6:03 | From the information they had and the mock-up of the island they saw, the Marines figured Iwo Jima would be an easy operation. Bill Richardson went ashore with his artillery battery as soon as they could get on the crowded beach. It was immediately apparent that it was going to be a monumental battle. Part 1 of 3. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN R. ASMUS.)
Keywords : Bill Richardson artillery Fire Direction Center Iwo Jima DUKW Amphibious Vehicle (Duck) swim foxhole volcanic ash Japanese
If Bill Richardson had failed the physical examination, several of his buddies would have failed, too. The reason would have made that somewhat embarrassing. They were only taking five men for the Marines that day and he was the fifth, so his buddy from back home had to settle for the Navy. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN R. ASMUS.)
Before he left for boot camp, Bill Richardson got what he thought was a short haircut. Not short enough as it turned out. He didn't have any trouble getting up in the morning, which saved him some trouble. As a Marine, he knew he would have to qualify on the rifle range. Not qualifying would have been unthinkable. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN R. ASMUS.)
After basic training, it was off to Quantico for artillery school. Bill Richardson learned every job on the guns and then it was time for a train ride to California. The Marines had it better than the Army on that trip, at least at lunch time. The last training before deployment took place off the coast at San Diego. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN R. ASMUS.)
It was a small, uncomfortable ship, an LST. Bill Richardson remembers how the trip to Hawaii turned into an ordeal once the convoy was hit by a huge storm. Two burials at sea focused his mind pretty well. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN R. ASMUS.)
The food on the LST was meager, so when Bill Richardson got to Hawaii, a simple treat felt like a lot more. His first assault was at Roi-Namur in the Marshall Islands. It wasn't what he expected and that was a good thing. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN R. ASMUS.)
As Bill Richardson was preparing for the Saipan and Tinian operation, he witnessed the West Loch incident in Pearl Harbor. A number of ships exploded while at anchor. What could have caused this? (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN R. ASMUS.)
There was only light resistance going into Saipan for Bill Richardson and his Marine artillery battery. The island was much different than the tropical paradise he found in the Marshall Islands. There was jungle and there were Japanese batteries firing back at him. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN R. ASMUS.)
The Japanese were so well dug in on Iwo Jima that the field artillery couldn't get to them. The flag had been raised on Mt. Suribachi but there was a long way to go to secure the island. When he wasn't wondering where the Japanese rounds were going to land, Bill Richardson had to deal with the cold, wet conditions. Part 2 of 3. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN R. ASMUS.)
They were beat up. They were tired. They were dirty. The Marine artillery unit had spent weeks in the misery of Iwo Jima and they were now heading for some rest, but there was one problem. Their transport was a Merchant Marine vessel and their treatment was not what they deserved. Part 3 of 3. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN R. ASMUS.)
Bill Richardson was training in Hawaii for the final assault, Japan. Then came the great news about the atomic bomb. He could go the other direction across the Pacific. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN R. ASMUS.)
What was it like coming under fire for the first time? Jim Denninghoff answers that question and describes the push into Germany that had become inevitable. The Germans had one more trick up their sleeve, though, and when the Battle of the Bulge started further north, his line was thinned out to send reinforcements. Then the battle came to him.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
Once he crossed the Rhine, his unit had to fight city to city to make it's way toward Berlin. Jim Denninghoff was in Heilbronn, where the Germans were putting up stiff resistance. Through an odd turn of events he wound up covered in molasses and it saved his life.
Times were tough when Henry Rice was a kid. He got along, though, and he had a good time hitchhiking around Texas and sneaking into Mexico. He joined the Army on a lark in 1940 with two buddies and, after the war started, they volunteered for the infantry. Wait, we're doing what?
During the push into Germany, Jim Denninghoff was assigned, with some other GI's from across the regiment, to retrieve bodies from the field. At first it wasn't too bad, since everything was still frozen, but when the spring thaw came, the job got more gruesome. Once, as he went about his task in the dark, he ran into a German patrol.
He had the points so he was heading home. Henry Rice took a train to Camp Lucky Strike, where he and his buddy ran the games of chance. Only one problem, how to get that cash back to the States. When he got there, he got out, got married, got a job, got bored and got back in the Army.
Finally it was his time to cross the English Channel. It wasn't wide, but it was still the ocean, so when Harry Scroggs climbed down that long rope ladder, the landing craft was bobbing and bumping against the ship. The Allies had pushed inland, so he didn't get shot at when he was setting up his communications equipment.
Did he ever have any close calls? Jim Denninghoff sure did and he describes the machine gun fire and the artillery barrages that he survived. Once, when the artillery shells began to fall, he dove for the nearest cover, which happened to be fairly disgusting. Then there were those tiny land mines made of wood.
He had a scholarship to the University of Georgia, but he gave it up to help his sick parents run the family farm. In 1942, his country needed him more, so Harry Scroggs was drafted and went off to basic training. Somehow he wound up going through basic again at a different camp.
Henry Rice was a soldier in a support role when the war started, but he switched to the infantry and joined the combat just as the Allies were storming into Germany itself. He was surprised when they stopped short of Berlin and then he found out why. His unit went to Bavaria, which was good duty. Just don't get caught with the local girls.
While still training stateside, Harry Scroggs was put in the communications section. His job was setting up and running telephones and switchboards in the field. He tells how he got the nickname Scrappy, and he describes how the communications section connected the spotter and the artillery battery.
After they took the town of Heilbronn, there wasn't much opposition left for Jim Denninghoff's unit. German soldiers were surrendering by the hundreds and he remembers one particular teenager who had been pressed into service by the SS.
After war maneuvers, Harry Scroggs was sent home for a leave and when he got back, his unit was gone to Europe. He continued training while D-Day was successfully executed and, eventually, he headed across the Atlantic on the RMS Queen Elizabeth. Then, in England, he prepared to cross the Channel.
There was no evasive action on a bomb run. You had to come in straight and level and stay in formation for the sake of the targeting. At least you didn't usually have to worry about the flak in transit because it was concentrated around the target. Richard Lewis remembers once, though, when the they heard the boom, boom over a forest.
Jim Denninghoff tells the story of the incident which got him a Bronze Star recommendation. His job was body retrieval, which could be very dangerous as it required him to maneuver near the enemy lines. After the war, he had occupation duty, first in a small town and then in Frankfurt at SHAEF headquarters.
At the end of his last bombing mission, Richard Lewis buzzed the tower. What could they do? He was going home. They made an instructor out of him for a while, but he had enough points for discharge, so he was out before VJ Day. He stayed in the reserve so he could still fly Uncle Sam's planes.
As a non-commissioned officer, POW Hank Freedman was not required to work. The privates and PFC's were not so lucky. Many died laboring for the Germans. He never received the Red Cross packages he was due, though they did visit the camp. Those were good days. Extra rations.
Jim Denninghoff graduated high school in 1943 and was part of the Army Specialized Training Program which put recruits in college to study engineering. Manpower was needed on the battlefields of Europe, so he was made into an infantryman and, after a miserable Atlantic crossing, he entered the fray.
Flying was always a thrill for Richard Lewis. He picked it up quickly and was the first of his group to solo. The trainer was very primitive, with no electronics and a hollow tube for communication. He became a heavy bomber pilot and was en route to England when D-Day happened.
The 106th Infantry Division was newly formed and inexperienced when they replaced another division on the front in the Ardennes Forest. No one thought there was any danger of an attack at that location, but Hank Freedman found out just how wrong that was. His unit faced the full fury of the German offensive at the Battle of the Bulge and found themselves surrounded.
The Marseille harbor was full of scuttled French ships when Jim Denninghoff arrived to join the push on Germany. After his unit had taken several small towns and suffered it's first casualties, he came to a sobering realization about his chances of making it out alive. It was also a memorable moment when he saw his first dead German soldier.