Today marks the 70th annivesary of the invasion of Okinawa. By the end of the 82-day battle, Japan had lost more than 77,000 soldiers and the Allies had suffered more than 65,000 casualties—including 14,000 dead.
Tom McKay survived, but not unscathed.
Here’s an excerpt from War Bonds, chapter 32, “Sharing the Ride,” in which Tom relates a horrific skirmish he endured in Okinawa.
“One afternoon, we crested a hill and they let loose and killed both point men and shot the medics. It was kill or be killed. I had four hand grenades and I was big and strong. I could throw them farther than they could.”
He hunkered in against a rock and exchanged fire with the enemy. “It went on all morning long. I got five or six guys.” Finally, he felt a bullet tear through his right shoulder. It went out through the back of his arm, shattering his shoulder. “It didn’t even knock me down,” said Tom. “I said, ‘Well. They got me.'”
Certain he was going to die; he staggered to a clump of bushes. “I didn’t die right then, so I drank a couple canteens of water and ate a handful of hard candy.”
Then he got up and though wounded, killed two more enemy soldiers and led his men on an attack that caused the enemy to retreat. He returned to his company with valuable information that enabled the troops to reach their objective with a minimum of casualties.
For his heroic efforts he received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.
Many men died that day and somehow a newspaper thought Tom had been one of them. Thankfully, the first thing he’d done while recuperating from his injury was to write his wife a letter. He had to use his left hand, but she could make out his scrawl and still treasures that letter.
He wrote, “If wishing would help, I’d be with you now.”