6:16 | 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.)
Keywords : Jack Houston Okinawa Japanese machine gun mortar Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) grenade banzai
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 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.)
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.)
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.)
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.
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.
Jim Fleming had it in mind to become a pilot when he enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He qualified for pilot, navigator and bombardier, so when he was unfairly washed out of pilot training at the very end, he started over as a navigator.
It was the coldest winter in twenty five years. Harold Ford was a mortar squad leader along the Rhine just before the Battle of the Bulge broke out. When it started, his division was left to hold a line that had been manned by seven divisions. The others headed north to join the fray and, meanwhile, three SS divisions headed his way.
After a long series of short hops, B-24 navigator Jim Fleming was in North Africa, waiting for the final flight to his destination in Italy. He drove a jeep to get coffee and donuts, which was the crew's only sustenance, when someone from another crew demanded he turn over the jeep. The guy was big, but Jim had some backup.
Like many other young men, Harold Ford joined the ASTP program that sent draftees to college to study engineering. That lasted exactly one semester before the Army decided that it needed infantry more than engineers. It wasn't long before he was at the front line on the Rhine, where it was eerily quiet, except for that time he tried to see across the river.
It was a former Italian air base. The buildings were old and shabby and there was no heat or running water. The first thing Jim Fleming saw when he landed was a dead gunner who'd taken a direct hit from a 20 mm shell, which got his sober attention. He describes the dangerous flak faced on every mission and the relentless German fighters. For a short while, his tail gunner was shooting down German planes on every mission, so naturally, higher ups had to take action.
The building was big and old and cold. The coal ration for the week lasted about thirty minutes and POW Harold Ford spent a lot of time in his bunk under a blanket. When the front approached the camp, he joined a long column of prisoners marching southward.
B-24 navigator Jim Fleming was hit by some shrapnel, but it didn't penetrate his flak vest. He came a lot closer to dying when he had to bail out just as his plane reached safety in England. He couldn't convince the crew chief to jump and his refusal cost him dearly.
When Patton's army liberated the prison camp in Munich, the feeling for Harold Ford was indescribable. He had only been a prisoner for a few months, but he had dwindled to about a hundred pounds. He began to make up for this on the trip home.
B-24 navigator Jim Fleming describes the shell burst that caused his hearing loss. They gave him a Purple Heart for that, but he suffers more from the rough landing he took when he bailed out at 300 feet. He was told to just go back to work after that one.
Why volunteer for an unknown "rugged mission" in an unknown location? James Richardson thought he might get an overdue furlough. That didn't happen and he wound up in India, where the people and the wildlife were unlike anything he'd ever seen. As he marched toward the Himalayas, he was told to drop something he'd carried every day in the Army.
He had been a POW in Germany, but after returning home, Harold Ford was still on active duty. After an interesting interlude as an MP, he got orders to prepare to go to the Pacific. Apparently, the Japanese heard that he was coming and promptly surrendered.
When the city of Myitkyina and it's air strip was captured by Merrill's Marauders, it was the end of the mission for the famed unit. James Richardson had been in the field so long surviving on meager rations that he could hardly eat his victory dinner when he got back to India.
When the German fighters attacked, the B-24's tightened their formation. The fighters were making a pass and turning up an one wing to slip through the tight space between the bombers. Jim Fleming describes what happened when one of the German pilots made a slight miscalculation.
When the draft came for Willie Weaver, he went to infantry training and prepared to ship out to Okinawa, but he got sick and missed the boat. All his friends were gone and, when he recovered, he was sent to Fort Benning as part of the training cadre. After the war, he began to question why the Army was segregated at the time.
He didn't hear or see the source, but a piece of shrapnel hit James Richardson in the shoulder. He begged a reluctant buddy to dig it out with a knife, then got it dressed by a medic. He was told he could be evacuated, but that wasn't the way the way men thought in this particular unit.
After navigator Jim Fleming flew 52 combat missions out of Italy, he went back to the States where he flew air and sea rescue missions. He had to leave that position after there was an issue over proper navigation. The system had beat him again. Then he volunteered to be on a crew shuttling a C-46 to Burma. After that bad idea, he finished out the war at the least loved airfield in the country. Still, he laughed at it all.
As he was recuperating in a hospital in the Philippines, Jack Fletcher befriended a nurse who made the rounds among the wounded troops. When he found out she was getting married, he made a beautiful gesture that only an aviator could make.
In the fight to retake Gambsheim, Harold Ford first had to dodge some friendly fire, then had to hide from some German tanks. With two others from his mortar squad, he hunkered down with a dozen wounded GI's and some French civilians in the cellar of a train station. They hid for hours, but, eventually, there came a sound from the top of the stairs.
There were plenty of interesting sights when Jack Fletcher landed in Japan. The C-47 crew chief was part of the supply effort for the occupation shortly after the war's end. He had no trouble there, but when he got back to Okinawa, he had to spend a long night during a typhoon trying to keep his aircraft safe.
The new man in Jim Fleming's barracks was known as Jojo. He had to bail out soon after he started flying missions and word soon came that he had been rescued by Yugoslav partisans and was on an island. The squadron commander wouldn't risk a flight to pick him up, so the men decided to take matters in their own hands.
When James Richardson got to the jungles of Burma, he was tapped to be a messenger. He got a little nervous about approaching the lines in the dark, but the communication was good and he was OK on his own in the dark with his Thompson ready to go. The shadowy unit finally found themselves cut off by the Japanese and trapped in the village of Napumga.
It was April of 1945 and thousands of American POW's were on the march as their German captors made them move in advance of the approaching front. The guards began deserting and Harold Ford was free on the road, but he went into the camp in Munich because there was food in there. Then, one day, came the sound of American machine guns.
Jack Fletcher's troop carrier squadron moved from New Guinea to Leyte, where there was still fighting. He just missed some Japanese paratroopers who landed on the other side of the air strip. While temporarily withdrawn to the beach during that battle, some Red Cross coffee was denied them, at least on a free basis. When it came time to transport those folks, it was payback time.