- Posted June 5, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Your World War II memorabilia
HE WAS ONLY 17: MY FATHER’S NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCE IN OKINAWA JAPAN IN JUNE 1945
- hhanks, CNN iReport producer
When Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941, my father was only 14 years old. During his high school years, he and his school buddies desired to be a part of the war effort and believed they could make a difference. In reality, they were too young and inexperienced with life to realize what was in store for their future after they enlisted.
My father’s name was Myles Robert Lee. Shortly after he started his senior year in high school, at the mere age of 17, he enlisted into the service. On October 11, 1944, he and 52 other future soldiers were on a train from Boston heading to Geneva, New York. He spent ten weeks in boot camp before being shipped over seas. He was part of the Seabees Battalion and was stationed in Okinawa, Japan.
My father shared many war stories with my brother and me when we were growing up in the 1960’s, and one particular story still brings me chills.
My father’s ship was docked along Brown Beach in Okinawa, Japan. His military job was to mechanically fix the trucks if and when they broke down, drive them to certain locations and most importantly, protect the cargo. He was responsible for a truck carrying ammunition, bombs and other explosives. During the Invasion of Okinawa in early June 1945, the Japanese planes were flying overhead and the ship was under attack. I remember my father specifically telling me he could actually see the whites of the Japanese man’s eyes as he carried out his suicide mission crashing into the ship. There was massive fire surrounding the truck prior to the explosion. My father was able to drive the truck off the ship during the attack in order to protect the cargo from the fire. My father had difficulty driving off the deck with the weight of the cargo on board. He made it to shore, but the cargo shifted and he was forced to stop the truck along the beach and climb on top of the cargo in order to tighten the security straps. During the attack, a nearby crane operator was trying to take cover, but the crane snapped from its ties and was in direct line with my father’s truck. The crane’s hook struck my father at full force sending him air born into the water below. His fellow Seabees watched in horror as the crane catapulted my father leaving him face down in the water along the shore. The waves were splashing over him, and it is a miracle he survived. The few Seabees, who witnessed the accident from the safety of a bomb crater, believed my father died that day, but the unit listed him as “Missing in Action.”
Luckily the Marine Medical Core found my father face down on the shore bleeding and unconscious. It wasn’t safe to transport him to an infirmary until after the attack ended, so my father was forced to undergo surgery to stitch up his head wound right on the beach during the attack. My father’s amnesia kept his identity from being known for a period of time, but thankfully, my father did survive and was able to return to the states in October 1946.
The slideshow features several pictures in Okinawa, Japan as well as a snapshot of the Japanese Surrender on September 2, 1945. My father passed away on June 22, 1995 and left a trunk full of pictures, personal letters and other memorabilia from World War II. The letters are currently being compiled into a diary from 1944 through 1946. My mother donated some of my father’s uniforms, badges and other memorabilia to the Wright Museum located in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire.
God bless all our military men and women of yesterday, today and tomorrow. We owe our freedom to their bravery and dedication to our country.