“Yesterday’s Memories Tomorrow’s Dreams” by Carmen Tom – Look Out Japan, Here We Come

Look Out Japan, Here We Come

In June 1945, the Navy had big plans for Clarence and I. After our very successful ordeal in France, we thought that it would be the last Big Harrah. Little did we realize we would be going to Japan and soon. We hardly had time to rest after France.

No one really knew that the war with Japan would be over in late August. One day, Lt. Commander Les Warwick celled Clarence and I into his office. This was the same officer that sent us to France, he was a brilliant officer. At one tIme, he had been a fighter pilot, he told me he had shot down 16 Japanese planes. He walked with a bad limp, one of his legs had been broken bad, and he could no longer fly for the Navy. The Navy told him he could leave the Navy if he wanted to but he choose to stay in. The Navy needed good Officers and he was one of the best.

The Lt. Came right to the point with us, he told us again that we had done a good job in France. This next assignment would be even more important and much harder to pull off. He also said, if anyone can do it, it’s you two. He said, Tom I want you to head up the team, you will have 4 L.C.M.s. At this time I did not know the other 2 Coxswains. He told us there is no need at this time to meet your gunners. The L.C.M.s have two 50-mm. guns, they are 50 feet long, all steel, they use 2 gray Marine engines. 1 had been using these crafts since coming overseas.

The next day we were on our way to Okinawa, in 3 days we would be going to Japan, everything was moving along fast. We left with a large convoy, our L.C.M.s were aboard a L.C.T. I noticed 4 Destroyers, two heavy Cruisers, 2 Aircraft Carriers and other ships.
Lt. Warwick came down to our compartment, he cam right to the point. He told all 4 of the Coxswains we would get our orders the day we arrived in Okinawa. Our convoy arrived in Okinawa that night, he gave us our sealed orders. Our L.C.M.s were afready aboard the L.C.T.s the next morning we left, headed to Japan, we would be going to southern Japan.

Our orders told us we were to go ashore, hit the beach, unload, back off and get back to the L.C.T. as fast as we could. The Navy had prepared a good meal for us, we had steak and eggs the last good meal for us. This could have been a last good meal for some of us. We met with Lt. Warwick on more time, he told us there are not suppose to be any Japs in this area. We had not seen any Japanese ships since leaving.

The Japanese never dreamed the U.S. would be coming in the south, 12 to 15 miles north were good beaches, they figured we would land there. As to where we were landing, it was full of rocks, no beaches of any size. We had special trained Navy and Marines on our L.C.M.s and a jeep on each craft. We got within 3 miles of the shore, The L.C.T.’s unloaded our L.C.M., I led the way. We headed toward the shore, we got within I mile of the shore, the sun was just coming up, I could see the shoreline. The waters were really rough, large rocks everywhere. We all tried to avoid the large rocks, bouncing off the smaller ones. As we got closer to the shore I had a funny feeling something was wrong, but we had our orders, get at least one craft ashore. It was starting to get fight out and 1 noticed the shore, it looked like all big rocks. All of a sudden, shells started going off. I thought to myself, the Japs had found out of our landing. How I don’t know. Our large ships were firing toward shore, all hell was breaking out, I kept going toward the shore, trying to find a place to unload. Lucky no one hit any mines. I figured the Japs hadn’t had time to mine the waters here, as only a nut would try to land here! I looked to my tight, one L.C. M. had taken a direct hit, then another got hit, now there were only 2 of us, one of us had to make it ashore. I just wanted to get close as possible to unload then to get out of there fast. I hit the shore about 20 ft. out, I could get no closer, and the rocks were just too large. I dropped the ramp, the men all got out helping the jeep as best they could. All this time our gunners were shooting towards the shore. I looked for our other L.C.M., I could not see it. I noticed a man in the water, he had on a life jacket, I got as close as I could. One of our gunners took a boat hook and pulled the man to our craft, the other gunner helped the man aboard. Little did I know this was 01 Clarence. I looked for others in the water but could se none. I had my orders to get back to the L.C.T. as fast as I could. I headed out to sea, my L.C.M. had been hit, but was not taking on much water. I knew if 1 did not take any more hits 1 could make it back to it. I was praying all the time, also for god to watch over all the men. I thought to myself, I had lost a good buddy, little did I know the man we had pulled from the water was Clarence. My thoughts were of all the men, little did I know that many of the men did make it ashore, how many I never found out. I had done my job.

All of our big ships were tiring toward shore and there was aircraft flying over all the time. I asked my gunner if the man we had pulled from the water if he could talk. All of a sudden, a man stood up, I almost passed out, it was 01 Clarence he said nothing, he just looked at me. I did not have time to look for any others, I had my orders to get back as fast as I could. My craft was loaded aboard as soon as I got back.

Lt. Warwick was waiting for us and asked if we were the only ones left, as far as I know yes, I said. I looked for others but could not find any. He asked me to come to his quarters at once. They took 01 Clarence to sick bay fast. I was questioned by Lt. Warwick and the captain of the ship. I told them all I knew. All this time I could hear airplanes above, it was our own bombers out of Okinawa, they had left at the correct time all hell was breaking out, our Navy was really shelling the shore. If there was any Japs alive, I didn’t know how. I was wondering how many of our men made it ashore. I was dismissed and told to go dean up and get something to eat. I asked if I could go see Clarence first and was told yes. Just before I was dismissed, Lt. Warwick said to remember no on is to know of this mission for 55 years. So that’s what I did, I told no one.

I saw Clarence, he was in bed, he looked bad, he could say very little. He looked shell shocked to me, the Dr.s told me to leave and come back tomorrow to see him. I knew if I could be around 01 Clarence for a few days or months I could bring him out of the way he was, get him back to the real world.
We stayed around the shores of Japan for 3 more days, all the shelling had stopped. All the large ships had pulled out and headed for someplace else, where I did not know. Our small ship made it back to Okinawa, along with many others. We stayed there only a few days then we were put aboard a large ship. We used to call these ships Kaiser coffins, they were large cargo ships, build for the war. Built by Henry Kaiser, the same man who built the Kaiser cars. I owned 2 of these in the early 1950s.

Our ship made it back to the Philippians in what seemed like weeks. It was so long ago I can’t remember. Before going back to my unit, I was again told to say nothing of this mission for 55 years. I asked if any of the men made it to wherever they were headed and they told me nothing but did say, if our craft had not made it ashore, this war would have lasted much longer than it did. I head no more of the missing men, Clarence was sent back to the U.S., I never saw U. Warwick again. In September our unit was split up, some of us went to Japan, Korea and China, I got to go to China. The war ended in late August, we were all happy it was over. In China I had a good assignment, still running L.C.M.s. I kept busy hauling sailors and others ashore. Big ships were coming into China each day, many of the docks were badly damaged from the war and many of the ships could not tie up, they had to sit out in the river.

I stayed in China until spring of 1946 when I was sent to California and then to Minnesota where I was discharged. I never saw Clarence again until late 1978 or 1979. One spring day this rider road into my store, Old Tom’s cycle, I started this company in 1958. This rider parked his motorcycle in the drive way and took off his helmet. I was outside talking to some other riders, at first he said nothing, then I looked at the rider real close. I almost fainted, it was my old buddy Clarence! We talked for what seem like hours and before he left he told me he had moved to Seattle and would be back in a few days. In a few days he rode back to my store, we went out for lunch, we must have of talked for hours. He told me he had been a Police Officer in Tennessee and rode motorcycles. He had gone back to school and taught at a big Texas college. He had worked for the FB.I., the A.T.F. office, and had been an income tax inspector. He flew helicopters and did work in Alaska and many other places. I learned later what a good pilot he was. I was told he was one of the best, We did I know that someday I would be flying with him. We renewed our friendship, he stayed in Seattle and is still here. We rode to Sturgis, S.D. to the big rally a number of times and many other places. Clarence still rides, I see him quite often, he’s not in the best of shape but he still gets around pretty good and still rides. He has been hurt by many car accidents and was hit on his motorcycle a few times. One time he was hurt in Montana, his daughter had to get him. When I did see him, he really looked beat up, he hurls a lot but never complains.

We are both hoping to ride to Sturgis this year, it’s 2004 as I write this. I’m not in good shape myself, I walk Ike a drunk, but still ride just not as much as I would like to. But I did get over 12,000 miles in 2003. For 2004, I don’t know, I’m riding a big motor scooter as I can’t throw my leg over a motorcycle but with God’s help, I will be on a motorcycle again soon. If not the scooter is just fine.

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