On July 23, 1945 the 136th Port Company Transportation Corps of the United States Army arrived by ship at the Port of Naha, Okinawa. The following are excerpts from the letters of Captain Daniel E. Lewis.
The whole build up of men and equipment on the island is to prepare for the invasion and occupation of Japan by the U.S. forces. This is the last stepping stone to victory. We have cargo ships off shore that our port companies unload onto barges. Then our men unload the barges onto trucks. From here another unit hauls everything to large “dumps” for temporary storage. There are many huge military airfields with thousands of planes and pilots preparing for the invasion of Japan. The sky is often filled with planes of all descriptions.
Naha was formerly the largest city on the island and Okinawa’s largest sea port. The destruction here is unbelievable. It is just a shambles and practically all wiped out. No worthwhile buildings remain standing. Prior to our encampment, large areas were prepared for Army occupation by leveling with large bulldozers. We live on top of rubble that was once a city of 65,000 people. We have been living in the rough, enduring much wind, rain, and mud.
I have been working from 5 A.M. to 6 P.M. at top speed Then on top of that we usually are disturbed during the night with air raids from the Japanese. There is considerable noise and fireworks from gunfire.
Tomorrow we officers will move into our tent houses. We have fixed up some real fine quarters—a far cry from the way we lived on arrival. At night we can lift up the flap of our tent and see the Battalion movie, as the screen is just a short jump from our quarters. We still wash in our steel helmets but soon will have an improvised shower made from an auxiliary airplane tank that we hoisted and mounted on a supporting framework.
When we first arrived here we had many air raids—sometimes several during the night. The sky would be full of tracer bullets and search light beams. It was pretty to watch but was a time of anxiety. Several of our men who were working at the docks at night were shot at by snipers who hide in caves during the day and come out at night to harass our workers. At night we don’t go far from camp without our carbines close by. It is never safe to take side roads when driving through the hills.
When the announcement was made that Japan had offered to surrender, we were watching a movie. It came to an abrupt end as men began to shout and jump and run and celebrate in a spontaneous outburst of joy. Men ran for all the weapons they could find—from small arms to antiaircraft guns— and caused the biggest display of fireworks I have ever witnessed or probably ever will. Tracer bullets literally filled the sky. I was much more frightened of peace than I had been frightened of war. I went to my tent and put on my steel helmet just in case some stray bullet might find its way in my direction.
It was later reported that the peace casualties on the island were thirteen killed and two hundred wounded.
If you missed my story about Dan joining the army after Pearl Harbor, you can find it in the February 2021 blog, Dad’s Valentine. Follow my blog for more excerpts about typhoons, a stampede, and a mysterious moaning.
The photos: The soldiers were not permitted to bring cameras from the States so there were only a few on the island. One of the officers had a 620 box camera which Dan borrowed, using film sent to him from his two sisters.
If you have narratives or photographs of your family members from World War II, consider donating them to the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. For more information, contact them at https://ahec.armywarcollege.edu/donate.cfm