The Day the Fighting Was Over
Looking back what happened occurred in a land that was far away in both distance and time.
It was mid August ‘45 and our ship had gone through the battles at Leyte, Lingayen, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
Other Escort Carriers had been sunk or badly damaged but USS MAKIN ISLAND CVE-93 had been very lucky as there had been
very few casualties in the ship and her air squadrons.
However, as the men watched the build up of supply and troop ships in the harbor of Buckner Bay, Okinawa, the thought of an impending invasion of the home islands of Japan was ever present.
Naval casualties during the battle of Okinawa had been the highest of the whole war mostly due to the Kamikaze suicide plane attacks. There could be no doubt that it would be even worse as we came up against the coast of Kyushu with even less time to spot the incoming planes.
This apprehension suddenly came to an end on 15 August 1945. I was on duty in Radio One copying FOX transmissions. Copying FOX entails copying five letter coded groups sent in the blind to the fleet by a major shore radio station. It is a very routine job. So much so that almost all radio operators could do it with ease The sound of the dots and dashes flowed into our ears and through our finger tips onto the pages in our typewriters almost without conscious thought.
It was simply five coded letters followed by a space then another five letter group and so on until the end of the tenth group when there was a longer space to allow the operator time to throw the carriage back and start on a new line. As I said, this was so routine that we smoked, talked to each other, listened to music and even read books.
On the day in question, I started to copy a new message when I became aware that the second group was longer than five letters. I quickly back spaced and completed the group when I realized what I had typed. The next words were CEASE OFFENSIVE OPERATIONS. I hollered out ‘the war is over’ and ‘back me up.’
The message went on to instruct on how to react to any die hard enemy attacks, etc., but long before it ended the radio room filled up with officers and men from all over the ship faster than they could have mustered to Battle Stations. There were cries of ‘ We are going to live’, ‘We are going home’ and 'Thank God.’
That is how I remember that glorious day. However there was tragedy that night. Men who had survived the war died or were wounded from falling shrapnel caused by the bullets and shells fired off in celebration by antiaircraft gunners on both the ships and the shore installations.
In many cases it took months and months for the men to get home. My ship still had a stint of occupation duty covering the hospital ships that picked up ex-POWs in Japan and being part of ‘Operation Magic Carpet’ when we went to Shanghai to bring home a 1000 men of the 10th Army Air Force from China. Then there was the preparations for decommissioning of the ship. I finally got home in time to march with the Navy unit in the Memorial Day parade in New York City in 1946.
I was proud to serve in the Navy and I did thank God for my survival.