By Mary Helen Elliott - 2000
The battle at Okinawa, beginning on Easter Sunday of 1945, is described as one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific, during World War II. Okinawa is a large island, more than 60 miles long, and from two to 18 miles wide. The Japanese defended it, with more than 100,000 of their best troops.
Okinawa was Japanese territory. They knew it was the United States' final stepping-stone to the home island of Japan. The battle for Okinawa was fought, and ultimately, decided in the way that all battles have been fought. The men on both sides, facing each other, day after day, across the sights of a rifle, determined the result.
When the United States entered World War II, the U. S. Government turned to ordinary Americans and asked of them exceptional service, sacrifice, and bravery. Many Americans met those high expectations, then returned home to reclaim their lives.
Paul Elliott of Bell County was one of those men, as were many other men from Kentucky and other states. Paul was in the Sixth Division, Fourth Regiment of the United States Marines. He trained in San Diego, and immediately shipped out for the Pacific and Guadalcanal. He, along with many friends he'd made during their service to this country, sacrificed much to ensure our freedom today. Some friends died on the battlefield at Okinawa, while others were injured.
During an intense battle, Harold Doughtery was hit in the face with a piece of shrapnel that left him blind in one eye. During yet another intense battle, a piece of shrapnel found its way, at high speed, into Paul's fox hole that he shared with Charles F. Dixon. The shrapnel took off a piece of Paul's helmet, then proceeded to hit Charles in the foot. Charles' foot was so severely damaged that it had to be amputated, while Paul escaped, unharmed. Harold and Charles have both kept in touch with Paul, since the war. O. P. Ellis was killed on the battlefield.
Another friend of Paul's, whom he remembers only as "Benny," survived four major battles during the war. On the last day of fighting at Okinawa, Benny was killed. He, like many others, was asked to perform extraordinary service. He certainly stepped up to the task, giving his life for his country.
After suffering from chills and uncontrollable shaking, followed by fever and sweating, Paul was taken to the field hospital that lay within the boundaries of war, diagnosed with malaria. During this stay, he recalls being able to hear bombs and artillery bombardment as he attempted to recover. He remained at the field hospital for five days before being returned to the front lines.
After another two months, the war ended, and he returned home, still suffering from the disease. It took months before he recovered.
Nightmares and flashbacks were a constant companion for Paul and many other individuals, after returning from the war. One must keep in mind that these soldiers lived and fought, daily, for their lives. At one point, it rained for 16 days. As a result, the soldiers' fox holes, their clothing, as well as the battlefield, were mud, water, and sludge. These soldiers lived in this mayhem throughout the battle.
Many war veterans say they have never talked about many aspects of the war, because their primary goal has been to block it from their minds.
To the many soldiers of World War II, who
are still actively and vibrantly pursuing the American dream,
and to the many who have already passed on, we salute you!