Posted by: SJS | May 12, 2020

PT base at Teguchi Harbor, Okinawa

1945 PT base in Okinawa

While VE Day (Victory in Europe) was celebrated on May 8, 1945, heavy fighting in the Pacific continued against a fierce and entrenched adversary.  In anticipation of the invasion of the Japanese mainland, a PT base was established at Teguchi Harbor on Okinawa.  PTs from Squadrons (RONs) 31, 32, and 37 were assigned to Okinawa in preparation for the coming battles.

The Marines and the Navy knew that their war was a long way from over as spring turned to summer in 1945.  The forces of Imperial Japan were dug in and determined to fight on as the Allies moved ever closer to the Japanese homeland.  As the prospects of the ultimate Allied victory grew ever more certain, the resistance of the Japanese fighting forces became more intense–and suicidal.

The PT sailors in Ron 27 knew clearly what they were up against.  After Red Stahley, Tom Saffles, and their crewmates on PT 373 and PT 359 went through a ferocious engagement on Balabalangan Island on a remote Borneo jungle river, it was clear that the Japanese forces would surrender nothing without a fight to the death.  And the closer that fighting got to mainland Japan, the worse it would get.

As the sailors on PT 373 and PT 359 returned to the USS Mobjack, the PT Tender that was their temporary base, they were carrying one dead crewmate, one severely wounded crewmate, and the exhaustion of a night filled with heavy machine gun fire coming from an enemy they could not even see in the darkness and smoke.

Over the night of July 9-10, 1945, my father and his fellow sailors got a bitter taste of the experience that the Marines were encountering on Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and the other hotspots of the island hopping campaign.  From the vantage point of mid-July, 1945, the weeks and months ahead of the PT crews looked bleak and filled with one blood-drenched battle after another.  Three PT squadrons were already assigned to the new base in Okinawa and it is likely that the sailors of Ron 27 expected a similar posting.

Everything would change dramatically in the early part of August when President Harry Truman ordered the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on mainland Japan.  The unconditional surrender of Imperial Japan quickly followed the second bombing on August 9, 1945.

The unleashing of atomic weapons was, and will remain, among the most controversial decisions in American history.  There are compelling arguments to be made for and against.  The Atomic Age was ushered in with two massive blasts that changed the course of human history.

One thing, however, is beyond dispute.  Had the Allied forces been handed the duty of invading mainland Japan, the cost in American lives would have been very, very high.  And part of that toll would have been paid by the PT sailors in the South Pacific.  Like the Marines, they were resigned to their fate and accepted the grim path that lay before them.  Like the Marines, the PT sailors were realists about war and its costs.

And if it had become necessary to invade mainland Japan in the brutal summer of 1945,  I can only wonder if I would even be here typing these words.  It most certainly gives one pause…

Photo courtesy of PT Boats, Inc.

 

 

 

 


Responses

  1. I’m certainly it glad it ended the war but it certainly changed history.

  2. That’s so true, Lloyd. Thanks for your continued support.


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