Reminiscences of a young Marine on Okinawa

| 08 Feb 2018 | 02:01

MONROE — The battle for the Pacific island of Okinawa destroyed Japan’s last bulwark of defense for that failing empire and was one of the Marine Corps bloodiest engagements of the Second World War.
On April 1, 1945, more than 180,000 Army troops and Marines began their assault of the densely foliated island that contained three airstrips critical for the invasion of the Japanese homeland.
Monroe resident Louis De Angelo was in the first wave of landing craft to hit the beach on Okinawa.
Although the Marines initially experienced no resistance, the Japanese General Ushijima intentionally withheld any fire during the landing as a ruse to draw the Americans into a heavily fortified entrapment called the Shuri Defense Line.
As many outposts on the periphery of the Shuri Line were destroyed, American forces became engaged in many bloody battles on Kakazu Ridge, Horseshoe Ridge, Sugarloaf Hill and Half Moon Hill.
“We got pushed off Sugarloaf Hill twelve times, back and forth we fought," De Angelo recalled. "I lost three men there from the direct hit of a motor round.”
De Angelo joined the Marine Corps in 1944 at the age of seventeen.
Requiring his mother’s signature, and as an Italian immigrant from a country at war with the United States, she admonished her son to “not shoot any of your uncles over there”.
He responded: “I’m worried about them shooting me!”
Although never serving in the European Theater, following Okinawa, he was stationed on Guam for training in anticipation of the invasion of the Japanese homeland. However, the dropping of the atomic bombs interceded.
Following the surrender of Japan, he was shipped to Yokosuka, Japan, for garrison duty and was discharged in 1946.
Through the years, De Angelo retained friendships with some of his wartime comrades and many memories of those bloody days on Okinawa.
“My commanding officer, Lieutenant Justice Smith and I communicated, along with others of my platoon for a number of years following the war," De Angelo said. "Lieutenant Smith was a fine man but unfortunately died of cancer as a young man in the early 1950s. Quite a few of my Marine Raider friends immediately reenlisted when the Korean War broke out. The raiders were a tough, patriotic bunch of guys.”
- Bill Lemanski