Unit: Weapons Platoon, "Charlie" Company, 1st Marine Division, III Amphibious Corps
Decorations, Citations, and Awards: - National Defense Service Medal, Pacific Campaign Medal, Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Letter of Thanks Signed by Harry S. Truman
Easter Sunday – April 1, 1945 – was not a good day. 18-year-old Marine PFC Ken Dahl was 7,000 miles away from home assigned to one of two platoons from the 1st Mar. Div. leading the assault on the Hagushi beaches on the western coast of Okinawa. The deafening Naval bombardment in support of the landing was still underway, and the suffocating smokescreen that was supposed to cover them from being seen by the enemy also prevented them from seeing the enemy. The Marines had endured constant nausea and vomiting during the 40+ days crossing the Pacific; watched in horror as many of their comrades were killed instantly when a Japanese Kamikaze flew into the ship they had just left; and almost drowned when their Landing Craft (LCVP) struck a reef and the egress ramp prematurely dropped, flooding the craft well short of the beach. Fortunately, a number of Amphibious Tractors (AmpTracs) were close enough to rescue them and get them to shore. Now, this – they were on the beach, but none of their mechanized armor, artillery, or reserve ammunition was. APRIL FOOL!!
The first hours of the assault consisted of hand-to-hand combat – fists, boots, rocks, rifle butts, and bayonets – until the battle gear finally made its way ashore. Then, slog it out – step after bloody step – for 82 days. Whenever Ken would get a break, his thoughts would drift back home to Scribner – to his family’s farm; his sweetheart, Anita; his threshing crew and basketball team buddies – [Had It been just a year since the State Basketball Tournament? It seemed so long ago and so far away.] – wondering if he would see any of them ever again.
The Battle of Okinawa was the single bloodiest action in the Pacific Theater of WWII. Over 12,500 of America’s fathers, sons, and brothers were lost – triple that number were wounded with as many non-combat casualties. All in all, American losses exceeded 84,500 fallen, wounded, missing, infected, or injured (46%). The Japanese committed a combat force of 100,000 troops, losing 95%. Civilian losses have been estimated at over 100,000.
Sappers, snipers, heavy armor, heavy artillery, hand-to-hand combat, regular enemy forces – air, land, & sea – hostile insurgent civilians, booby traps, mine fields, “friendly” fire […never have figured out what was so damn “friendly” about it], punishing heat, jungle rot, dysentery, wet socks, dry heaves, poisonous plants / insects / snakes / you-name-it, unhealthy water, unsanitary conditions, C-Rations – K-Rations – no Rations…through it all, Ken prevailed, honoring his family, our Country, and the Corps. Of the original two platoons (80+ Marines) leading the initial assault, only Ken and six others remained when it was over.
Semper Fi, Marine…ooh-RAH!
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