14 Boyne City GAZETTE July 28, 2010
IByron n support of our local and national veterans, we are honored to host a weekly section of George Lasater’s “Charlevoix County’s Contribution to World War II.” This week, we feature “Bud” Neidhammer, a local World War II veteran. Copies of this book are available at The Local Flavor, the proceeds from which go to benefit and honor the veterans of the area.
Neidhamer, Byron T. (Bud) Bud’s personal recollection of the war. September 1944 – September 1946: On Easter Sunday, April 1 1945, we found out troops had landed on Okinawa with our ship about five days away. As we approached the island, we on board became aware of the tremendous number of ships involved. Ships of all kinds were stretched out for as far as we could see. The 500 replacement troops aboard our ship were all hoping that we would stay aboard until morning. No such luck. We were told to disembark immediately, so within minutes, we were going over the sides and down cargo nets into waiting Landing Craft Tanks and headed for shore about a half mile away. As soon as the last man was off, our ship left for open water because of the threat of kamikaze attacks. As we landed, we were told to disperse along the beach, dig a foxhole and stay in it until daylight, at which time
we would be assigned to our respective units. At dawn we were assigned and sent walking in the direction that our outfit was located. The stench of dead flesh hovered over the island, originating from farm animals and dead Japanese soldiers. The stench was overwhelming. The Okinawa natives do not consider themselves Japanese and the Japanese soldiers considered the natives an inferior sub-culture. Most of the natives were farmers. Oak and pine trees were plentiful. Much of the battle took place on the rolling farm land. Valleys existed between the gentle hills, which made it very difficult to advance considering the enemy was always defending high ground. The Japanese proved to be
very formidable enemy, using clever battle tactics combined with a tenacious resolve. Very surprisingly, there was little resistance—only sporadic rifle and mortar fire. The U.S. strategy was to capture two airfields, which were approximately mid-island, then continue to cross the island, cutting the Japanese defenders into two parts. The crossing went well with very little resistance. The two Marine divisions then turned north and the two Army divisions turned south. It was at this point that the battle turned very heated for the two Army divisions, whereas the Marines turned north and met little resistance for a distance of about 30 miles. Once the north end of the island was secured, the two Marine divisions returned south and lined up with the two Army divisions already in place. This established a four-division front line. Following the bombardment from the off-shore ships, 260 Historical Memories: Boyne City Area two waves of 120 planes each started the process of strafing the beach area. At mid-morning the amphibian tanks landed, along with the Marine and Army infantrymen. Except for an occasional mortar shell or a sniper bullet, the landing personnel met no resistance. By 10:00 a.m., both airfields were taken without a shot fired, a goal that was four days ahead of schedule. It is appropriate at this point to make a statement about the role of the infantry in any war. It is chiefly infantrymen who are placed in mortal contact with the enemy. Of the eleven million U.S. uniformed men and women in 1945, only about five percent served in infantry combat divisions. Those who were in uniform but never saw combat remained innocent of war’s misery. Even on Okinawa, the large majority of support personnel behind the enemy lines had little knowledge of he infantry’s role. Decent men on both sides are reduced to brutal existence of violent death, terror, fatigue, cruelty and filth. The four of us learned later that we were joining a very elite regular army unit that had previous campaigns: Attu, Kwajalene, Leyte and now Okinawa. We also learned that we were partially replacing eleven casualties who were killed the day before by friendly fire from a low flying fighter plane. The front lines were always marked with orange panels approximately five by thirty feet. The costly error happened because the pilot was confused as to which side of the panel the enemy was located on. The company that we were joining was dug in about a thousand yards behind the front lines. It was a grim scene meeting our comrades for the first time. Everyone had week-old beards; they were unsmiling and caked with dirt from head to foot. The BAR man had been wounded the day before and I was arbitrarily assigned to the BAR because of my size. The BAR weighs considerably more than the M-1, the standard infantryman’s weapon. We were temporarily out of range of rifle and mortar fire but still vulnerable to artillery. The enemy was using their big artillery guns in a very unique way. The guns were mounted on tracks inside of man-made caves. At odd times, they would be wheeled out, fired, and then wheeled back, protected from return fire. Usually five to ten rounds were fired before retreating back into the protective caves. This strategy prevented any effective return fire. The Okinawa battle utilized artillery much in the way they were used in the European theatre. For two weeks, Company B followed the described pattern of digging in at night, slowly advancing during the day, and then repeating. As we advanced, many dead Japanese soldiers were passed by, bloated and covered with maggots, indicating that the enemy was unable to, or uninterested in, recovering their casualties. There were also many, many native casualties. They came out of their protective caves at night and started walking north where there was some relief from the raging war. Flares lighted the nights from both camps, which were of help to the stumbling civilians. The old and the very young made up most of the night travelers since all others had been conscripted into the battle by the Japanese. Night time was difficult; the was towed through the water to collect the mines. The mines were then exploded by contact with the sled or by using the ship’s guns to shoot the mines. Minesweepers operated in advance of the invasions, usually at night to avoid the Japanese shore batteries. Like most veterans’ experiences, life on ship was filled with long, boring, hot days spent floating around the South Pacific, punctuated by very frightening invasions and dangerous missions clearing mines under the cover of a battleship’s 16-inch guns. John said these guns created a noise that was unforgettable. We have pictures of life on the ship, which looks pretty serene with the jungle islands in the background and the Filipinos and islanders paddling up to the ship in dugout canoes. As a Chief Pharmacist Mate, John’s responsibility would have been for the health of the crew. John was a cleaning/neat freak, and he told a story of his first few weeks on board YMS-9, organizing and cleaning the ship from top to bottom, including the bilges, which apparently was a nasty job. My brother and I heard this story every time we complained about a task or tried to shirk duty. The men also would swim off the ship to cool off and take turns standing guard with a rifle, fending off sharks.He also amputated a portion of aman’s hand, which had been injured. The service record of battles and operations he participated in is textbook in respect to the island “hopping” campaign General Mac Arthur devised to retake the Philippines. They include: - New Herbrides 1944
Published on Jul 28, 2010
The July 28, 2010 issue shows a donation from Former Sheriff George T. Lasater to the Boyne Falls Veterans Memoral, the Boyne Falls Polish F...