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The 801st lands on Okinawa

Paicif Theater Ribbon

It was the next day, 13 September 1945, before a small party of menfrom the USS Pondera went ashore on Okinawa, and the bulk did not follow until the 14th. But they found a bivouac area with many tents already set up - including some all-important mess tents. For this they could credit the LST contingent, whose slow-paced trip across the Pacific beat the later-starting Pondera by only six days. A noticeable coolness on the part of the LST men was excused when it was explained that they had been hoping that the Pondera would have been turned around with Japan's surrender and that they would soon follow. Its arrival dashed those dreams, but morale quickly sprang back.

It was evident that certain elements of the Imperial Japanese Army had not gotten the word of the surrender, or chose to disbelieve or disregard it. Snipers and booby traps were not uncommon, and Lt. Col. Galanti had been targeted by snipers while scouting the area to select a camp site prior to the arrival of the LSTs. Three men of a nearby unit had been killed by booby traps within ten days.

There was also plenty of work to be done. Major Burch's Battalion S-3 (Plans and Operations) started a number of projects, including construction of company mess halls, latrines, showers, a generator shack and the finishing of access roads. Work then began on the 381st Station Hospital, a complex of 100 buildings hosting 500 beds. There was work to be done on Kadena Airfield and the 801st was responsible for the upkeep of ten miles of road in the area.

Ruined Okinawan City

Above and below: a few men of the 801st explore the ruins of Naha, Okinawa's main city, in the fall of 1945
photos from battalion official history
 
Officers tour ruined Okinawan school

There was little to do outside of camp, as well as the danger of snipers and booby traps. A handful of men had explored the nearby city of Naha and returned with the report that it was in ruins. A movie was shown every other evening, but letter writing became the primary recreation for most.

On 27 September Lt. Col. Galanti summoned all personnel to announce his departure. He was returning to the United States for discharge from the service. In a few words he expressed his regret at leaving the 801st, which he had commanded for over two years, and stressed that they had always been "foremost in leadership an enterprise at all times, wherever they had traveled."

Major Robert L. Clifford, C.E., formerly the Battalion Executive Officer, took command of the 801st with the departure of Lt. Col. Galanti.

Next: the road home >>

 

Outrunning the Navy

C Rations

The chow lines on the overloaded Pondera were a full-time affair. You got in line for breakfast, and by the time you got through it and ate you immediately got in line for dinner. Ditto for supper.
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