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 the Americans were in for a surprise. 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.
He was the "scribe" of the outfit. When he returned from the war in the Pacific, David Greene had a list of names and addresses and he organized a reunion and it grew from there. Others in the group took on the job each time so that reunions were held all over the country.
After Bastogne, it was a different war for Dan McBride. He finally got a shower, brief and cold though it was. His airborne unit moved around on various brief assignments and found itself in Austria at Berchtesgaden, Hitler's mountain retreat. It was there where they got some big news.
There were some guys who grew quite a bit while they were in the Marines. David Greene was stuck at 5', 6" and was always on the end of the left side of the formations. He was tall enough to ship out for the Pacific, though, as a radioman.
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.
When Dan McBride returned from the war, he had some long talks with his dad and they reminisced over talks years ago, when knowledge about the Army was first passed on. He was grateful for the advice he received when he got to boot camp, specifically, what to do when the instructor dropped the dummy hand grenade.
When he had to bail out, Jim Wicker was literally sucked from the cockpit when he released the canopy because of his high rate of speed. He was just a hundred miles inland a few days after D-Day and the Germans caught him almost immediately. As he sat in solitary confinement waiting for interrogation, he was comforted by his faith.
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.
Bill Garrison was standing in a chow line when a man up the line suddenly dropped, shot dead by a sniper. That was only one hazard at the air fields in China; the others being Japanese air raids and infiltrators. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
The Japanese awoke one day to the sight of 850 ships off shore at Iwo Jima. The naval bombardment was not enough, though. Marine radioman David Greene remembers eating his ration one day sitting next to a 16" solid projectile that had skidded to a stop on the beach. He never saw the kamikazes that plagued the ships, but he did see and hear the Japanese version of the Buzz Bomb.
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.
B-24 flight engineer Bill Toombs was over Germany when bad went to worse. One engine was shot out. Then an 88 round went right through the number four wing tank. It didn't blow up the plane, but they lost all the fuel for that engine, so now they had two engines out. They made a desperate run for Brussels, which had been liberated.
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.
Robert James was in the shower aboard ship when the alarm went off. He scrambled to his gun mount to man the 20 mm gun and then the threat became apparent. Kamikazes had broken through the air cover and were headed for the convoy. He heard some firing from another gun and turned around just in time to see a horrifying sight. Part 1 of 2.
The Army Air Corps had shuffled Ubert Terrell from school to school, based on his high aptitude test scores. He wound up as a thoroughly educated C-47 crew chief in the 100th Troop Carrier Squadron. He became good friends with a nucleus of men who were together through the war.
David Greene tells the story of the time he was nearly buried by a Japanese artillery shell on Iwo Jima. His services as a radioman were not needed once ashore and this led to him being maybe the only Marine who never fired a shot on the island.
Robert James was propped up against a bulkhead, going in and out of consciousness. The kamikaze had destroyed the starboard gun mounts and there were many dead and wounded. He was grateful when someone gave him some morphine to ease the pain from multiple shrapnel wounds. This was the beginning of a painful journey to healing. Part 2 of 2.
It was after the war had ended that David Greene was called on to try and signal a large cargo ship with semaphore. There was a typhoon warning and the sailors were frantically signaling. Unfortunately, he was a Marine radioman and his semaphore skills were a bit lacking.
Ubert Terrell was training to be a C-47 crew chief at the Douglas aircraft plant. While there, he also went to radio school and navigation school. He had absorbed enough knowledge about the airplane and it's controls that he was able to avert near disaster while flying with an inexperienced pilot. It was only his second time in an airplane.
He was in headquarters company, so Marine radioman David Greene was the first to return to a ship after the battle was over. After getting cleaned up and getting a new uniform, he was happy to be back on board after the long ordeal. He enjoyed being aboard ship, as long as you didn't get the bottom bunk.
As a crew chief on a C-47, Ubert Terrell and his crew spent a lot of time training with paratroopers stateside before traveling to England to prepare for the big invasion. While there, he saw some of the devastation visited on London.
There were four boys and no girls in the family, so David Greene was experienced with laundry and cooking before he was drafted in 1943. He picked the Marines when given the choice because of a rather odd reason.
The battle hardened men of the 82nd and 101st Airborne, who had enough points to go home, were transferred into the 17th Airborne temporarily. This stuck in their craw and they refused to wear the patch and caused some ruckus on the way home. Dan McBride had a hand in that.
He had some brothers who enlisted after Pearl Harbor, but Ubert Terrell had to be "invited" by the president to join up. He already knew how to handle a rifle because he had to hunt to put meat on the table.
David Greene recalls hearing about the atomic bombs while aboard ship somewhere between Hawaii and Japan. When he was departing for home after his turn at occupation duty, he was asked if he wanted to pick something from a big pile of Japanese rifles.
It was an M-1 rifle that he grabbed out of supply. Dan McBride found out he grabbed the wrong one, later on in a firefight. His Airborne outfit had just marched through an unknown town, dug in and were waiting for the Germans they were told were coming. What's the name of this place? Bastogne.
There was a table size mock up of Iwo Jima onboard ship. David Green saw it, so the geography of the place was no surprise. As the Marines worked their way up the island, the aim was to keep the line solid from shore to shore. He remembers strafing runs on the enemy and the opportunistic naval bombardment from ships that stayed through the battle.
Dan McBride was dug in at Bastogne, but he was lucky enough to be on the relatively quiet side of town. It was mostly small probes but there was one big final assault. He describes how the fierce battle seemed in slow motion to his perception, the altered state of combat. After the Germans withdrew, the GI's moved to counter attack. He stood up to move after a tank round burst overhead and he fell flat on his face, unable to walk. "Mac? You hit again?"
They figured no more than a week for Iwo Jima, but it didn't go that way. Radioman David Greene explains why it was important to take the island and why the radio wasn't really used once the Marines were ashore.