|Eugene James McLaughlin, Sr. |
Last January, I found a file labeled “World War II” in my father’s block printing. In it are his enlistment and discharge papers, and court martial proceedings against him in November, 1943. For background: in June, 1943, he persuaded my mother, then eighteen, to elope with him. They had only one night together, so being a Yeoman 3rd class, he wrote himself passes to see my mother again before shipping overseas. Shore Patrol caught him, then he broke out of the brig for one more visit.
Lieutenant Commander A. A. Campbell, U.S.N.R. inserted a note saying: “McLaughlin is guilty of all charges set forth by the facts in the specifications. Furthermore, his attitude toward his misdeeds and his predicament is one of calloused indifference… I do not consider any punishment authorized by the Summary Court Martial to be of sufficient severity for this case.”
|USS Rich going down|
He proceeded to England where his ship, the destroyer escort USS Bunch, started across the English Channel for the D-Day Invasion but had to turn back when damaged. It was replaced by its sister ship, the USS Rich, which was shelled by Germans, hit a mine, and went down with 27 killed, 73 wounded, and 64 missing.
From England, he went to the Pacific on the attack/cargo ship USS Suffolk for extended combat in the Battle of Okinawa. He described several days and nights of attacks by kamikaze planes, one taking out the mast. After watching an episode about it on “Victory At Sea,” he told me that’s when he was most scared.
|Uncle Bobby became a cop in Medford, Mass after the war|
In the file is a May 10, 1945 letter to his brother, my Uncle Bobby, serving in the US Army in Europe: “Received your letter dated 3rd of April and was very glad to hear from you, particularly after all this good news of the war being over, over there.” Then he described seeing our infantry fighting on Ie Shima, near the big island of Okinawa: “Battlewagons, cruisers, cans, etc., were pounding the hell out of it and you couldn’t see a go***** thing for the bursting shells, debris, smoke, etc…. The Japs didn’t have anything outside of a few mortars so all [our] ships were anchored in pretty chose… within 500 yards of the beach where we could see the Japs through our long glasses… pouring fire into our infantry. Ch****, it was awful. Have you fellows got a big surprise coming to you when and if you ever come into this Pacific War. It’s positively the most gruesome thing you ever saw.”
|Famed war correspondent Ernie Pyle on Okinawa|
“These f****** Japs are veritable maniacs,” he continued. “When we take a place we usually find hundreds of civilians dead, suicides. The Japs fight with a frenzy heretofore unknown in any form of warfare and when they’ve exhausted everything they have, they wait until night and then come up with a Banzai charge with nothing more than bayonets and knives. There’s no such thing as capturing a Jap or having one surrender. They run up to our positions with grenades and dynamite strapped to their bodies. When they’re in their planes they load up with extra gas tanks, bombs, etc. so they can barely take off. They do this in bunches because they’re not very maneuverable… Those that are not shot down just come in on the ships in suicide dives, and you ought to see it Bob, it’s just a huge column of smoke and flame."
|Battle of Okinawa|
"I’ve seen quite a few ships get it so far and they sink a good percentage… We’re not supposed to tell anyone about this as it’s bad for morale… the reason I’m getting this out is that I’m mailing it in San Francisco… Of the six ships in our division, four of them were hit with either suicide planes or suicide boats.”
|Ernie Pyle's body on Ie Shima|
Okinawa was a preview of what to expect during an invasion of the Japanese home islands, then imminent. As I grew up, my father said again and again how relieved he was that we dropped those bombs on Japan to force their surrender, and I thought about it last week when President Obama gave his sanctimonious speech in Hiroshima.
|My father would be pissed|
Breitbart.com summed it up best: “Obama, a native of Honolulu who grew up near Pearl Harbor, said nothing about the fact that Japan started the war; nothing about the fact that the Japanese were responsible for the slaughter of millions of civilians throughout Asia and the Pacific; nothing about the fact that the Japanese refused to surrender after hundreds of thousands had already been killed in conventional bombing… he left out the moral case for ending the war, and the hundreds of thousands of deaths avoided because of Hiroshima. The contrast to President Harry S. Truman could not have been clearer. Reflecting on the decision to bomb Japan years later, Truman declared: ‘That bomb caused the Japanese to surrender, and it stopped the war. I don’t care what the crybabies say now, because they didn’t have to make the decision.’”
Addendum 7-18-16: This letter ran in The Bridgton News on July 4th:
Labels: Family, History, liberal pieties, My father, Obama, politics, WWII