“If you ever want to sleep with a blonde again, you had better shoot down these bastards as soon as they come up” – a destroyer captain motivates his exhausted crew shortly before a kamikaze attack. The sea-battle toll for Okinawa, which ended on June 21st 1945, was 36 U.S. warships sunk and 368 damaged. Some 5,000 sailors were KIA and another 5,000 wounded.
War naturally conjures images of brave infantrymen. Almost 200,000 soldiers and marines rest in cemeteries around the world.
Too often forgotten are the Navy and merchant sailors felled at sea. It’s understandable; there are no battlefield memorials, no marked graves, no poppies, no flags. It’s still a shame. Few are the photo memoirs of engineering room slaughter-by-steam, of those blown overboard, of those who survived the battle only to die of burns, thirst, or sharks.
Some had proper burials. Did boot camp recruits know their Navy-issue hammocks did double duty as burial shrouds? I don’t know, but should your Memorial Day weekend find you on an Atlantic, Pacific, or Gulf of Mexico beach, you are graveside; take the time to say a few words of thanks.