“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 that ended on June 21st 1945 was 36 U.S. warships sunk and 368 damaged. Almost 5,000 sailors were killed in action and another 5,000 wounded.
War naturally conjures images of courageous infantrymen. Gettysburg, Flanders Fields and not the Coral Sea or Leyte Gulf.
Too often forgotten are the heroic Navy, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine sailors felled at sea. It’s understandable; there are no battlefield memorials, no marked graves, no poppies, no flags. Presidents and dignitaries visit Normandy and not Midway or Iron Bottom Sound. Few are the photo memoirs of engineering room slaughter-by-steam, of those who inhaled fire, of those blown overboard, of those who survived the battle only to die of burns, thirst, or sharks.
Hoses washed the remains of many off their ships. 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 time to say a few words of thanks.