21 June, 2012

21 June 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 513 % Postmaster, N.Y.
21 June, 1945      0830
Reims, France

Wilma, darling –

The first day of summer – and it’s hot here. I wonder what kind of summer you’re having back home. I wonder how you are, your folks, my folks, Ruth, Lawrence – hell, I feel lost and out of contact, just at a time when I need contact. But we’re just going to have to wait for our mail and there’s not a damn thing we could do about it. But last night – there was. Our lockers – trunks – were picked up at Soissons and delivered to us. I had practically emptied mine when we turned them in – but I found 3 sets of khaki trousers, and a whole stack of letters from you, darling, written when I was in England. I read quite a bunch of them and really enjoyed it. But they don’t quite take the place of up to date letters. You’ve been loving me a long time now, sweetheart, without getting material love back – and I know it must be tough and discouraging. But I’m giving all the love and devotion I can while I’m away from you, dear, and I hope that helps some.

The foot lockers, by the way, were pretty well scuffed about and beat up – but I think mine will be able to make the trip home. I now have the task of transferring everything in my duffle bag – to the trunk – the point being that when we move home we’ll probably be allowed the same as when we came – a locker, val-a-pac, and bedding roll. I’d like to know that everything is ready. I’ll try to send home everything in excess.

Today is the second day of the outfit’s course in M.P. work. It runs until Sunday (this is Thursday) and presumably we take off for Nancy on Monday or Tuesday next. We’ll have the same APO number. We may know a bit more about what the set-up will be by this evening. The Colonel and our S-3 went to Nancy today to see what it’s about.

I’ve just re-read your letter of 5 June – the last letter I received from you at Leipzig. You were a bit upset at what I had written about going to London or the Riviera. I apparently had left the wrong impression, darling, about the time being deducted from our Leave in the States. It isn’t. It all seems like a long time since we had those Leaves available. We probably won’t hear anymore about it now that we’re service troops – and I’m not very interested anyway. But a Leave here has no connection whatsoever with a Leave at home. That’s definite.

As for the implication that the giving of furloughs and Leaves means being here a long time – there’s no connection at all. The fact is they’ve got a bunch of troops here and they’ve just got to keep them busy.

Yes – a week at the Cape with the Fines would be nice – but it seems a bit unattainable – from here, sweetheart. But an MP officer who was here yesterday – said all this training etc – didn’t mean we would necessarily have to stay long. When our time came – we’d go – regardless of our assignment. Where I’d fit with it, I don’t know – but each day makes me feel more positive I won’t have to go the Pacific – and that sweetheart – is all-important to both of us.

I’ll have to close now, sweetheart. Although I run sick-call early these days and before I write you, there’s always a couple of guys who show up late. There’s a couple of ‘em waiting for me now. Gee, darling, I do hope I hear from you soon. Send my love to the folks and remember, dear, that I love you dearly and that I’ll always be –

Yours alone
Greg

* TIDBIT *

about The Civilian Impact of The Battle of Okinawa

Location of Okinawa in Relation to Japan's mainland

From Wikipedia comes this:
On Okinawa, the last remnants of Japanese resistance in the 82-day battle fell on 21 June 1945. The battle resulted in the highest number of casualties in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Japan lost over 100,000 soldiers, who were either killed, captured or committed suicide, and the Allies suffered more than 65,000 casualties of all kinds. Simultaneously, tens of thousands of local civilians were killed, wounded, or committed suicide.

At some battles, such as at Battle of Iwo Jima, there had been no civilians involved, but Okinawa had a large indigenous civilian population and, according to various estimates, somewhere between one tenth and one third of them died during the battle. Okinawan civilian losses in the campaign were estimated to be between 42,000 and 150,000 dead (more than 100,000 according to Okinawa Prefecture. The U.S. Army figures for the campaign showed a total figure of 142,058 civilian casualties, including those who were pressed into service by the Japanese Imperial Army.

During the battle, U.S. soldiers found it difficult to distinguish civilians from soldiers. It became routine for U.S. soldiers to shoot at Okinawan houses, as one infantryman wrote,
There was some return fire from a few of the houses, but the others were probably occupied by civilians – and we didn't care. It was a terrible thing not to distinguish between the enemy and women and children. Americans always had great compassion, especially for children. Now we fired indiscriminately.

In its history of the war, the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum presents Okinawa as being caught in the fighting between America and Japan. During the 1945 battle, the Japanese Army showed indifference to Okinawa's defense and safety, and the Japanese soldiers used civilians as human shields against the Americans. Japanese military confiscated food from the Okinawans and executed those who hid it, leading to a mass starvation among the population, and forced civilians out of their shelters. Japanese soldiers also killed about 1,000 Okinawans who spoke in a different local dialect in order to suppress spying. The museum writes
some were blown apart by shells, some finding themselves in a hopeless situation were driven to suicide, some died of starvation, some succumbed to malaria, while others fell victim to the retreating Japanese troops.

With the impending victory of American troops, civilians often committed mass suicide, urged on by the Japanese soldiers who told locals that victorious American soldiers would go on a rampage of killing and raping. Ryukyu Shimpo, one of the two major Okinawan newspapers, wrote in 2007: "There are many Okinawans who have testified that the Japanese Army directed them to commit suicide. There are also people who have testified that they were handed grenades by Japanese soldiers" to blow themselves up. Some of the civilians, having been induced by Japanese propaganda to believe that U.S. soldiers were barbarians who committed horrible atrocities, killed their families and themselves to avoid capture. Some of them threw themselves and their family members from the cliffs where the Peace Museum now resides.

However, despite being told by the Japanese military that they would suffer rape, torture and murder at the hands of the Americans, Okinawans "were often surprised at the comparatively humane treatment they received from the American enemy." According to Islands of Discontent: Okinawan Responses to Japanese and American Power by Mark Selden, the Americans "did not pursue a policy of torture, rape, and murder of civilians as Japanese military officials had warned." Military Intelligence combat translator Teruto Tsubota — a U.S. Marine born in Hawaii — convinced hundreds of civilians not to kill themselves and thus saved their lives.

Civilians and historians report that soldiers on both sides had raped Okinawan civilians during the battle. Rape by Japanese troops "became common" in June, after it became clear that the Japanese Army had been defeated. The New York Times reported in 2000 that in the village of Katsuyama, civilians formed a vigilante group to ambush and kill a group of black American soldiers whom they claimed frequently raped the local girls there. Marine Corps officials in Okinawa and Washington have stated that they "knew of no rapes by American servicemen in Okinawa at the end of the war, and their records do not list war crimes committed by Marines in Okinawa". Journalist George Feifer, however, writes that rape in Okinawa was "another dirty secret of the campaign" in which "American military chronicles ignore [the] crimes." Few Okinawans revealed their pregnancies, as
stress and bad diet ... rendered most Okinawan women infertile. Many who did become pregnant managed to abort before their husbands and fathers returned. A smaller number of newborn infants fathered by Americans were suffocated.
In the aftermath of the battle, ninety percent of the buildings on the island were destroyed, and the tropical landscape was turned into "a vast field of mud, lead, decay and maggots". The military value of Okinawa "exceeded all hope." Okinawa provided a fleet anchorage, troop staging areas, and airfields in close proximity to Japan. The U.S. cleared the surrounding waters of mines in Operation Zebra, occupied Okinawa, and set up the United States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands, a form of military government, after the battle.

Significant U.S. forces remain garrisoned there, and Kadena remains the largest U.S. air base in Asia. In all, 14 U.S. bases cover 90 square miles (233 square kilometres), occupying 18% of the main island. According to a 2007 Okinawa Times poll, 85% of Okinawans opposed the presence of the U.S. military, due to noise pollution from military drills, the risk of aircraft accidents, environmental degradation, and extra crowding from the number of personnel there. In another poll conducted in May 2010, 43% of the population wanted the complete closure of the U.S. bases, 42% wanted reduction and 11% wanted the maintenance of the status quo.

U.S. military bases in Okinawa

Some military historians believe that the Okinawa campaign led directly to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as a means of avoiding the planned ground invasion of the Japanese mainland. Victor Davis Hanson explains his view in Ripples of Battle:
...because the Japanese on Okinawa... were so fierce in their defense (even when cut off, and without supplies), and because casualties were so appalling, many American strategists looked for an alternative means to subdue mainland Japan, other than a direct invasion. This means presented itself, with the advent of atomic bombs, which worked admirably in convincing the Japanese to sue for peace [unconditionally], without American casualties. Ironically, the American conventional fire-bombing of major Japanese cities (which had been going on for months before Okinawa) was far more effective at killing civilians than the atomic bombs and, had the Americans simply continued, or expanded this, the Japanese would likely have surrendered anyway.
In 1995, the Okinawa government erected a memorial named "Cornerstone of Peace" in Mabuni, the site of the last fighting in southeastern Okinawa. The memorial lists all the known names of those who died in the battle, civilian and military, Japanese and foreign. As of June 2008, it contains 240,734 names.
Cornerstone of Peace Memorial in Okinawa

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