My Military Experience Part II: Another Time

Zearl Black - GWRRA

After Normandy and a 30-day leave, I reported to a Naval Station in Boston. About 200 hospital corpsmen, including me, were assigned to serve with the Fleet Marine Forces. We all went to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where we went through six weeks of Marine Corp. boot camp, then six weeks of training for field medicine and first aid. We were taught how to make river water potable. Specific emphases were on gunshot and shrapnel wounds.

After a four-day train trip and five days on a ship, we arrived in Honolulu. Here, 22-men medical teams were formed. My team was assigned to the 2nd Marine Division. We joined them on Saipan, in the Marianas Islands.

The Island was secure, but a few hundred Japanese soldiers refused to surrender. They were holed up in caves. My regiment was assigned the task of eliminating them. When we found evidence of activity in a cave area, interpreters asked them to surrender. If they did not, flame throwers filled the cave with fire. No one survived.

After mop-up operations were over we had little to do. Camp maintenance took only a short time each day. Then we were free. We built a dirt tennis court. I played tennis all day wearing cutoff pants and boots. I was brown, fit and 185 pounds.

Early in March of 1945, we began intensive physical training. Seasoned Marines knew we were getting ready for yet another invasion. During the last weeks of March, we began boarding ships. On March 28 while at sea, we were told the target was Okinawa.

Early morning of April 1, we went over the side, via cargo nets, into LCUPs. At dawn we started for shore in waves. Shelling from battleships behind us and planes overhead kept our heads down. About 300 yards from shore the planes laid down a smoke screen in front of us. The boats made a U-turn and went back to the ships. Oh, Happy Day! Our part was a feint to draw the enemy forces away from the actual landing site on the other side of the island.

Back on Saipan again, we had little to do. I continued to work on my correspondence courses. These were free from the United States Armed Forces Institute.

My dog tags said USNR but I was wearing a Marine Corps uniform.

My service with the Marines was interrupted. My medical company was selected to serve with the Army.

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