ONE MAN'S VIEW: CHAPTER THIRTEEN

13 Aftermath of War

On Saipan I was sent to the hospital where I received a thorough examination. The doctor said there was nothing significantly wrong with me, that I had just been pushed too hard for too long, especially since the diseases I had contracted on Tinian. He prescribed rest and good food.

I sure couldn't complain about my treatment. I never left the ward I was in and spent most of my time just lying in bed. A nurse brought me a tray of tasty food three times a day, plus there were snacks available whenever I desired them. When one of the nurses learned of my interest in painting, she located a set of watercolors from somewhere and gave them to me.

I had set something of a record. In August 1942, I was in the Second Marine Regiment, Second Marine Division, which was credited with being the first U.S. unit to land on enemy soil in World War 2. In June 1945, I was in the Eighth Marine Regiment, Second Marine Division, which made the last great infantry drive of the war, effectively ending all land confrontation. As a result I had fought in both the first and last land battles the United States conducted in World War 2.

During the war the Second Marine Division had received 12,395 casualties, or over 150 percent of its total strength. Replacements account for that seemingly impossible figure. While I had been hit my first day in combat, I had not received an injury since.

I spent all of the month of August in the hospital and was told I would soon be going home. On August 6, 1945, the Enola Gay loaded the first atomic bomb on nearby Tinian and dropped it on Hiroshima. On August 14th, Japan surrendered. I had just received double A priority to fly home, but prisoners of war now being released in Japan were given a triple A priority. I knew they deserved this, but I couldn't help but be selfish enough to wonder why, after four years, the war couldn't have lasted two more days so I would have been on my way stateside. As it was, it was not until September 3rd that my little ivory elephant and I boarded a ship bound for the States.

We sailed through the Marshall and Hawaiian Islands, but never stopped until reaching Long Beach, California. At the same time I was going home, the Second Division was en route to Nagasaki, the second city to be A-bombed. Although I did not know it at the time, the Second was scheduled to land on the beaches of Kyushu and assault Nagasaki had not the atomic bombs brought about the end of the war. As it was, the Division landed as an occupying force. In recent years there has been considerable controversy over whether the atomic bombs should have been used. I can assure you there was no such controversy among the men of the Second Marine Division.

On September 17th, I landed at Long Beach, California, and was transferred to the Naval Hospital there. A few days later I was sent to the Marine Base in San Diego for discharge.

The discharge process took about two days and then the unit fell in to receive our papers. The names were called out, and one by one we went forward, received the discharge, and left the room. At the end, I was the only one remaining. The officer in charge asked who I was and I told him. He checked his papers again and informed me I was not listed. The Marine Corps had lost my record book!

As the war was over and most of the men in the Armed Services had just joined for the duration, we were being discharged on a point system. One received points for length of service, additional ones for overseas duty, more for having been in combat, more if injured, and so on. The number of points necessary for discharge had been lowered to fifty. I had about one hundred and thirty points, but could not prove a thing. I was afraid I might become a career Marine before things were cleared up.

A skeleton record book was kept in Washington D.C., and being as my regular one could not be found, this one was sent for. In the meantime I was assigned to work in the Separation Center.

For the next month I helped discharge Marines that I considered almost as recruits until finally my skeleton record book arrived. I was finally discharged on November 23rd. My last meal in the Marine Corps was Thanksgiving dinner, which I felt was very appropriate.

I took my time coming home, staying for awhile with my old Solomon Islands buddy, Jim McCrory, and his family, in Lemoore, California. I arrived in Salem, where my folks now lived, on December 5, 1945.

A short time later I was pleasantly surprised to receive a commendation for meritorious performance while serving on Guadalcanal, Saipan, Tinian, and Okinawa. The citation was personally signed by Roy S. Geiger, Lieutenant General, Commander of the Fleet Marine Force, Pacific Area. I guess my record book must finally have been located.

Several times during this narration, I have mentioned being contacted by someone who had found my story on the Internet and corresponded with me. Some of these people were those I had served with, while others were strangers who are historians compiling wartime information; still others were authors writing books on the subject, and even from those individuals leading groups to scenes described herein. While inquiries have come from all over the world, they have been especially prevalent from persons in Australia and New Zealand. I consider myself privileged to be asked and have tried to help if I could. One of the more recent inquiries was from Alex Leithead, a researcher from Flashback TV, a company located in London, England. That organization was in the process of producing a series of television programs for the U.S. History Channel. He was especially interested in my experiences on Saipan, Tinian, and Okinawa, interviewing me over the telephone about those campaigns. All of these contacts have been an unexpected bonus I never anticipated when I wrote about my remembrances.

Last Modified: 09/14/2017
One Man's View by Leonard E. Skinner (2001)