One Year of Active Duty in Postwar Japan – Nagasaki, 1945
His name was Everett White (1926 – 2012). He enlisted in the Navy on his 18th birthday, June 23, 1944. His basic training in San Diego was followed by landing craft training on Coronado Island. This is his story.
When the war ended on August 15, 1945 I was in Guam, in the outer harbor, on the APB Kingfish, LST, with a flotilla. That evening we were told that Japan had surrendered, and for the first time we were able to lift the “black out” restriction that we had to maintain during the war. There was a blinding display of lights that night as the whole armada of ships of every size lit up in celebration.
My first duty was in Nagasaki where I witnessed the tremendous fear that the Japanese citizens had when they first encountered the occupying American forces. They would dive into a ditch to protect themselves from probable attack and/or torture when they saw our people. When they found out that they were not going to be killed or tortured they were quite relieved. Some of the citizens I met there had severe incendiary bomb facial scarring.
In Nagasaki they off-loaded 300 marines. I worked in this area for seven months. I worked with a boat crew of twelve who were taking cargo off ships. I escorted the marines to the many little atoll islands off Nagasaki as they checked radiation levels. One day we repatriated a group of interned Australian nuns from one of the islands. Upon landing they spent the first three weeks in what they called a “repatriation hotel” that was used in pre-war Japan as a “hotel” to inspect visitors to the island for possible disease.
My crew patrolled the harbor after curfew. We usually had three Japanese with us on these forays. Local Japanese fished at night and our orders were to make sure they were observing curfew (martial law). One night I was not accompanied by Japanese interpreters, and I noticed that when my boat approached the fishermen, they scurried back to their homes. I knew they were scared to death of being caught. So that evening I got off, alone, at the shore of the village and walked around the silent homes. The next night I returned with an interpreter and told them they could go about their business since they needed the food they procured by fishing.
When my tour in Nagasaki had ended I left for Toyko to be sent home. However, while there, they informed me that my tour had been extended because they were short of experienced personnel to drive landing craft boats. So I traveled by train 1200 miles from Yakuska, on Honshu, the main island, to Kagoshima on Kyushu, the southern island. Here I worked with a Japanese 40 foot tug boat and 2 LCMs, guiding ships through the 100 yard opening in the jetty wall. At times we would steer around an active volcano that was spewing red hot lava into the bay. I was also on hand to observe the surly Japanese as they were off-loaded from the ships coming back from the China that they had occupied. I saw they were lining up to get sprayed and possibly deloused, before they traveled back to their original home areas. Kagoshima was not built as a port; so it was a one-at-a-time offloading. The jetty was a massive construction where women would descend 50 steps to do their laundry.
There were about 15 to 20 sailors in the barracks during my time there. High security was no longer a major consideration. One night we were awakened at 2 a.m. and told, “We gotta go out to the ship. There’s a riot.” We quickly dressed. The ship was jammed with returning Japanese. The agitation appeared to be a personal dispute resolved by the death of one of the Japanese soldiers. By the time we arrived the danger of a riot had abated. That was a good thing since we only had a small force. We would have been significantly outnumbered had any of us been attacked.
While stationed there, I was alarmed by a possible break-in at one of the Quonset huts one night. I warned the trespasser, a Japanese man, who then attacked me and cut my face in several places. I was able to restrain the man but later regretted interrupting him in his break-in. The poor guy was probably hungry. Innocent civilians everywhere suffered the ravages of war. Postwar Japan was no different than anywhere else.
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