17 February, 2012

17 February 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
17 February, 1945       1120
Germany

Dearest darling, Wilma –

Today it’s air-mail day again. I know how you dislike V-mail but occasionally it just can’t be helped. From what I read though, it does seem as if V-mail is consistently ahead of air-mail, but if you don’t mind the delay – I’d rather write this type anyway. I’m a verbose sort of person and I always feel so damned confined when I start writing on a limited surface. Goddamit – I’ll be glad when I don’t have to resort to writing at all when I want to say something to you, dear. I get fed up too with this being apart – just as you are. I got 4 letters yesterday from you, sweetheart, the middle of January – and you really sounded tired of it all. And I can’t blame you one bit, dear. I know it has been a longer harder task than you ever dreamed of. I guess it had everyone fooled though. And with people telling you it wasn’t so smart getting engaged or wondering how you can be so strong as not to date – it must be even more difficult. At least that’s one thing I don’t have to put up with. I have no other choice right now than to continue being a soldier, dear.


And that brings up the subject of some remark I made once about my preferring to “stick it out” until it was all over. Apparently, Sweetheart, that upset you – and I’m sorry I put it that way. But that was farthest from my mind. I was just trying to counter-act some of your surrounding influences. You see, dear, you’re with ARC, you hear and know of returning veterans, you get data of one sort or another about being able to come home in this or that number of months. Well – over here it’s entirely different. We’re told we’re not even considered for rotation until 24 mos. of overseas duty, we see the war poke along – and there just doesn’t seem to be any point in trying to fool you. That’s why I wrote I’d like to stick it out. God – girl I’d give anything to get home – but it would have to be honorably done – and if I have to come home paralyzed – or for some other permanent disability, I’d rather not come home at all. Do you think I like it over here, do you think I’m a hero, do you think I like to think about you at home with little to do except worry about me? No – I don’t like it one bit, darling; I don’t think you can be any more anxious for me to get home than I am – but, dear – I just can’t do a damn thing about it – it seems. I went to the Army Surgeon a long while ago – hoping I would get changed around some way – to get out of this rut I’m in. Now I’m afraid to try again because I might jeopardize my long standing with a line outfit. One way or another – when the time comes I’m bound to get credit for being with a front-line battalion on continuous combat duty. So I’m sticking out a situation which at times becomes so unbearable from boredom and inactivity – I could go mad – just on the one hope that I’ll get home to you a shade earlier than another M.C. I suppose you could say I was unhappy – after reading all that. But I’m just not the unhappy type, darling; I don’t like to think that war has made me so. Let us say – it’s a damned unhappy situation – and when I’m out of it – everything will be all right. Perhaps this is an example of what you meant when you wrote I could talk myself in or out of situations. If so – dear – I’m glad I have that ability – and I’m sorry for those fellows over here who don’t have it.

Yes – I’ll stick this through – but only until the first gleam of hope – the first possible opening shows itself for me to come home. Then I’ll work every conceivable way to get the hell out of here. But until that time – I’m going to do my job and try to stay well doing it, too.

Sweetheart – excuse the tirade – but it’s just the way I felt and I had to get it off my chest. I feel better now. In case you can’t see thru all my frustrations – you can blame it on the fact that I’m deeply in love with you and it drives me crazy to think of us as apart rather than a man and wife. Love to the folks, dear –

And all my everlasting love –
Greg

* TIDBIT *

about Iwo Jima, LCI(G)-449 and Rufus Herring

While the Armies in Western Germany were lining up along the Roer, preparing for its crossing and the push toward the Rhine, the Navy was two days from its invasion of Iwo Jima. From the book "Iwo Jima" by Eric Hammel, published by Zenith Press in 2006, comes this extract, found on pages 53-55.

LCI(G)-449 is the 3rd gunboat away approaching Iwo Jima
On 17 February 1945, at about 0800 hours, twelve wooden-hulled minesweepers approached to within 750 yards of the eastern beaches of Iwo Jima to begin a methodical search for mines as well as to check for reefs, shoals, and manmade underwater obstacles undisclosed by aerial reconnaissance. Japanese atop Mount Suribachi opened fire on the minesweepers with small arms.

At 0840 on February 17, three battleships and numerous fire-support vessels moved to within 3,000 yards of various sectors around Iwo to provide close-in support of another foray by a team of frogmen. Japanese whose big guns had remained silent to that point opened fire as the ships and gunships came within pointblank range. The battleship USS Tennessee was struck off southeastern Iwo by one round a little before 0900. Four sailors were injured but the damage was negligible. Within thirty minutes, as the cruiser USS Pensacola approached within 1,500 yards of the northeastern shore to support the minesweepers, one Japanese 150mm gun crew opened fire on her, splashing their first round only 50 yards short of the ship. The cruiser attempted to evade, but the gunners knew their job and managed to fire six rounds into her within three minutes. Seventeen officers and men were killed (including her executive officer) and 120 were wounded, her combat information center was knocked out, an observation plane on her starboard catapult was set aflame, and she was hulled in several places. For all that, as repair parties fanned out throughout the ship, the Pensacola's guns ceased firing only as required during the course of delicate surgeries on a number of her wounded.

Although the plucky minesweepers were dogged throughout their mission by gunfire from the island, they drew off only when their mission was completed. They found no mines and no under water obstructions.

At nearly 1100 hours, a hundred swimmers from four Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs) entered the water to make a final check of the invasion beaches for underwater obstacles and to get a close-up sense of the tide and surf. They were to destroy any obstacles, natural or manmade, that they could find. The frogmen were covered by fire from twelve LCI(G) gunboats firing 20mm and 40mm guns and LCI(R) rocket ships firing clusters of 7.2-inch bombardment rockets as well as 20mm and 40mm guns. The LCIs closed to within 1,000 yards of the shore as the swimmers approached the beach and opened fire. All but one frogman had returned to their destroyer-transports by 1220 to report that the beaches were clear of mines and obstacles, and beach and surf conditions were reported as favorable.

Many Japanese who watched the LCIs open fire thought the invasion was about to begin – how could they think otherwise, after all the other action that morning? - and, in direct contravention to their commanding general's orders and oft-stated wishes, they took to defending the beaches. Heavy guns overlooking and backing the landing beaches reached out to the LCIs over a period of 45 minutes. All twelve vessels were hit, some brutally, but even after drawing off to quench fires and succor the wounded, several LCIs nosed back into the toe-to-toe brawl, their crews unwilling to concede anything to the Japanese. The cumulative loss to the LCIs was 7 killed and 153 wounded.

One of the gunboats to earn the Presidential Unit Citation for operations at Iwo Jima that day was LCI(G)-449. While shelling enemy positions in support of the UDT swimmers, the ship was heavily damaged by Japanese counter-fire and went out of control. LCI (G) 449 had all 40 mm guns disabled and battled two fires caused by three large caliber hits. Twenty-one men were killed and twenty were wounded.
Casualties being taken off LCI(G)-449

Her skipper, Lieutenant Rufus G. Herring, would receive the Congressional Medal Of Honor. Here is his citation:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of LCI(G)-449 operating as a unit of LCI(G) Group 8, during the pre-invasion attack on Iwo Jima on 17 February 1945. Boldly closing the strongly fortified shores under the devastating fire of Japanese coastal defense guns, Lt. (then Lt. (j.g.)) Herring directed shattering barrages of 40mm and 20mm gunfire against hostile beaches until struck down by the enemy's savage counter-fire which blasted the 449's heavy guns and whipped her decks into sheets of flame. Regaining consciousness despite profuse bleeding he was again critically wounded when a Japanese mortar crashed the conning station, instantly killing or fatally wounding most of the officers and leaving the ship wallowing without navigational control. Upon recovering the second time, Lt. Herring resolutely climbed down to the pilothouse and, fighting against his rapidly waning strength, took over the helm, established communication with the engine room, and carried on valiantly until relief could be obtained. When no longer able to stand, he propped himself against empty shell cases and rallied his men to the aid of the wounded; he maintained position in the firing line with his 20mm guns in action in the face of sustained enemy fire, and conned his crippled ship to safety. His unwavering fortitude, aggressive perseverance, and indomitable spirit against terrific odds reflect the highest credit upon Lt. Herring and uphold the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
Rufus G. Herring

The following photo was taken twenty minutes before LCI(G)-449 headed into Iwo Jima to support the UDT swimmers on 17 Feb, 1945. PH3/c Leo McGrath volunteered to be aboard to take photos of the pre-invasion mission. Almost thirty minutes after taking this photo he was killed by enemy batteries hidden in the caves of Suribachi. He only took two photographs and this was one of them.

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