4:59 | The Japanese were dug in on Okinawa, like on so many islands, and the Marines were mounting a furious assault. Charging Wana Ridge with a Thompson submachine gun in his hand, Braswell Deen felt like he was hit with a ton of rocks. It was shrapnel and it knocked him out of the fight. Evacuated to the rear, the brave Marine faced a needle.
His father said that if you join the Army, you'll be cannon fodder and if you join the Navy, you'll be shark bait. Braswell Deen went for the Marines and became both. After boot camp he sailed for the island of Pavuvu where he trained further with his squad leader Joe Daly and his fire team leader Bill Thompson.
Braswell Deen recalls getting ready for the amphibious landing on Peleliu and then the chaos of the landing itself. The shelling had been tremendous, but as on so many other islands, the enemy survived and the Marines faced heavy resistance as they hit the beach.
The fire was heavy from the ridge above, remembers Braswell Deen. His company was pinned down in a tank trap just inland from the beach on Peleliu. He and a couple of other Marines had advanced just past the trap and almost missed the word to fall back. The night that followed was spent in a shell hole with rounds going overhead all night.
A Marine doesn't like to say he retreated, but they didn't have enough men, so the word came to withdraw back toward the beach. Braswell Deen was out ahead of most of the unit. In his book, "Trial By Combat," he credits the medic, Bill Jenkins, with saving his life. Jenkins told the others there were men out there, and under heavy fire, crawled up to pass the word.
After that first day on Peleliu, they were Marines says Braswell Deen. They did what they were trained to do. On the second day, he was once again sent out in advance and narrowly escaped as others were killed. His company suffered 80% killed or wounded, including Fred Fox, who survived an epic bayonet fight.
There were only a couple of dozen Marines holding the position. With the help of a nearby mortar platoon, they held off Banzai charges and approaches from the water side. The next morning, there were hundreds of dead Japanese all around, recalls Braswell Dean, who was soon on the advance again.
They were successful on Peleliu, says Marine Braswell Deen, if you can be successful with an 80% casualty rate. He was disturbed to later learn that the airfield that was the objective of the assault turned out to not be needed. At least his exhausted platoon got a much needed break.
Back then they called it psychoneurosis. Men spent from battle would sit and stare off into space according to Braswell Deen, who was lucky to survive Peleliu and preparing for Okinawa. Only one man from his unit, Odell Evans, emerged from those two battles unscathed.
Braswell Deen was relieved when he landed on Okinawa, but that feeling was short lived. The enemy was mostly on the South end of the island and his unit spent the first few weeks cleaning out the North. He was the talker when they were clearing caves, yelling in Japanese for them to come out before the grenades came in.
They took and lost the Okinawan village three times, says Braswell Deen. It was flame thrower tanks that eventually led to the Marines' victory there. As they moved on, he had to leave the man next to him who was shot through the head. It was about this time that an enemy grenade landed in a foxhole and Bill Foster threw himself on it, earning a posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor.
Two weeks after his discharge, Marine Braswell Deen entered the University of Georgia law school, and two weeks after he graduated, he was running for office. After decades of public service, he still thinks about those nights on Peleliu.
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.)
The Russians were close enough that the American POW's could hear the fire in the distance. Their guards roused them all and put them on the road in a forced march, leaving their camp in Poland and heading for Germany. It was seventy nine days of freezing cold out in the open, with very little food. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
Two engines were out, a third smoking, and they were were losing airspeed and altitude, but they were flying level and pointed home. Then time ran out for the B-17 and Don Scott had to slip down the hatch into the slipstream. Part 2 of 3.
The first operation for the 4th Division was the landing on Roi-Namur. Lawrence Snowden remembers that, though it was an easy victory, valuable combat experience and important lessons were imparted on the Marines.
Chan Rogers experiences a couple of close calls on the Siegfried Line. His unit stumbles upon a nest of sleeping Nazis, suddenly finding themselves in a harrowing firefight. Later, when facing off against a group of German pillboxes, they are showered with deadly shrapnel from tree bursts.
After a nerve-wracking mission to bomb Tokyo and a typhoon, B.E. Vaughan and the destroyer O'Brien suffered a second kamikaze attack which killed all three of his hometown pals who served with him on board. Then, began the grim task of collecting the personal belongings of the dead and preparing them for burial at sea.
It was their third mission over Berlin and they were heading home. Four German fighters pounced on the B-24 and it was engulfed in flame and going down. Clyde Burnette fought for consciousness as the other crew in the back of the plane bailed out. He woke in free fall with no idea how he had made it out, and soon he was in German custody. Everyone made it out of the plane except George "Danny" Daneau, the nose turret gunner, who went down with the aircraft.
One of the units from his group was surrounded and outnumbered by a large German force and Frank "Lindy" Fancher's platoon was ordered to keep the road open so they could escape. Later, back in a supposed safe area, he couldn't sleep and was the first to hear over the radio that the German armor was coming.
When Orlando native Chan Rogers is accepted into the Army Specialized Training Program, he believes he will enter the war as a fully trained engineer. But the army, desperate for combat leadership, pull him from school early and train him for infantry duty.
He passed a test in high school that sent him to Cornell University with the promise of a commission and an engineering degree, but the Army needed infantry more than engineers so Charles York went to basic training and became part of the 100th Infantry Division. After a queasy Atlantic crossing, he landed in Marseille where he was advised by veteran troops on the dangers he would face.
Several of the German weapons were far superior to his own, according to Frank "Lindy" Fancher. The Panzerfaust bazooka and the MG 42 machine gun were two that he really liked and he had more than one occasion to turn them on their makers. Sometimes he got orders that made no sense to him, like the time he was sent to a defensive position in a place that was impossible to defend.
He had to serve in the post-war occupation of Berlin and that was an experience in itself. Charles York describes the chaotic times and the hustles of the victorious Allied soldiers as they tried to make a buck. For a while, the currency standard was a pack of American cigarettes.
They had to take the hill. Patton needed to cross the Moselle River where the German guns were targeted and Frank "Lindy" Fancher's platoon was pinned down. He was so mad that he grabbed a 30 cal machine gun and some ammo belts and charged the hill. When it was over, the crossing was secure and Fancher had won a battlefield commission.
Charles York describes the effects his artillery fire had on enemy positions and then the frightening feeling of being under an enemy artillery barrage. You could hear mortars or artillery pieces but there was one weapon, the 88mm gun, that fired with such a rapid velocity you could not hear the round coming.
Hal Puett joined the Navy ahead of the draft in 1942. He was sent to radio school where he was top of his class and earned a rare Radioman's rating while still there. Finding some action was his goal but the Navy had other ideas and made him an instructor at Pre-Flight school, teaching communications to student pilots.
They dug in every night from the fall of 1944 through the Spring of 1945. It was always rainy, and Charles York remembers waking up cold and wet. All the men in his unit had good German down coats, though, liberated from a factory, and they avoided frozen feet, thanks to some good advice.
Shortly after the Battle of the Bulge, Charles York was startled by the sight of a German jet fighter easily outrunning two Allied fighters. It was a frightening thought, that the enemy might have been able to manufacture more of them.
Chan Rogers describes what will come to be his worst 4 days in the infantry. Assigned to protect a captured german position, his unit faces attacks from unrelenting nazis, and he must bring fallen buddies down the hill on pack mules.