“I have not read ‘The Sacrificial Lambs’ by Bill Sholin. But I am a veteran of three Pacific invasions, Okinawa was one of them,” his letter read.
His allusion to “The Sacrificial Lambs” had to do with a column I wrote that included a piece on Sholin’s book. It’s about the Japanese Kamikaze attack on the Allied fleet during the battle for Okinawa.
“I was on LST-582, Landing Ship Tank, some referred to as “floating coffins.’
“Our job, like any other of the landing crafts of the fleet, was to brave all enemy fire and defenses. Then we had to put our bows, that is the front of the ship, on the enemy shore.
“Then we opened our bow doors and disgorged future heroes and machinery of war. Meanwhile, all hell is going on about us.
“In the Okinawa invasion, the Japs sent Kamikazes to destroy our landing ship invasion and other warships: aircraft carriers, battleships, destroyers and many other crafts designated to support and protect us.
“Strange that we seldom hear of the terrible storm at sea prior to the invasion that sank nine LSTs and several other ships.
“Acts of individual courage such as witnessed on my ship by troops who volunteered to go out into the fury of the storm to refasten a loose chain anchoring a tank that could have possibly caused havoc considered your duty.
“When the storm subsided, we were attacked by a Kamikaze. An aircraft carrier port side and aft of our ship about a half-mile away was hit by two Kamikazes.
“We proceeded to our lading area and opened our bow doors and lowered our ramp. From there flowed the destruction of the resistance.
“A new and vast Kamikaze attack then took place. The ships in our fleet started laying a smoke screen to protect them from the attack. Aircraft from our carriers were accidentally hit by anti-aircraft fire from our ships who couldn’t discern our planes from the Japs through the smoke and confusion of battle.
“The Kamikazes got under the smoke screen and many carriers, battleships and destroyers were hit.
“An ammunition ship off our starboard bow was hit and that courageous captain opted to sail seaward, away from the convoy. I heard the ship blew up and sank.
“No, Don, I didn’t read Bill Sholin’s ‘The Sacrificial Lambs,’ but with all due respect, he wasn’t the only one out there.
Joe Dixon, Port Charlotte, Fla.
U.S.N. Pharmacist Mate (Ret.)”
This was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, Nov. 12, 2001 and is republished with permission.
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