Sgt. Rudy Raymond of Bay Lake Estates mobile home park in Nokomis, Fla. arrived just in time to take part in the biggest battle in the Pacific Theatre during World War II–Okinawa. He was a member of the Second Marine Wing, Air Squadron 8.
This was a special unit comprised of radio and radar operators called an Air Warning Squadron.
“I was one of the first members of Air Warning Squadron 8,” the 89-year-old explained more than 65 years later. “There were 50 of us in the squadron.”
He trained in Jacksonville for three months to become radio operators. Their job was to protect a sector of the sky above Okinawa against enemy planes. If the radar unit they were running picked up a “boogie” he’d sent up a F4U, “Corsair,” to attack the Japanese plane.
“If we spotted a plane in our sector we’d call up to him. If he didn’t respond with the proper code he was a ‘boogie,’” Raymond said.
“At that point we’d send one of our aircraft to get him.
“We arrived off Okinawa before the invasion. We watched our navy bombard the island for five days straight. It was hard to sleep during the bombardment,” he recalled.
“We got off our ship onto a little spit of beach a couple of miles off Okinawa called Naganu Island. We set up our operation there to begin with,” he said.
The Japanese didn’t know what to make of their unit, so they paid them little heed. What they were trying to take out were the aircraft carriers and battleships that were protected by hundreds of Allied ships in Bucker Bay off Okinawa.
“Every day we’d send up pilots in F4Us looking for the enemy. This one talkative pilot we contacted about a ‘boogie’ in his sector,” Raymond said.
“We didn’t hear anything from him for a while. Then he started screaming into his mike: ‘I got him! I got him! I got him!’ “An hour or so later he connected us and said he had to returned to base. I questioned him a bit further and learned he had been hit in the leg by enemy fire during his first encounter with a Japanese fighter. His leg wound had bled profusely for about an hour while he kept looking for another zero to shoot down.
“When he landed medics were waiting to provide him immediate assistance the moment he climbed out of his ‘Corsair,’” Raymond said.
Another incident that made a big impression on him was the typhoon that raked the island with winds that reached upwards of 100 mph with 35 foot waves on Oct. 9, 1945. A dozen Allied ships were sunk in the bay and 222 others grounded on reefs or on beaches from the storm. Thirty-six people were killed in the typhoon and 100 more injured.
Most of the homes and businesses, together with all the military installations on Okinawa were badly damaged or a total loss. During the giant storm, Raymond and his unit had moved to another unnamed volcanic island 15 or 18 miles from Okinawa. They set up their radios and radar unit near the volcano’s peak.
“We were 1 1/2 miles from the Pacific, but we could still taste the saltwater blowing in our face from the storm,” he said. “The wind was so strong the only way you could move around was by hanging onto your seabag and using it as an anchor.
“A bunch of us climbed into my radio van sitting along the mountain side near the edge of a cliff. The truck rocked back and forth for 12 hours as a dozen or so of us were packed in there like sardines.
“The war for us ended on Aug. 13, 1945, my sister’s birthday,” Raymond said. “When the peace treaty was signed aboard the USS Missouri on Sept. 2, 1945, they started partying on Okinawa. The whole island was all lit up from cannon fire. A lot of people got killed over there because of all the celebratory firing,” he said.
Marines from his unit took a slow boat to Honolulu packed to the gunnels with servicemen who couldn’t wait to get home and be civilians again. It was a two or three week trip from Okinawa to Honolulu.
Raymond said he knew he was getting closer to home when his Victory ship sailed under the Gold Gate Bridge that spans San Francisco Bay. It took another slow trip aboard a train across country to Bainbridge, Md. where he was finally discharged in early 1946, almost six months after the war ended, he returned to Hartford, Conn. and went to work.
For the next four decades he worked as an electronic equipment salesman for several large distributors. He retired and moved to the Venice area of the west coast Florida in 1994. Raymond has two sons: Robert and Dennis.
Name: Randolph Jean Raymond
D.O.B: 7 Sept. 1924
Hometown: Fall River, Mass.
Currently: Nokomis, Fla.
Entered Service: 10 March 1943
Unit: Air Warning Squadron 8
Commendations: Certificate of satisfactory Service, Good Conduct Medal Battles/Campaigns: Philippines and Okinawa
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013 and is republished with permission.
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