7:29 | In the waters around Okinawa, ships were getting battered by kamikazes. His LSM had landed it's cargo, so Bill Pontow was assigned fire and rescue duty. He recalls an eerie incident aboard a stricken hospital ship as he searched below, unsuccessfully, for survivors.
Keywords : Bill Pontow Landing Ship Medium (LSM) LSM-96 Okinawa Kamikaze picket line Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero hospital ship fire and rescue Mitsubishi G4M (Betty Bomber)
Bill Pontow tried for the Marines but they declined to take him, so he joined the Navy. After his training, he was assigned to a Landing Ship, Medium, LSM for short. Then it was off to the Pacific.
When Bill Pontow's ship arrived at Pearl Harbor, there was still wreckage everywhere. Crews were working to clear passage through the capsized ships. After that sobering experience, he headed for the Philippines for the Battle of the Philippine Sea and the landing on Leyte.
Bill Pontow was a boatswain's mate on an LSM, responsible for all topside duties. At general quarters, he became a gunner on a 20 mm gun. A frequent target of that gun was the Japanese kamikazes that swarmed the American ships, beginning in the Philippines and increasing at Okinawa.
The landing area was choked with coral and Bill Pontow had to wait for a long, frightening time while it was cleared. The kamikazes had not started yet, but it wasn't long before they crowded the skies around Okinawa.
The preparation for the Japan invasion was underway when the atomic bomb made it unnecessary. The crew on Bill Pontow's LSM was unsure about the news, but they were glad not to be invading the enemy's home. They knew that every Japanese would be fighting them with everything they had.
Bill Pontow was ready to go home after the Japanese surrendered, but there was one more job for him, ferrying Marines to occupy northern China. It wasn't as good as going home, but it was better than invading Japan.
Bill Pontow knew how men could get spooked fighting in the Pacific, especially from kamikazes. He made it through the war without losing his cool, but he had a tough time adjusting when he returned home. Eventually, reunions with his Navy brothers proved to be a big help.
All leave was cancelled. The D-Day operation was imminent, but British Army nurse Hannah Deutch and her Canadian husband managed an intimate rendezvous in London. Shortly after that, she came up sick. She couldn't be pregnant, could she? After all, leave was cancelled. Soon she was sick again, seasick on a difficult Atlantic crossing to Canada to be with her in-laws.
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.
He bunked with regular B-17 crew members, but Bill Livingstone was a gunnery instructor who was there to keep skills sharp. He was also there to substitute for any crew member who was not able to fly. His very first mission turned out to be a memorable one. Part 1 of 5.
Hannah Deutch had two inseparable friends when she was growing up in Dusseldorf. One made it through the Holocaust and one didn't. All of her family except she and her mother also perished. It all started when one of her non-Jewish schoolmates said she could not play with Hannah anymore.
Wes Ruth was eating breakfast when he saw the planes coming in. He thought they were ours until the bombs started falling. As he drove frantically to his hangar on Ford Island, he saw the USS Arizona hit. The Japanese had made their move. As a photo-recon pilot, he was dispatched as soon as the attacks ended to search for the enemy fleet.
On his first raid in North Africa, reconnaissance platoon leader John Souther captured a hundred Germans with no losses to his own unit. His job in the 1st Armored Division was to be out in front with his eyes open, and he was doing just that when a huge amount of enemy was spotted. Rommel's big push had begun.
Hannah Deutch got engaged to a Canadian soldier and right away, there was no end to the people who wanted to help with the wedding. The Jewish refugee was a British Army nurse in London and her wedding was staged in posh style by English benefactors.
Bill Adair may have been the luckiest man in the Bataan Death march. With a commandeered ambulance full of casualties, he threaded his way through the ordeal thanks to luck and guile. At the end, though, there was a camp waiting for him just like all the rest. Part 2 of 2.
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.
Hannah Deutch's father served in the German Army during WWI. He would not live long enough to see the tragedy that befell his Jewish family, having died in a flu epidemic in 1929. She and her mother were living with her grandparents in Bochum, where the schools were excellent. She was very good at learning languages.
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.
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.
Hannah Deutch was a teenager when the Kindertransport rescue effort became her means of escape from Germany. England was taking in thousands of Jewish children and she got her papers in order and left. Right away, as the oldest one in the large group, she became the leader on the journey.
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.)
Near the end of the war, the food supply in Holland had been disrupted and there was widespread hunger. Henk Duinhoven was lucky to be in the countryside, where gardens had been harvested. When he heard the sound of Canadian tanks, he knew that liberation was finally at hand.
They were welcomed with open arms. 150 Jewish children arrived in England, including sixteen year old Hannah Deutch, who had been a substitute mother to the younger ones on the journey. She passed all the exams she needed to work as a nurse, but there was one little problem. No English. She remedied that right away.
Bill Adair was suffering from the effects of a concussion when the battle for the Philippines came to an end for him. Along with thousands of others, he was forced to surrender and was facing the prospect of joining what would become known as the Bataan Death March. Then fate intervened in the form of an ambulance without a driver. Part 1 of 2.
John Souther was on reconnaissance patrol when he nosed his halftrack up over the edge of the gully in the Tunisian desert. A round from a German 88 immediately tore through the engine compartment, but left him unhurt. They paid mightily for that shot. With his radio, he began spotting artillery on their position, under fire the entire time. He was awarded the Silver Star for this action.
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.
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.
British Army nurse Hannah Deutch was stationed right next to Buckingham Palace when the place was bombed out. They were cheered by a visit from Winston Churchill. She was a Jewish refugee from Germany and was a regular at the Jewish Forces Club. That was where she met a very special Canadian.
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.
In London, when it was cold, you huddled close to the fireplace and talked. German Jewish refugee Hannah Deutch was now a British Army nurse and she had befriended another young woman who was in the group sitting around the fireplace. All of a sudden, her friend made a startling declaration, "I hate the Jews."