Archive for October, 2008

Bucky HarringtonCopyright Patriot Ledger Mar 03, 1997

By Maurice F. Reardon

BRAINTREE — Maurice “Bucky” Harrington of Braintree remembers the battle for the island of Okinawa in 1945 during World War II.

The Marine Corps veteran’s most vivid memory was of Okinawan women and children leaping off cliffs to their death out of fear of the Americans. “The Japanese had told the Okinawans that when we invaded the island we would kill all the women and children,” Harrington said.

A native of Dorchester, Harrington served with the 6th Marine Division and had joined the Marines at 18 in 1943, fresh out of Boston Commerce High School. After training at Parris Island, S.C., Harrington shipped overseas and saw combat on Bougainville, “a disease-ridden, Godforsaken island” where he contracted malaria and jaundice.

A member of a Marine Air Defense Battalion, where he served as a 40mm gunner, he recalls using the weapon against pillboxes on Bougainville. Harrington was evacuated to hospitals in the Russell and New Hebrides Islands, and after treatment was returned to his unit. “When the 6th Division was formed on Guadalcanal in October 1944, I was assigned to the 15th Artillery, a 105mm outfit,” he said. “But during the fighting on Okinawa in April 1945, casualties were so heavy that I was reassigned to the 22nd Marines as a rifleman.”

It was during the bitter fighting in the Sugar Loaf Hill area on Okinawa that Harrington and two buddies came under heavy artillery fire. “We were on top of a hill near a cliff at the tip of the island and could see the Okinawan women and children leaping to their death,” he said. “We came under Japanese artillery fire and a close hit blew us off the cliff. The two Marines I was with were both killed but I was fortunate to land in the water and was picked up by a nearby Navy ship.”

After Okinawa was secured, the Marine units that had fought on the island reorganized and re-equipped on Guam and began preparations for the invasion of the Japanese mainland. “Thank God we didn’t have to attack Japan itself. With their fanatical resistance on Okinawa we could imagine the bloodbath that landing on the mainland would be,” Harrington said.

In October 1945 the 6th Division was deployed to Tsingtao, China, and Harrington served there until his return to the United States in January.

Mustered out of the service in January 1946, Harrington worked for the Post Office Department for 30 years before retiring in 1986.


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You’d never know by looking at Jim Joyce that 63 years ago he was a member of the famous “We Build! We Fight!”  construction battalions of World War Two known as the Seabees. But when Jim, still tall and lean, pulls out an old picture of six young men grouped around a wooden box in Okinawa Japan just two days after the Japanese surrender of that island, you can spot Jim in the handsome face of the 18-year-old standing in the upper left of the photograph. It was a historic moment for the US Navy……

Listen to a three minute interview with WWII veteran and Quincy resident Jim Joyce.

It’s not just libraries and history buffs who are interested in World War II. Jim Joyce received this card from his granddaughter after she interviewed him for a Veteran’s Day school project. If only Meghan could have seen the smile on Jim’s face when he showed us this thank you note: Granddaughter of WWII Seabee Jim Joyce

As Jim told his granddaughter, the enemy wasn’t always the Germans and Japanese. The weather played a key role in the planning, success, and failure of military operations. According to the Department of the Navy, Typhoon Louise, which hit Okinawa without warning on October 9th, 1945, could have doomed the Allies planned invasion of the Japanese mainland:

“Winds of 80 knots (92 miles per hour) and 30-35 foot waves battered the ships and craft in the bay and tore into the quonset huts and buildings ashore. A total of 12 ships and craft were sunk, 222 grounded, and 32 severely damaged. [for listing of vessels] Personnel casualties were 36 killed, 47 missing, and 100 seriously injured. Almost all the food, medical supplies and other stores were destroyed, over 80% of all housing and buildings knocked down, and all the military installations on the island were temporarily out of action. Over 60 planes were damaged as well, though most were repairable. Although new supplies had been brought to the island by this time, and emergency mess halls and sleeping quarters built for all hands, the scale of the damage was still very large. If the war had not ended on 2 September, this damage, especially the grounding and damage to 107 amphibious craft (including the wrecking of four tank landing ships, two medium landing ships, a gunboat, and two infantry landing craft) would likely have seriously impacted the planned invasion of Japan (Operation Olympic).” —Naval Historical Center

18 year old Seabee Jim Joyce had never seen or even imagined a storm like Typhoon Louise. “It was a terrifying night,” he recalls. “The storm lasted 12 hours.  The winds were so strong they lifted the Quonset huts off their moorings. We were on land at the time. We didn’t realize until the next morning that all the small craft had run aground.”

For more about weather and war, check out this article in Military Officer; and for more information on how weather forecasts are treated as military intelligence, don’t miss the fascinating history of the Weather Bureau Record of War Administration.

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“They raised millions of dollars” Humorist and WBZ radio personality Mel Simons talks about how musical greats Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman all did their part to help the war effort, and play the last hurrah in a musical era that would end within a few years of the troops coming home.

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Bill Corman’s father survived almost impossible odds. Now Bill collects artifacts of World War II. (Three minute interview)

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