Raymond Wood-The Easter Parade

DSCN5850Raymond was born 6 miles south of Louisburg, Kansas in December 1924. His father died 10 years later leaving him, his older brother and his mother. Ray’s brother moved to California when he heard that finding jobs were good there, when he found one he was able to send some money back to Ray and his mother with the two managing well through the great depression era in Louisburg. Ray graduated from LHS in 1943 and shortly afterwards married his classmate, Dorothy.

Raymond was inducted in the army on June 24th 1944 spending 17 weeks at the Infantry Replacement Training Center where his group was told that they would go fight in Europe but changed their minds for unknown reasons and they were sent over to the Pacific. Dorothy, even though 1 month pregnant, went with Ray to California before he was sent over to Leyte, In case it would be the last time they spend time together. He always kept the small Bible she gave him In his heart pocket the whole time he was in service. Ray and his shipmates spent 42 days on the ship before going through several Islands to take supplies Including New Guinea and Leyte. Ray joined the 96th Infantry Division of the 381 Regiment Company G where he made many new friends.

After several days, they were announced to invade the Okinawa Islands, the heaviest defended Japanese Island. Okinawa was the same value to the Japanese as the Hawaiian Islands were to the US. On April 1st Easter Sunday, they arrived in Okinawa. When they first landed on the beach, resistance was light and met few casualties but Japanese defense grew heavier and heavier as they reached closer to the main line of defense. The invasion took place on April 1 Easter Sunday which is why it’s referred sometimes as the Easter Parade.

 (Ray shared a few photograph’s he kept in an album of his time in the war)

 Easter Parade

 

 

Sawtooth Ridge

“After taking over Kakazu Ridge, Our group made their way towards Sawtooth Ridge. Before moving on, I was fixing some food from my ration when Clyde Snyder snuck up behind me and shouted “BOO!” despite heavy tension among everyone, Clyde was trying to goof around and lighten the moment. He asked me“Are you ready for this!?” I replied “I might as well be.” It was finally time to move.

Attack on Okinawa

Sawtooth Ridge was a huge rock formation with plenty of hiding places for the enemy; Artillery bombed the area for 2 days to soften it up but did little to affect it. Aside from distant sounds the area was disturbingly quite, once the group came over the top of the hill, Shots fired from all different directions! Many men were immediately killed, some ran and many ducked in for cover, I dived in a shallow washout and laid there for several hours while the strong sounds gun fire and mortar went off above him. An Airplane was sent to help, as it was lowering to the battlefield, the plane’s tail was hit by mortar and it crashed, there was so much noise with blast and gunfire, I didn’t even hear the large plan crash. I noticed a concrete pill box 100 feet from him, somehow without being hit he made it, the fighting soon died down though it continued farther away and there were still snipers in the ridge waiting for men like me to come out of hiding and he knew it.

Still lying in the pill box wondering what to do when I noticed American voices close by, he yelled “Who’s there?” The men answered back and said they were 4 of them who made it to a big rock in the overhang behind the pill box, Because it was still light out, I did not want to come out in the open since they were snipers close, The 4 men Were Clyde Snyder the man who scared me earlier for fun, Jack Sackerman, Bill Riecke and Staff Sargent Clarence Meineka.

The men stayed put at the overhang till it they thought it would likely be safe, Clyde decided to peek over the top to see what was out there, as he looked a machine gunner got him 3 times in the head. after a long time passed while it was dark when I finally said “I was coming” and wasted no time and ran as fast as he could, I heard voices echoed in the ridge they may have seen him, But I made it rolling under the rock and there stood the men, and laying nearby with a poncho was the body of Clyde Snyder.

Though I wasn’t alone anymore, we were very well trapped on the cliff, the rest of their company was the left of them in an area they can retreat back down but the wide open ridge separating our group and there company was an ideal open shot from a Japanese sniper, The company was able to get close enough to toss food, water and ammunition to our group and also managed a telephone wire for communication. After communications set up their leaders asked to not do anything stupid or run as it was still too risky to escape out in the open and to remain where there at and guard the company below so the enemy wouldn’t make an immediate attack but they would continue getting close and throwing ammunition and food for them. The enemy didn’t know how many were in our group, if they knew there were only 4, they could have wiped them out but Me and Jack both had BAR (Brown Automatic Rifles) and Clarence and Bill had M1’s. The weapons they can cause some real heavy action. Whenever the enemy came close they would fire their guns and scare them back making them think there were many guys keeping watch.

Battle of Okinawa

W were stuck up on the cliff for 3 nights and 4 days, During that time a platoon of the enemy would try to attempt to go down and kill the company below but we were able to successfully scare them off with their BAR’S and MI’s, on the second day while they were standing guard artillery rounds came shooting behind the rock ledge they were at, The second artillery shot knocked them down to ground, just seconds later a third shot right above them and barely missed the top of the rock, that third blast shot down into the valley and exploded, and that was it. The enemy must have thought they had gotten rid of us. The enemy came out at night ready to attack the company below, but we were alive and started throwing hand grenades when they were close enough and shot them with the BARs, They managed to hold them back once more, the next day the Americans sent a tank to the pill box the enemy was hiding, the tank managed to blast it.

Okinawa

We still waited for order’s to leave their position and take Clyde’s body to safety, they heard on the phone line from F Company Commander that he only had 20 men left out of 200, their leader’s knew we were too weak to stay and hold the enemy back any longer, so before daylight we would make a break for it along with our fallen brother, and before sunrise along with Clyde’s body made it back to their company unharmed but exhausted. A new Infantry and Marine Division came to relieve them and brought them away safely from the front lines.

Once while watching a screening at the camp, the air raid warnings went off and all the lights had to be shut off so they won’t be spotted by enemy plane. Once an enemy plane was in sight the naval ships by the beach would open fire and the whole sky would light up red, some got away, others were blasted by the naval bomb shells. I remember seeing one plane head straight for the top of the ship and it somehow missed and dived right in the ocean, these were “Kamikaze pilots or suicide pilots.

More new troops came and since I was already trained and had experience I was made squad leader which is the same ranking as a staff sergeant and remained that way the rest of the war.”

Ray would later participate in the battle of Shuri and would secure the island of Okinawa, though most men thought they would have to invade the Japanese mainland, this never happened as a result of the Atom Bomb. When his service was over after the surrender of Japan, Ray returned home to his wife Dorothy and a new baby girl, who had been born while he was away. Ray worked for the Panhandle Eastern Pipeline company, while raising 4 children. He passed away on September 2 2016 from natural causes.

Raymond today

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