True story of a real hero
For The Madera Tribune
David F., 96, takes a practice ride on the back of a motorcycle. He will ride the motorcycle during the Veterans Day parade this year in Fresno.
Veterans’ Voices is directed toward veterans and their families who have given so much to ensure our freedom in this country. This is an area where you may share your experiences, or read of other veterans’ experiences. We thank you for your service, and hope that you know how much you are loved and appreciated.
Shortly after high school graduation, David F. enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve in San Francisco. After basic training in San Diego, David was assigned to an eight-week tank school training command for crewman. After crewman training, he was put in a replacement draft for overseas duty. Dec. 26, 1944, David crossed the equator on the South Pacific where he was assigned to the 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division. After vigorous combat training at the Russell Islands in the Solomon Island Group, the battalion boarded a Landing Ship Mechanized (LSM) and shipped out for the invasion of Okinawa.
April 1, 1945, (Easter Sunday), the 1st Tank Battalion went ashore in the 12th wave. Being April Fools Day and very light resistance, they weren’t sure of what was going on with the enemy. By midday, his battalion tanks were ready to move inland. Working with the 1st Marine Regiment, the area between two airfields, Yonton and Kadena, were secure for the first night. After dark, an air attack began, and every ship in the landing force lite up the skies like 4th of July. On the 2nd day, again with very little resistance, they moved across the island with the 6th Marine Division on their left flank and the 7th Army Division on the right. By the third day, the eastern shore was secured, and the next few days were spent bringing in supplies, fuel, ammo, and food; setting up ammo dumps and doing combat training. Daily the Kamikaze planes were targeting aircraft carriers, and after a few days, every ship was a target.
The end of David’s unit was sent to the front lines to relieve the 27th Army Division which had incurred heavy casualties. As tank loader and radio man, David’s first day in actual combat was destroying enemy positions in rocky ridges and caves with their 75mm cannons and machine guns. At sundown, the tanks pulled back from combat to refuel, get ammo and clean their guns before returning to the front lines. At sunup, the tanks were going through rice paddies and open areas in a three-tank column when David, in the middle tank spotted through his periscope an enemy suicide soldier. He came out of nowhere with a satchel charge full of TNT. Before the enemy combatant could throw it at the side of the lead tank, the Bow Gunner shot him. It was a terrifying experience. The tanks proceeded to the front line again, to continue weeding out the enemy from caves and anything that was an enemy target. Most of the day, they continued to receive small arms fire. As they were preparing for an assault on a heavily fortified area called the Shuri Line of Defense, it started to rain. It became so muddy; the tanks were unable to move anywhere for almost two weeks. It took a couple of days for the tanks to dry out, and when they returned to the front lines, it was discovered that the enemy had relocated south of their previous line of defense.
For the next major assault, flame throwing tanks joined their ranks. When one of the gunners from A Company was wounded, David replaced him. The second day after enduring heavy combat in a valley, his tank took a hit on the top side of the turret, and it felt to David like the whole inside of the tank exploded. Luckily, no one was injured, but most of the men were quite shaken up. When they arrived at the tank park that night, there was big dent where the shell had struck the tank.
During the last few days of combat, David’s tanks were working with the 11th Marines Artillery Regiment. They secured areas, destroyed gun emplacements, and attempted to seal off caves spotted by forward observers. By the third week of June, the campaign for Okinawa was finally secured except for a few packets of resistance that were soon wiped out. The whole Marine Division moved to the northern end of the island which was untouched by the battles. In that area there were beautiful pine groves and rolling hills similar to places in California.
David is 96 years old now and still going strong. Veterans Day in Fresno is coming up soon. David went for a practice ride on the back of a motorcycle today since he will be riding on the back of it for the veteran’s parade. He looked like he was having fun on the practice run. So, if you see a motorcycle wrapped with a flag, wave hi to David. He deserves it. David is the reason that we all can witness this ride and parade because we have the freedom to do it. Any comments email me at AboutVets@yahoo.com.
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— Royal D. Goodman, U.S. Army / Vietnam,
1st Cav/9th Infantry