If you haven't read Part One of Bil Lepp's "Last Vet Standing" interview with WWII Navy Veteran Glen Wise, click here. Part Two picks up where Part One left off, with Wise's LSM (Landing Ship Medium) carrying the 37th Infantry Artillery onto Purple Beach II, at Okinawa.
We were part of a simultaneous landing, with infantry and tanks. The first run in was always nip and tuck but the Navy had prepared the island for invasion. A few days before the landing aircraft bombed and strafed the beaches, then battleships and cruisers would bombard the island from about 5:00 in the morning until kick off. They just blasted the dickens out of everything there was. There were craters all over the place, they shot up the caves, everything. It must have been pretty unendurable for the Japs, being shot at all night and then attacked.Read more
LSM 13 landed wherever there was action: Wake, Enewetak, the Marshals, Guam, Saipan, Ulithi, Guadalcanal, Okinawa, and our ship was the first boat to land in Japan. For two years straight we never stopped. In all that time we never suffered a single causality. I'd say 13 was pretty lucky. But most boats suffered quite a few casualties, mostly from mines or aircraft.Read more
Clyde Crowley got shot down over Germany on the return leg of what would have been his last bomber mission before being rotated home and, consequently, he spent the last months of World War II in the hands of the Luftwaffe. As Steven Coonts put it in Flight of the Intruder, "He logged one less landing than take-off."Read more
I start with Tom Williams. I've made a list, and set up interviews, but Tom is the first guy I go see. He's on his porch swing watching the last of the summer days. From the looks of him, these are the last summer days he'll see. There is a clear plastic tube which appears under the screen door, wraps behind the table, comes up Tom's chest, circles his head once and then goes into his nose. It will be there, he has told me, for the rest of his life. Today he has finished the last of a series of twenty injections into his belly. They are supposed to get rid of a blood clot in Tom's lung, but the oxygen will have to remain.Read more
When you ask the question, “What is a West Virginian?,” one answer is clear: “West Virginians are soldiers.” I would wager that almost every family in West Virginia has at least one member who is currently serving in the military, or who is a veteran. Sometimes it is because of an overwhelming sense of patriotism, sometimes it because the military is the only job available. And every reason in between.Read more