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Review of Hacksaw Ridge

 

Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard,
that the everlasting God, the Lord,
the Creator of the ends of the earth,
fainteth not, neither is weary?
There is no searching of his understanding.
He giveth power to the faint;
and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
and the young men shall utterly fall:
but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings as eagles;
they shall run, and not be weary;
and they shall walk, and not faint.

Isaiah 40:28-31

 

I’ve been where you are now and I know just how you feel. It’s entirely natural that there should beat in the breast of every one of you a hope and desire that some day you can use the skill you have acquired here.
Suppress it! You don’t know the horrible aspects of war. I’ve been through two wars and I know. I’ve seen cities and homes in ashes. I’ve seen thousands of men lying on the ground, their dead faces looking up at the skies. I tell you, war is Hell!

William Tecumseh Sherman, address to the graduating class of the Michigan Military Academy (June 19, 1879)

 

 

 

My bride and I went to see Hacksaw Ridge last Saturday, Mel Gibson’s tribute to conscientious objector Desmond Doss who earned a Medal of Honor for heroism on Okinawa, and I was bowled over by it.  It wrenched more emotion from me than any film I have ever seen, except for Gibson’s Passion of the Christ.  My review is below the fold.  The usual caveat as to spoilers is in effect. Continue Reading

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Death of General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr.

LtGen__Simon_Bolivar_Buckner_Jr__and_MajGen__Roy_Geiger_at_Okinawa

The final remnants of resistance on Okinawa were crushed on June 21, and the United States was stunned by the American casualties of approximately 80,000.  For a nation that was becoming weary of war, this was a bitter victory.  One casualty stood out:  Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr, the commander of the Tenth Army, the invasion force.

The product of a May-November marriage, Buckner’s mother was 29 and his father, Simon Bolivar Buckner, a former Confederate Lieutenant General, was 63 when he was born in 1883, like his father he was a West Point graduate, class of 1908.  Much of his career was spent either attending or teaching at Army schools, including a stint as Commandant at West Point.  Prior to being tabbed to command the Tenth Army, Buckner spent most of the War in the Pacific sideshow of Alaska.

On June 18, 1945 Buckner was inspecting an observation post when a Japanese artillery shell exploded in nearby coral driving fragments into his chest.  He died on the operating table.   The General was warned just prior to the artillery barrage to remove his helmet with three stars that might attract enemy fire.  He did so, but by that time the Japanese, ever on the alert, had probably targeted him. Continue Reading

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Hell on Okinawa

“War is brutish, inglorious, and a terrible waste… The only redeeming factors were my comrades’ incredible bravery and their devotion to each other. Marine Corps training taught us to kill efficiently and to try to survive. But it also taught us loyalty to each other – and love. That espirit de corps sustained us.”  

“Until the millennium arrives and countries cease trying to enslave others, it will be necessary to accept one’s responsibilities and be willing to make sacrifices for one’s country – as my comrades did. As the troops used to say, “If the country is good enough to live in, it’s good enough to fight for.” With privilege goes responsibility.”  

Eugene B. Sledge:  With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa

 

 

 

Language and violence advisory for the above video giving a fairly sanitized Hollywood version of what the battle of Okinawa was like.  Austin Bay at Strategy Page reminds us of just how bad the battle of Okinawa, raging seventy years ago, was:

On shore, some 80,000 to 100,000 Japanese manned hardened fortifications. Historians debate the total number of defenders. The Okinawan Home Guard (Boeitai) participated, but to what extent is uncertain: 500,000 civilians lived on the island. Though Tokyo’s ruling supremacists regarded Okinawans as low caste, they encouraged them to die for the Emperor, in droves.

That served the diplomatic end. With the European war drawing to a close, Japan’s rulers gambled that strategic fanaticism would convince war-wearying America that fighting Japan was too costly. Attention Missouri, New York, Texas — your soldiers will die for each inch of rock.

The Japanese decided to defend Okinawa in selected sectors. Troops would wait inland. If the kamikazes sank a few supply ships, that might slow the land attack. As U.S. troops approached, Japanese forces would attack then withdraw into the defense system, forcing a bunker-to-bunker fight. Defenders in the South might resist for months in the concentric defense surrounding the town of Shuri.

U.S. troops initially met limited opposition. By April 4, a Marine division had cut across the island. On the same day, U.S. Army units encountered in-depth defenses to the south. The kamikazes hit the fleet; Japanese in the Southern sector launched several vicious attacks. And Okinawa’s great bleeding began.

From April 12 to 14, the Japanese attacked along the entire south front. Both sides suffered casualties; the U.S. invasion stalled. On April 30, an Army division had to be withdrawn. Bunker battles had reduced the division to 30 percent strength.

Japanese attacks in early May rattled U.S. forces. However, outside their forts, the Japanese suffered heavy casualties. One assault cost the Japanese 7,000 dead. The Americans employed endless volleys of artillery and on-call air strikes.

Monsoon rains slowed operations in late May. The mud and muck reminded some of WWI’s Ypres battlefield. U.S. forces chipped away at the concentric defense. An intense artillery barrage would rake a Japanese bunker; a limited infantry assault would finish the dirty job. Behind the bunkers, GIs found more bunkers, but the defenders were less skilled. Fighting lapsed. On June 22, the Japanese commanders committed ritual suicide.

All told, Okinawa killed 12,500 Americans and wounded approximately 50,000. It was the U.S. Navy’s biggest killer, with 4,907 sailor deaths and 4,874 wounded. Japan lost an estimated 75,000 military dead. As for civilians? Estimates run from 50,000 to 110,000. Continue Reading

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April 24, 1945: Death of Father Cyclone

father-larry-lynch

 

Larry Lynch was born, the first of 12 kids in his family, in the City Line neighborhood of Brooklyn on October 17, 1906.  He grew up on some pretty tough streets while also serving as an altar boy at Saint Sylvester’s.   He came to greatly admire the Redemptorists, an order of missionary priests founded by Saint Alphonsus Liguori in 1732.  In America the order had distinguished itself by its work in some of the roughest slums in the country and thus it was small wonder that a tough street kid would be attracted to them.  Larry Lynch was ordained a priest in the Redemptorist Order in 1932.

His initial assignment was as a missionary priest in Brazil, in the parishes of Miranda and Aquidauana in the State of Mato Grosso, quite a change from Brooklyn!  In 1937 he served at Old Saint Mary’s in Buffalo, New York with mission assignments to Orangeburg, North Carolina and Ephrata, Pa.

Prior to Pearl Harbor, in September 1941, Father Lynch enlisted in the Army as a chaplain.  He served at Camp Wheeler, Georgia, Fort Polk, Lousiana, and in the Mojave Desert in California with the 31rst regiment of the 7th Armored Division.  In December 1943 he was sent overseas to New Caledonia in the Southwest Pacific.

Assigned initially to the 42nd Quarter Master Battalion in Noumea, Captain Lynch quickly began making himself unforgettable.  The commander of the outfit was Lieutenant Colonel Julius Klein, a remarkable man in his own right who had served as an American spy in Germany during World War I.  Klein, to his astonishment, found himself agreeing that he and all the staff officers in the battalion would be at Christmas Mass that evening, although he wondered what a Jew like him would be doing at a  Catholic Mass!  Father Lynch had that type of effect on people, his enthusiasm tended to overwhelm all opposition.  He decided that the chapel was too small for the Mass and it was held in the base amphitheater.  The amphitheater filled to capacity, the Christmas carols at the Mass were led by a soldier named  Goldstein, a great tenor, who Father Lynch had met on the troop transport.  Father Lynch explained the priest’s vestments prior to beginning for the benefit of the non-Catholics present:

“Father Stearns of the Navy will celebrate the Mass.   Before he begins, there’s a lot even Catholics should know and I’ll bet a nickel there are some right here who couldn’t explain why a priest wears all those vestments, for example.  Well, it’s time we all knew why and it won’t hurt you non-Catholics to know either.”

“Father Stearns will begin to put on his vestments, and while he does, well talk about them a little. First, as to the why. Every one of them is a symbol, a symbol of service to God.”

He picked up the amice and held it high. “This, for example. It’s just a piece of linen, and it is called an amice: A-M-I-C-E. Jesus was blindfolded, and the amice represents that blindfold. Okay, Father.”

He extended the amice to Father Stearns who put it on.

“Herod placed a garment on Jesus to make a fool of Him. You remember that.  This white robe white to signify purity is an alb: A-L-B, and the alb is symbolic of that garment.  Incidentally there are six colors used by the church and each one of them is significant: white for purity and joy, red for blood and fire, green is the symbol of hope, violet for penance. . . .”

The Mass had a huge impact on everyone present, and Colonel Klein announced that he was glad he came. Continue Reading