5:58 | Jack Houston had just helped his buddy dress a wound when he volunteered to return to the Okinawa hilltop where they were getting the enemy cleared out. When he got the jump on three of them, his muzzle flash gave him away and he had to leave in a hurry. He flung himself off the hill where he came face to face with a rifle. Part 5 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
Keywords : Jack Houston Okinawa Japanese Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) machine gun Naval gunfire smokeless powder muzzle flash
Jack Houston tried to enlist in the Navy after all his friends from school had left. His parents quashed that because he was only 16, but they promised to sign for him when he graduated high school. In December of 1943, he enlisted in the Marines and headed for Parris Island, where he shattered the M1 record on the rifle range. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
The battle for Guadalcanal was long over when Jack Houston arrived. Even the mosquitoes had been defeated. After training in the jungle and in a mock village, he headed to Okinawa with the 22nd Marines. They were amazed at the lack of resistance when they landed and moved north. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
The Marines were way ahead of schedule moving through the northern end of Okinawa. Jack Houston found out that the rear was more dangerous than the front when his buddy fled the aid station back at the beach. He watched two ragged Japanese planes tangle with a Hellcat and a Corsair. He cheered when one was shot down but there was some bad news with that. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
After the northern part of Okinawa was secured, the Marines of the 22nd Regiment moved south. Jack Houston was sent to be point man for the whole division and he was given two flares. Red if he found nothing, green if he found the enemy. Warily he moved out. Part 1 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
The Marines moved out with tanks and infantry and got shot all to hell, so they advanced to the rear. The same thing happened the next day and Jack Houston barely made it back. That's when he saw the bullet holes in his sleeves. His rifle was broken so he had to improvise. Part 2 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
Normally, there would have been two Marines to a foxhole, but the 22nd had lost so many that most men were alone. Jack Houston remembers getting no sleep that long, Okinawa night because of the falling parachute flare casings landing all around him. When he moved out the next day, a bullet cracked past his ear, which caused him to begin a bad habit. Part 3 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
Jack Houston was part of an ad hoc group of Marines from several hard hit units on Okinawa. He was worried because a major was talking kind of funny. It sounded like he wanted them to move on a hill at night, which was not standard procedure in the Marines. Part 4 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
After three days of hellish fighting on Okinawa, Jack Houston heard someone yell that the 22nd Marines were relieved. He had just narrowly missed being killed by a mortar shell and, when he started back to the rear, everything seemed in slow motion. Part 6 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
After the hard fought battle for Okinawa, Jack Houston's unit had some easy duty in China, transferring prisoners and guarding an airfield. He had a curious encounter with a Chinese officer who regaled him with Communist dogma. Then, interlopers from the Navy messed up his shopping in the local market. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
Jack Houston was finally heading home from the Pacific. A Humphrey Bogart picture was playing on deck when a fire broke out and the confused crew reacted to the soundtrack. He wasn't yet done with danger, even on the train ride across the States. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
Ralph Pannell explains the difficult boat trip to India for him and the other members of the Army Air Corps. They departed November 1944 and even though they made several stops, they were not allowed off the ship during the journey.
When his unit was bogged down in the village of Wingen in Southern France, Howard Margol's commanding officer turned down an offer of a crate of glassware for every man from the town glass factory. 25 years after the war, an obituary caught his eye which led to a return trip to the village.
Captured airman Clyde Burnette says his German interrogator spoke better English than he did and already had a complete dossier on him. He kept quiet and was soon in a prison camp where all anyone could think about was food and the lack of it. There were hi-jinks, like throwing rocks at the commandant's plane, disappearing infantry, and the sergeant who was really a doctor.
As they were setting up a new gun position, everyone in Howard Margol's artillery unit detected a strange odor. Some said it was a chemical factory but Howard Margol said no, that was the smell when his mom burned chicken skin. The new gun position was near the town of Dachau.
Shipping out on a newly commissioned destroyer, B.E. Vaughan went straight into the chaos of the Normandy invasion. All around him was "a slaughterhouse," but the crew performed a valuable role as soldiers struggled to get a foothold, knocking out pillboxes on the bluffs.
Bombardier and navigator Charlie Gribi recounts trying to knock a bomb loose after it failed to release during a bombing mission, only for it to fall out later on its own within 20 miles of his air base. Video provided by the Clermont County Public Library. Visit charliegribi.com for more information on his life and missions.
It was Condition One Easy, which means B.E. Vaughan could step outside the gun mount and have a smoke. But before he did, everyone started running by and he saw the sailor just outside the hatch look up and "his eyes just about popped out of his head."
The interrogator was very cordial at first, says Don Scott, who had just bailed out of a doomed B-17. The pleasantries turned to threats, but they soon gave up on him and it was off to a camp. Part 3 of 3.
After liberating Metz and being struck by a German counterattack, Arnold Whittaker recalls the massive numbers of replacement soldiers sent in to his company, and the dangers those inexperienced soldiers posed to their seasoned peers.
They kept stretching the number of required missions, according to P-47 pilot Richard Fleischer, but the tension was relieved by R & R at a beach house in Sydney. He felt more homesick when he was there than when he was in combat. A picture of his wife on the dashboard helped with that. (Provided by LifeCairn, Inc.)
Setting out from Portsmouth after a short break following the overwhelming experience of D-Day, B.E. Vaughan and the O'Brien joined a task force with the battleship Texas supporting the landing at Cherbourg. Their support was so good that they drew the fire from the Texas onto themselves.
The screws were bent and the gun barrels smooth, so the USS Ellet was ordered to San Diego for repair and refurbishing. The six weeks in port were memorable for Harry Beeman, both for the visit home and for the giant dance floor at the Paris Inn.
Florence Fattig, a nurse in the Army Nurse Corps, goes into detail about how front line field hospitals worked, what kinds of injuries they saw, and the role she played in treating injured soldiers in Europe during World War II.
Don Ogden describes the food, what there was of it, in the prison camp and laughs at the memory of the German commandant who kept them busy making an ice rink. And then there was the guard nicknamed Big Stoop, who got mad at them one day and charged at them, firing his Luger.
There were no medics around when Ed LaPorta caught some shrapnel in his leg, so he dug it out himself and bandaged it up. He was chasing Rommel's army with the 1st Armored Division and having success by analyzing the strategies of the enemy.
Near the end of the war, Hugh Lee Young was one of 500 men encamped in the woods after a forced march. Food was scarce and he learned he, "could eat dandelions pretty well." Then there was the time he cut his hair into a mohawk.