2:56 | 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.
Keywords : Herman Buffington Okinawa Saipan Japan Harry Truman atomic bomb nurse Red Cross
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.
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.
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 the Philippines were surrendered to the Japanese, 18 men from the USS Quail decided to try and escape in a motor launch. Lyle Bercier details the beginning of their harrowing voyage south. They almost didn't make it out of Manila Bay. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
He could not see anyone else. In the predawn, he gathered up his parachute and began a futile search for his unit and his gear, including his weapon. Canadian paratrooper Dennis Trudeau joined with an American captain he found on the road and they made their way toward the small Normandy town which was his target. Suddenly, there was the ominous whistling of aerial bombs right on top of them.
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.
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.
When he jumped on D-Day, Canadian paratrooper Dennis Trudeau was way off target, but he finally found his unit in the small town of Varreville. Assigned to clear out a German pillbox near a bridge that was scheduled for demolition, his situation went from bad to worse when the bridge was blown.
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.
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.
He was en route to the Philippines when the islands were surrendered to the Japanese. John Fain was rerouted to Australia where he served at General MacArthur's headquarters. Appointed Quartermaster of the 5th Air Force, he had to scramble and scrounge to supply the air fields and keep the planes flying. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
As Quartermaster for the 5th Air Force, John Fain served under General Douglas MacArthur, operating out of Australia and New Guinea. It was touch and go for a while, but as American forces were built up, the Japanese advance was stopped. One of Fain's accomplishments was the organization of a crash boat fleet which rescued downed flyers before the sharks could get them. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
John Fain had to fly between supply depots in Australia and New Guinea and he was always apprehensive about Japanese Zeros, but he got through the war without serious incident. There was one pilot, though, who made him say a prayer when he flew. He did so well as Quartermaster of the 5th Air Force that he was tapped to organize the training for the Air Force's Quartermaster Corps. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
Ray Remerowski remembers growing up during the 1930s and deciding to enlist when the war started. He managed to use the GI Bill to his advantage and got an education from it. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
Ray Remerowski wonders if there is an alternate solution to war, having lived through the atrocities of it. Being able to treat the German citizens in a civil manner sticks out to him as a special moment from the war. As time goes on, there are less and less WWII veterans to recount the war and he is proud to still be one of them. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
During a training mission in April 1944, Exercise Tiger, some American LSTs were ambushed by German E-boats and hundreds of men died. Only a few weeks later, LST 388 was participating in D-Day. Getting to the beach was a difficult undertaking with the mines that littered the water and incoming fire from the beaches ahead.
While stationed in Europe, Ray Remerowski learned how to interact with German civilians and had to deal with German soldiers. Working as a radio operator, he fortunately didn't get a lot of time in combat. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
Juergen Tibcken remembers the war ending and the way that the environment of their town changed after the liberation of Jewish prisoners. Learning English and trading different good in this little town taught him how to be resourceful and eventually set him up to come to America.
As possibly the youngest Chief Petty Officer in the Navy, Roy Dugger had no hash marks on his sleeve. This made him a "Slick Arm Chief," which could have made him the butt of jokes, but an older Chief set this straight with the men when he coined a colorful new term to describe the young sailor. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
Juergen Tibcken has a lot of interesting insights from his time growing up in Germany during WWII. Going to school under the threat of air raids was difficult for him and his family. In school, a lot of the teachers were Nazis that taught anti-semitism to them very strictly.
When he was growing up in Texas, Roy Dugger had a friend named Audie Murphy, who would go on to become one of the most highly decorated soldiers in history. He remembers how they learned to shoot, starting with a slingshot. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
The crew of the USS Quail was under constant air attack on Corregidor after the Philippines fell to the Japanese. Lyle Bercier describes the miserable days spent hiding in tunnels and the night missions to clear mines. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)