Sketch by Jack Chalker

Okinowa

Now what next? No one knew how the procedure was to get us home, but eventually we were on the move again, all looking spick and span but with very little kit to carry, maybe a toothbrush, shaving gear and a towel and a small bag to put them all in.

We were making towards the docks, at the same time viewing the terrible destruction the atom bomb had made. Mter what we had been through this past three and a half years our sympathy for the people was very little.

We finally arrived at the docks and boarded an American battle cruiser for our next port of call. We never had a clue where we were bound, but eventually we docked at an island called 'Okinowa'.

During the war as I have read after I arrived home, this island staged one of the biggest battles between the Japanese Forces and the Americans. Lots of lives were lost on both sides on this island, so we felt that it was very irnportant to be allowed to land here, of course, the reason was the airport was there, which in time we had to use. No money was ever given to us in any form whatsoever, but what we were told to do was to go to the PX Stores and collect anything we needed in the way of cleaning gear, etc. We were in lovely huts on this island and were being looked after by the islanders who came under the directions of the American navy. We were being well treated by the Americans, they could not do enough for us. Our health was beginning to get better slowly. You must remember that in the P.O.W. carnp in Thailand, I weighed around eight stone, when my nonnal weight was thirteen and a half stone. I looked like a bag of bones, food was plentiful now, but we were still being advised by the doctors to take it easy and don't overfill our stomachs.

There were no duties for us to do in the meantime, just take it easy and rest. How long were we to be here was anyone's guess, but we were beginning to be impatient as home was always in the mind even though we were being looked after like lords. The American food was tremendous and we were getting back to our old selves. We went to the films, the canteen and used all the facilities given on the island.

Then the order came, be prepared to move any time, oh boy, were we ready, but what was our transport to be? We soon found out, about seven B29 bombers landed on the island. Previously we were told not to fill our bellies too much but they never gave us the reason, the reason, we were to fly to our next destination, we had no idea where but to see those planes, we kept our fingers crossed. We boarded these planes and little did we think we would be sitting in the bomb bays. One wrong button pushed and that was that, although we were shown how to use the parachutes we were given before boarding.

C. Rations were given to us on board, this is a kind of hard tack and biscuits with a small portion of cheese. We thought by receiving these rations we must be in for a long journey. Well, any journey to us was long as we were now getting anxious. The only information our families had was a card from the Japanese in the jungle and this was all censored and quite a long time ago.

Well we took off in formation and after a few hours we landed at Clerkfleld airport in Manila. On disembarking from the plane, the usual coffee and doughnuts were waiting for us, no easing up with the Americans, so here we were again indulging in the food, little thinking of what was going to happen next and then it came. After about two hours we again boarded aircraft, but this time it was a short trip to Nicholsfields airport. Why didn't the first aircraft take us to Nicholsfleld? To this day I don't know the answer. On arrival at Nicholsfleld we thought what next, this time there was no waiting, we boarded army transports and were taken to the docks at Manila. These looked familiar as I had already been there once, but under different circumstances. A ship was waiting there for us, so we embarked. Put into our bed spaces, and this time we were told where we were bound. San Francisco, U.S.A.

How long was this going to take? We did not have a clue, but I must state that this was one of the finest journeys I have ever experienced. It took us seventeen days to reach San Francisco. It was simply wonderful. There was plenty of entertainment on the ship, including bingo. The prizes were two hundred American cigarettes, if you were unlucky and did not win, the people running the show gave you the cigarettes. It was simply wonderful, the weather was brilliant all the way. As a matter of fact we slept on the decks of the ship, this came very easy as we were used to hard laying and this time there was one advantage, there was at last some meat on our bones. We called at the Hawaiian islands on the way home.

Unfortunately, we were not allowed ashore as we were still in quarantine. We were there two days. The natives brought us fruit, flowers and seemed to be very friendly people. At night you could hear the lovely Hawaiian music coming from these islands and this made us dream all the more of home, a terrific thought of meeting up with my wife and son again, you see when I left home, my son was only six months old and now he was going to be five years old. I kept visualising what size he would be and was really looking forward to seeing them both again. This could not come soon enough even though we were being well looked after at the present time, 'Home' was always in our thoughts.

 

Next Chapter

San Francisco

 

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