ride he took with a madman from the Bronx was memorable. They kept moving north and at one point, he was told to take a message to the General and he asked, "Where is he?" "I don't know," came the reply. "Go find him."
It was on George Patton's mad dash to bail out the Allied Forces at the Battle of the Bulge, that Fred Moston saw his first jet aircraft. The German prototype made the P-51's look like they were standing still. In Luxembourg, he slept in a royal bed one night and on another night, he was sleeping on the ground in the snow when a German patrol passed right by him.
There was no choice when you went to the induction center, says Herman Krum. If they had an order for ten cooks, the next ten men that walked through the door were going to be cooks. During radio school, he volunteered for a shift as an auxiliary MP. It was uneventful until he returned to the police station where several GI's had been brought in for intoxication.
At Fort Jackson, preparing to go overseas, Art Fox managed to get into the engineering battalion of his division, which was great because he was an engineering student. The training was hard but he enjoyed beach time in South Carolina on the weekends with his newly muscled frame courtesy of Army basic training. Finally, they sailed.
Fred Moston had two souvenirs under his shirt when he went on the operating table. He never saw them again. During his recovery, he met a wounded German prisoner who caused him to realize an important truth about the enemy. He also met Frenchy, a baker who was a real wheeler and dealer.
He was working towards a civil engineering degree when Art Fox entered the Army. His enlistment allowed him to finish the school year, but after after the Allies began the push across France, all the college students were taken into the infantry.
After the end of the war in Europe and Japan, Byron Hale describes the point system used to determine which soldiers went home first. Byron tells of the bombed out French cites he saw while driving to his departure ship to go home. Byron also tells about contracting Hepatitis, crossing the Rhine river and receiving mortar fire.
Medic Fred Moston was helping a sick man back to the rear when he crossed a field after spotting the unit he was looking for on the other side. He found out how lucky he was. "Doc, that field is mined!" He has some observations about the quality of the German weapons versus our own, and he relates how he came to have a gun shoved in his face by an American sergeant.
He thought he had it made. Art Fox had found a box spring and he figured he would be comfortable for the rest of the war. It didn't work out. The conditions were tough that winter in Europe, sleeping on snow and bathing in a helmet. At least the cooks tried to keep them happy.
Heading to Europe to fight Germans, Byron Hale describes the trip across the Atlantic to the port in Wales. He learned the art of peeling potatoes for thousands of soldiers in a very crowded ship. Once in England, Byron witnessed racial issues between white and black American soldiers.