Battle For Okinawa: World War II | Main Site
Okinawa Perspective: A Personal Story
6th Marine Division 4th Regiment
John E. Bogers (Jack)
Wheeling West Virginia
USMC Active Duty: March 18, 1943 - Feb. 7, 1946
John E. Bogers USMC
(Copyright 1999 Maccandi)
Used with Permission for this Web Site Only
The Convoy leaving for the Okinawa Landing was probably the largest assembly of Marine, Army and Navy personnel to converge on a battleground in the South Pacific. It was hoped to be a "back breaker" of Japan. Most of the South Pacific Convoy left from Guadalcanal. The frogmen were sent ahead to find the best beaches to land on, however they found no easy access to this Island, but marked the best they found.
The Landing was set for April 1, 1945 - Easter Sunday. The morning was quiet until we were spotted by Japanese planes. Our planes, including Navy gunfire, soon took care of this.
I will dwell on the 6th Marine Division, 4th Regiment, as this was my outfit , Company A, 80 mm Mortars.
We landed on a fairly good beach on Okinawas, but not much cover, however we met little to no resistance so we moved out quickly. Our first objective was Yomitan Airfield. We had to climb a hill which was combed with burial tombs. Each of these had to be inspected for Snipers or any other Japanese that might come out behind us. We made it to, and across, the airfield and were waiting
there for further orders.
There are many stories about what happened next, as to the amount of planes that landed (not knowing the Island was captured), but I was there, and only one Japanese plane came in. All personnel were told to hold their fire, but as the pilot got out someone fired. The pilot then jumped down and ran with a pistol in hand. He only ran about 25 feet before he was cut down.
The orders came for us to secure the North end of the Island. The next morning we were off. The resistance was small and we moved fast, sometimes too fast, as we would come too quickly to resistance, which resulted in hand-to-hand combat, and casualties to key personnel - observers, officers, sergeants, and corporals. It also caused our 80 mm mortars to be too close to do the infantry much good.
This was corrected and things went better even though we met stiff resistance and were still losing key men. Most of these losses were caused by Japanese artillery fire pounding our setup area. They could see us from the caves in the hills, but we could not see them, or they would station their troops just over a hill, and if we tried to go over, it was like shooting ducks for them. This is where we lost our Major Green, one of the top leaders in the Marines. (editor's note -I believe this was Major "Barney" Bernard William Green.) Only by the smart action of our Observer for 81 mm mortars were we able to cure this problem. He called for fire in two places at once and caught the Japanese before they could take cover.
There were many details of this drive North, but they were repeats of what I just told. We finally secured the North end of the Island except for Japanese hidden out in villages or caves in the hills. We settled down in an area that would remind you of an old Indian picture, where they lived along a river in a beautiful grassy area, and used the river for drinking, washing clothes, and bathing, and this is exactly what we did.
Patrols had to be sent out every day and rarely came back without wounded, dead or word of a missing buddy. If missing, another patrol had to go to try to find them. Many times this was an unhappy ending. By this time we were a skeleton Regiment and Division compared to when we started North. On this drive Newsman Ernie Pyle was assigned to us, but about halfway north, he decided to visit with the Army on an unsecured Island off Okinawa, where he met his death.
After about a week or so, after we settled into the North end, we received orders and trucks were sent to take us South. There was much protest from our officers, as they knew we were short of men and the rest were pretty tired. They said they would receive new men from the States to fill our ranks, and the reason we were needed was because the 27th Army had been run off the lines by the Japanese and the gap had to be filled.
We needed two regiments to fill the Gap between the Army and the first Marine Division. The 4th and 22nd were sent with the 29th in reserve as it was the youngest regiment. We fought hard many days without relief as the mud from rains made it impossible to bring troops up. The ammo had to be hand-carried up. The Japanese were dug in deep in caves and underground - some standing up in a hole with only a peephole and gun hole which made them very hard to find. Also, the snipers in the trees were very hard to see.
We were told we would be relieved soon, but then the 22nd ran into an ambush and were shot up pretty badly, so the 19th took their place. At this point, it was hard to call for fire from ships or artillery as they had to fire so close to us. It was as dangerous for us as the Japanese.
We were finally relieved after they rebuilt the 22nd and were taken back to headquarters. It was late and dark when we arrived, but they fed us, let us pick out shoes and clothes, cigarettes and candy, then told us to find a place to sleep on the ground. Some of us woke up and found large Howitzer artillery guns
firing over our heads. I jumped all over the gunman that was firing over me, and he laughed and said, "Buddy, I've been firing over your for 2 hours!" We must have been tired!
They were firing on Oroku Peninsula getting ready for a landing to drive the Japanese from there into the 1st Marines at Naha, which was the other end of the Peninsula. Believe it or not, the 4th Regiment was to make the landing the next morning. There was a fiasco in the Ocean as the landing barges hadn't been repaired and many broke down. We had to change to another barge under fire in the ocean. Thank the Lord, no casualties.
We made the landing and at the beach, we met stiff resistance. Many were wounded and dead, and it was quite awhile before we could move on. We finally drove the Japanese into a pocket, by forming a Machine Gun ring of fire. We received orders to pull back and stop firing as the 1st Marines had the Japanese secured and they were afraid we would be firing into each other. WE drew back to a rest area but found one Company didn't receive the word. I volunteered to go and get them if I could go by myself. This is where I saw how the Japanese fired what we called Screaming Mimi's. They had a set of tracks out of a cave and would run the catapult out, fire the bomb, and then withdraw back into the cave.
It was a scary bomb because of the screaming, but it did little damage.
Soon after this, the Island was secured, but the South tip was all rocks and caves to the beach. The 6th Marines were assigned to stay here and secure this with patrols. Lives were lost here from Japanese tricks and infiltration of our lines at night. In fact, where we were dug in, we could hear them talking under the
ground. They had caves in the hills, very deep, and with many outlets. It finally took flame throwers and TNT to either drive them out or seal them in.
There are many stories on a certain General's death, but I saw him shot down. He didn't believe there was that much resistance in the rocks and caves and he stepped out to observe, against our officer's protest. This is where I was when news of President Roosevelt's death came - I heard it from a Japanese radio.
The North end of Okinawa was beautiful country and farmland. Many places reminded us of the United States and most of West Virginia. The south was more desolate and bombed out, but still some nice places around Naha. It was also the rainy season and everything was a sea of mud, most noted place was Sugar Loaf Hill.
Editor's Note: This is the best first hand account of the Battle Action I have read on the Okinawan Campaign. Often some of these battles are ignored; and we do not fully appreciate the sacrifice and struggle of the Marines and Soldiers on those Pacific Islands. BP/Ed
A Very Special Thanks To The Bogers Family For Allowing Us to Share This Story With You
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(Copyright 1999 Maccandi)
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