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In War, resolution, in defeat, defiance, in victory, magnanimity, in peace, goodwill.
-- Winston Churchill
On June 15th 1944 the 2nd Armored Amphibian Bn invaded the Island of Saipan. The 2nd Armored was the first amtrac to be fitted with a open turret and a 75 mm canon, and was to be used as an assualt weapon to get heavy fire power to the beach before the infantry landed. We left the LST's with 72 Armored Amtracs, and only 23 made it all the way to the beach. The Japanese had zeroed in on exact places on the reef, and as the armored tanks got to that spot, they opened fire with heavy artillery and heavy mortars.
Our Armored Amphtrac was assigned to Co. D 2nd Platoon, and our objective was to proceed 1000 yards inland and secure a Japanese air strip. Also knocking out pill boxes and artillery implacments as we advanced. When we got to what was supposed to be the airstrip, we found that it was a fake strip, and the planes there were nothing more than props. When we were ready to fight our way back to the beach, my Tank Commander, Sgt. Johnson saw one of our amphibs stuck in a tank trap. We hooked on a cable and pulled the other tank out, but in the process, burned up our clutch, and were unable to move. By this time, the Japanese had recovered from the Navy bombardment, and were all over the place. They were shelling us with mortars as well as light and heavy artillery,. When we took a couple of hits, Sgt. Johnson ordered us to bail out and try and get back to the beach, about 1000 yards away.
We left the tank and started for the beach when a heavy mortar and artillery barrage was laid down by the Japanese between us and our lines. We were literally cut off from our own troops, and deep in enemy territory. While running towards the beach, I knew there was no chance of making it across open ground through the mortar fire so I dove into a crater, made by either a bomb or a large shell from a battleship. It was about seven feet deep and 6 ft across. There were four other Marines hunkered down in the crater, and we decided to wait out the mortars and try to get back to our lines. Then we heard the clanking of a tank track and thought it might be one of our amtracs and looked over the rim of the crater. It was not one, but two Japanese light tanks heading right for the crater we were in. Everyone started to climb up the side to get out, and one guy got his head inside the sling of my rifle. I wasn't about to let him pull it away from me so I jerked him back down the side, and the two of us ended on our backs on the bottom of the crater. The next thing I knew, he went back up the side and I heard machine gun fire and then the tanks were right at the edge of the crater. I never knew if he made it to the beach or was hit right after he left the crater.
Both Japanese tanks were armored with 37 mm canons. I was hoping with all my might neither one had a flame thrower. Neither did. One of the tanks lowered his gun and I figured that was the end of everything for me. It pissed me off that no one would ever know what even happened to me, and I would probably be listed as missing in action. This actually went through my mind. But, because of the angle of the gun and the front of their tank, they couldn't fire directly into the bottom. When they fired, the shell went over my head and into the sandy bank before exploding. I was blown around the bottom, and covered with coral sand but not hit. They fired three or four times, I'm not really sure, then the hatched opened and a Jap soldier looked down into the crater. I first thought about shooting him and trying for the beach, but decided to play dead and hope for the best. He stared at me for what seemed like an hour, then closed the hatch and both tanks backed off and pulled away.
As soon as I couldn't hear the tracs anymore, I climbed out and ran like hell for the beach and the rest of the Marine force. My biggest conciliation was the fact that right after I got back to our lines, two Marines with bazookas blew the shit out of both of the tanks that scared me more than I have ever been scared before or sense. For the next three days I was a grunt with the 2nd Division infantry, then we got our tank back and we did what we were supposed to do.
Note: by Bill Hoover
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Operation Frequent Wind, the largest helicopter evacuation on record, begins removing the last Americans from Saigon.