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Cecil L. Harrison
Salt Lake, Utah

Dedicated to the valiant men of the 6th Marine Division ( of which he was a proud member) The 6th fought the bloodiest, costliest and the last battle of World War II against Japan! Okinawa-Apr. 1,1945- June 12,1945; over 200,00 Japanese and Okinawans were killed and 100,00 casualties for the U.S. (12,000 Killed) few men of the 6th who hit the beach, Easter Sunday April 1, were still there June 21, when the battle ended! Few Americans ever knew of the 6th or the true casualties as the world was celebrating victory in Europe; while the 6th Div. was locked in a death struggle on Okinawa!! The 6th formed overseas and disbanded overseas! His poems have been published in National Library of Poetry and other National and Local Publications.

Fifty years since their lives they gave
So freedom lives the flag still waves
They wanted to live, The same as you
Be with their children, they never knew
So many things, they all did miss
Those soft sweet lips no more they'd kiss
They loved to run feel the morning sun
Loved so many things for they were young
But war forced them to leave their home
Fight in foreign lands and die alone
So don't forget, though they are gone
Though your life be sweet and full of song
They gave their all, the flag still waves
O'er the land of the free and the home fo the brave
So when you see a lonesome grave
And the stars and stripes above it waves
Just bow your head and remember yet

They gave so much; Please don't forget !
Fifty years since their lives they gave
So freedom lives the flag still waves
They wanted to live, The same as you
Be with their children, they never knew
So many things, they all did miss
Those soft sweet lips no more they'd kiss
They loved to run feel the morning sun
Loved so many things for they were young
But war forced them to leave their home
Fight in foreign lands and die alone
So don't forget, though they are gone
Though your life be sweet and full of song
They gave their all, the flag still waves
O'er the land of the free and the home fo the brave
So when you see a lonesome grave
And the stars and stripes above it waves
Just bow your head and remember yet

They gave so much; Please don't forget !


War is never over
Thought the treaties may be signed
The memories of the battles
Are forever in our minds

War is never over
So when you welcome heroes home
Remember in their minds they hold
Memories known to them alone

War is never over
Nam veterans know this well
Now other wars bring memories back
Of their own eternal hell

War is never over
For I knew world war two
And I'll not forget the battles
Or the nightmares that ensue

War is never over
Those left home to wait know this
For many still are waiting
It was their farewell kiss

War is never over
Though we win the victory
Still in our minds the battles
No freedom is not free!

All poems Copyright © 1997 Cecil L. Harrison. All rights reserved.

Ralph R. Reber
Erie, PA

Morning News staff reporter

Ralph R. Reber was a 17-year-old kid when war broke out at the end of 1941 but he was filled with a sense of patriotism and a craving for adventure, a volatile mixture at a time like that.

He still isn't sure how he was able to talk his parents into letting him sign up but guesses it didn't hurt that his dad had been a master sergeant in World War I and served with the American Expeditionary Forces.

Today, the diary he kept of his wartime experiences is touring a string of seven presidential libraries and museums across the United States.

He won't see it again until late next year when it, along with other soldiers' diaries, make a last stop at the National Archives.

His photo and a small excerpt from his diary appears in a book titled ""World War II: Personal Accounts.'' It's a handsome reference work created in conjunction with the display of memoirs.

Reber, who was a Private First Class in the Marines, finds it amusing that the book places his photo between that of German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and U.S. Navy Admiral Chester Nimitz.

Reber retired in 1986 as vice-president of international sales for Autoclave Engineers Inc. of Erie. He and Rhoda, his wife of 47 years, have raised two children and now live on a peaceful little street in North East.

In late 1941 no place on Earth seemed peaceful to the young Reading, Pa. native.

On Dec. 9, 1941 - two days after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor - Reber enlisted in the U.S. Marines.

Ironically, three months earlier he and two friends tried to join the Navy. His friends were accepted but not him. The Navy rejected Reber because he had flat feet.

After Pearl Harbor, the condition of his feet didn't matter much.

Reber took part in two island landings, both of which went unchallenged on the beaches only to turn into bloody, tree-to-tree warfare in the ensuing days and nights: Guadalcanal in August 1942 and Okinawa in April 1945.

""They were the only two unopposed island landings the Marines made in the Pacific, for which I and a great many others were very thankful,'' he remembers.

""On Okinawa, though, it turned out to be a Japanese tactic. They wanted us to land and come at them in their fixed positions.''

At Guadalcanal, Reber was part of the First Marine Division's third wave to reach shore. There he was a combat engineer.

At Okinawa, he was again in the third wave - it came in about half an hour after the first wave - but this time he was an amphibious truck (DUKW) driver for the Sixth Marine Division.

Both divisions would win Presidential Unit Citations.

In between the invasions Reber went stateside, suffering from a severe case of malaria. When he was well enough, he spent most of the months as a Marine guard at the Philadelphia Navy Yard and the Norfolk Naval Air Station.

After the war he put together a detailed, written collection of memories using his diary and letters he sent home that his father had saved - a kind of first-person history.

Combat for Reber began on Guadalcanal. ""The Canal'' and related island invasions that took place on Aug. 7, 1942 represented the first U.S. land offensive of World War II.

The evening before the landing, Reber wrote, Marines chowed down on turkey, cranberries, dressing, stuffing, fruit salad, ice cream, pie and cake. They were also each give a pack of cigarettes.

""It was quite interesting that the evening before our landing was spent by most of the men singing old familiar songs. Frankly, I felt that it helped to bring us all close together, almost like a family,'' he wrote.

""At least 98 percent of the division had never had a shot fired at them in anger, and here we were, ready to participate in a full scale invasion of an enemy held island and we were singing songs.

""The singing made me think of home and family and why I had decided to join the Marines. Certainly, adventure was a consideration, but I also firmly believed that I must do my part to turn back and defeat the Axis Powers. Perhaps others were having similar thoughts.''

Reber today said he finds it hard to believe that Marines about to fight and die sang on the night before the battle, but they did. ""It's hard to explain. We knew why we were there and didn't want to be anywhere else, but we were also thinking about home.''

His diary describes the pre-landing bombardment of Guadalcanal this way:
""Because it was still before sunrise you could see many of the large shells flying through the air and blasting on the shore. No amount of fireworks displays will ever excite me as much as that bombardment.''

When there was virtually no return fire, he said, the Marines didn't know what to expect. As his wave started in towards shore, the first wave sent up a green flare indicating an unopposed landing. The reaction in his landing craft was a collective sigh of relief, along with some cheering.

The mission of his combat engineering unit was to finish the last 500 yards of an airstrip the Japanese had been building.

The Japanese had other ideas.

After getting badly mauled at the Battle of Savo Island, the U.S. fleet was forced to move out of the area, stranding the Marines with 60 days worth of ammunition and 25 days of food supplies, not counting the rice and barley the Marines ""liberated'' from the enemy.

An operation scheduled to last a few days for the Marines, who were to be relieved by Army troops, lasted four months. Enemy planes flew unopposed ""as low as 50 feet above the coconut trees. We could easily see the faces of the pilots.''

Virtually all of the work on the airstrip had to be done by hand since none of the Marines' heavy earth moving equipment had landed and they had only a few captured Japanese pieces. Still, by August 20, the first U.S. fighter planes and dive bombers could land.

""Boy, were we glad to see them,'' Reber wrote.

A day later the Japanese launched a large attack on the Marines' eastern positions in a battle incorrectly referred to as the Battle of the Tenaru River, he said. Some 900 Japanese soldiers died compared to Marine losses of 35 killed and 75 wounded.

On Sept. 2 came an air raid that destroyed a large U.S. ammo dump. Reber described the approaching planes as ""almost'' beautiful against the sky, until he saw the bombs dropping.

""At that point I could hear the scream of the bombs and I quickly flipped over onto my stomach. One of the bombs landed about 50 feet away from me and the concussion actually bounced me off the ground. Fortunately, being in the hole protected me from the blast, but I was almost deaf for the rest of the day.''

On Sept. 12 the enemy massed for a major night attack into lines held by the First Raider Battalion and First Parachute Battalion. Reber's engineering outfit was thrown behind those lines as reserves.

They traded in their building skills for the more destructive skills all Marines has learned, and traded their tools for .30 caliber machine guns, one of which was manned by Reber.

They dug in and strung trip wires about 40 yards to their front, hanging tin cans in pairs so that any movement would cause the cans to rattle.

Flares. Enemy bombardment. More flares.

Then the enemy attacked and the jungle came alive with intense fire from machine guns, mortars and hand grenades, a fight that lasted until just before daylight.

By morning, Reber recalls, some Japanese had infiltrated into their territory. Some became snared in the trip wires and were quickly dispatched. Otheres were firing from trees, down into the engineers' foxholes.

""The normal result was that the Jap would reveal his general position by firing so it was just a short time before he would come crashing down in a hail of Marine bullets. Sometimes they didn't fall because they tied themselves into the trees so that a superficial wound would not cause them to fall,'' Reber wrote.

This - the ""Battle of Bloody Ridge'' - continued and would have destroyed the Marines, Reber said, except for the hail of U.S. artillery that dropped ""a curtain of steel'' on Japanese attackers.

The next night Reber and several other engineers then became ""runners,'' carting ammunition to the front. ""I can remember carrying four boxes of machine gun ammunition, one in each hand and one under each arm, along with five or six grenades clipped onto my belt...

""I made at least two trips along the top of the ridge into that inferno. About every 50 yards or so we had to flop down and take what cover we could because of flares exposing our position. That was a long 450 yards going in and a very short, fast trip coming out.''

The Marines proved victorious in another lopsided win but the infantry assaults were followed not long after by Japanese naval bombardments - ""at least four nights every week'' - and air raids one or two times a day.

On Oct. 15, Reber and the land-based Marines watched Japanese dive bombers attack and U.S. destroyer unloading drums of aviation gas onto a barge. The barge was set afire.

As the enemy was pulling up two flights of American Wildcat fighter planes ""came roaring into the attack. In the space of about 10 minutes most all of the dive bombers were shot down. It was almost like watching a football game with the Marines cheering our fighters each time one of the dive bombers went down.''

Reber also vividly described how Marines in late October, when told to get some rest after unloading bridge components from trucks, cleared spaces in the jungle to lie down:

""At that point we were very tired and welcomed the rest. Except for the guards, most everyone laid down on their backs, using their helmet as a pillow and cradling their rifles in one arm. We no sooner settled down and it started to rain. I just pulled the metal part of my helmet over my face and went back to sleep.''

On Dec. 9, Reber and his unit left Guadalcanal, sort of. Reber agrees with the author of one book on ""the canal'' when he wrote, ""Every man in the Division left a part of himself on Guadalcanal.''

They landed next near Brisbane, Australia, making camp there. On Dec. 26, as Reber was lying on his bunk in a tent talking to friends, his head dropped and when he woke up he was in an Army hospital and it was a day later.

He'd had a malaria attack. His temperature had hit 105 degrees by the time he was admitted to the hospital.

He seemed to recover and his unit was transferred to a more temperate part of Australia. On Jan. 15, 1943, Reber's 19th birthday, he was sent to an Australian Army hospital with another malaria attack, along with 50 others admitted the same day. There were more malaria attacks and more hospital stays as time wore on until, finally, someone decided to send him back to the United States to recover.

Home! While he doesn't remember much about his 30 day leave, he wrote that ""Mom's cooking along with the pies and cakes she made for me were just wonderful. She must have hoarded some ration coupons for the day I would return.''

It wasn't until late December 1944 that he left the U.S. again...on a ship bound first for Guadalcanal. It arrived two years and a month after he'd left.

By this time, Reber was a member of the Sixth Amphibian Truck Company of Motor Transport Battalion of the Sixth Marine Division. He drove amphibious trucks, ""affectionately called ducks'' because of their official name that included the initials DUKW.

Training quickly got underway for another amphibious landing that included carrying 105mm howitzers on the ducks.

One Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945, using the code letter ""L'' for ""Love,'' 1,200 ships and four divisions of soldiers and Marines, joined by another division later, stormed Okinawa.

Again there was no opposition and again Reber was in the third wave, assigned strictly to a support function.

A sneak air raid the night of April 15 nearly killed one of Reber's friends. The Marine was about three feet away when he was hit in the chest and hand with shrapnel. He was later evacuated to a hospital ship.

U.S. troops began running into stiff enemy resistance and the weather turned sour. Heavy rains for about two weeks turned roads into quagmires and trucks couldn't get badly needed supplies to the front lines.

Reber and his unit of ducks were pressed into service to solve the problem, transporting ammunition and food from well-stocked supply depots down to the ocean, floating it some six miles along the coastline, then going to shore well within range of enemy mortar and artillery fire.

""There were a number of near misses but no hits. Needless to say most of these runs were made at night in order to lessen the possibility of observation,'' Reber wrote.

Life in the rear area was a lot easier, he said.

""Selective raiding'' of different supplies let them rig showers using discarded airplane wing tanks for their water supply. Waiting until late afternoon to take a shower ensured a fairly warm one because of the tropical sunshine.

They rigged up some windmills to which they attached a crank arm that had two large cans fastened to the bottom. ""Then by inserting this into a cut-off drum filled with water, soap and dirty clothes, we had a wind-operated washing machine.

There was also a little ""home brew.''

On Aug. 15 the war ended and, according to Reber's notes, ""We haven't been doing much work lately.'' He said the division's PX issued a case of beer and a case of soda to each member of the division. ""What a party that was,'' he wrote.

After a short stint in China after the war ended, Reber and his fellow Marines were headed home, again in song. Pulling out of Manila on Nov. 8th, he wrote, ""...a few guys got a guitar and sang "California Here We Come'' over the PA system.''

After the ship's captain made their destination official and told them when they would arrive in San Francisco, Reber said there was ""one huge roar from everyone on the ship as it sunk in that we were finally going home.''

On Nov. 24, 1945, at 11 a.m., the troops ship sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge. It was met by a ferry boat loaded mostly with girls. It also had a band. The ends of the piers were decorated in red, white and blue. ""It was quite a welcome,'' Reber wrote.

Ralph Reber spent Christmas at home that year.

Like most war veterans, at least those who live long enough, Reber long ago concluded, ""I wouldn't take a million dollars for the experience, but you couldn't pay me a million dollars to go through it again.''

Don Newton A-1-29 (Okinawa 1945)