The long bumpy ride on a battle-scarred LST (Landing Ship Tank) from Leyte in the Philippines, came to an end as the vessel rubbed its nose on the sandy sloping beach. The sky was like a huge blue roof with no clouds to warn of rain. It would have been a perfect day for a picnic, but this was not to be a time for a picnic. It was Easter day, that very important day to Christians which honors the resurrection of Christ. While many soldiers on the ship together with their chaplains said prayers asking for their protection during this time of war, there would be no service with the beauty and music many of us were accustomed to in our churches in America. We are now on Okinawa, an island in the Ryukus chain south of Japan. It was April 1, 1945. The invasion was underway.
Our ship carried the 225th Field Artillery Battalion with its 155mm Howitzers, trucks, Jeeps, ammunition, personal equipment and gear and about 400 officers and men. I was a Personnel sergeant in the headquarters battery and was trained for combat as all of us were. My mission was preparing casualty reports, maintaining individual personnel records, pay records, supervising four battery clerks and numerous other reports and some headquarters correspondence and messages.
The absence of enemy fire, or any other impediment to our landing was decidedly unexpected. Once ashore, our tents went up, foxholes were dug, and all equipment in place without any visible enemy activity. And to add to this pleasant situation, a few chickens were seen racing around. A long piece of wire with u-shaped ends, made catching the birds easy, and the taste of some fresh meat was a treat.
Early next morning the chilling whirly sound of enemy artillery told us the enemy had discovered us. The peace we were enjoying came to an end. The tent covering our records and supplies suffered shrapnel damage but we, laying flat in our foxholes were not hit. When the rain of artillery fire stopped, the battalion commander ordered a move and in a short time we were enroute to a new site.
At our next location we were deep in foxholes, deep enough that we could stand in them and use our rifles or pistols if we had to. But these holes also held a lot of rain and a few times we had to stand hip deep in the water and shiver until the immediate danger was over. But these foxholes were our guardian angels during the bombardment. The headquarters was located in a deep trench with a tent-like cover, and the frequent heavy rains would flood the duckboard floor to the extent that two hand operated pumps had to be kept in action to protect equipment and records.
The effect on the infantrymen whose lives were at stake from hour to hour and day to day from fighting on the front lines, was graphically impressed on me as I observed and briefly spoke to a few sitting nearby. They did not talk and sat with their heads bowed looking at the ground. These brave silent soldiers were not the youthful lively boys they were a short time ago.
Another saddening moment came when my brother Dick, from the Reconnaissance Company in the 27th Division, was able to arrange a visit with me. Dick was like those infantrymen I had seen. He said he had survived two hours of enemy artillery fire so intense he wished he would be killed. Dick was also wounded during the Saipan battle when he escaped from Japanese soldiers who had surrounded him on a beach. He suffered wounds on his buttocks and legs.
A tragic event rocked our battalion when five enlisted men and three officers were killed. The battalion was ordered to provide one of our 155mm Howitzers to fire pointblank at Japanese caves. This would be a dangerous venture and therefore a chaplain accompanied by the battalion executive officer, a lieutenant, and five enlisted men were assigned to this mission. All were killed.
At one point during the campaign, everyone in the battalion was taken to a port to help unload an ammunition ship. Only a few, including myself, remained in our area during their absence. It was told that of three ammunition ships enroute to Okinawa, only one arrived to the island.
These are moments in my memory of Okinawa.-Harold Moss