Saturday, October 15, 2011

Making War Fun

I spent untold hours the last few days going through boxes of old photos and memories my parents have left behind.    I didn't know what I was looking for specifically, but I knew I would find something that would match the inspirations I received from this week's Sepia Saturday photo.   In surveying this week's prompt I saw a group of soldiers gathered together on the remains of a war torn battlefield somewhere far away from home.  Captive to their circumstance, these men, it appears to me, were searching for a reason to celebrate with a smoke and a meal.

My father, like many young men during World War II, joined the Navy not long after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.   Anxious to do his part,  he was frustrated initially because he was kept stationed stateside in Virginia and Maryland.  I remember him saying he was thrilled to finally "participate" when his ship, the USS Sumter, finally set sail for the battlefield.   The USS Sumter was commissioned as an Attack Transport.  My father was a Pharmacist Mate in the Hospital Corps for the ship which transported soldiers to most of the major battle theaters of the Asian and Pacific Campaigns.   He tried to take photos during the two years he was assigned to the ship, (some developed in x-ray fluid) a few of which have survived.  One of these pictures has become my submission for this week's Sepia Saturday post:


Soldiers and native Islanders on the Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands WWII  

These men, like the prompt photo, were also searching for a moment of joy while confined to a battlefield far away from home.   Curiously,  in both pictures there is a single soldier staring directly into the camera.    They each appear to be reaching out to the viewer with an expression that seems to question the meaning of this joy or purpose of their circumstance.  

Kwajalein is located in the center of the South Pacific's Marshall Islands, and is the largest coral atoll in the world.


The Japanese had built defenses in the Marshall Islands and used them as staging sites for submarines and surface warships.   Admiral Nimitz decided to launch an attack on these defenses which he called "Operation Flintlock".  The Army's 7th Infantry Division along with the 5th Amphibious Force and the 4th Marine Division participated in this successful attack on the central island, Kwajalein Atoll.   Some of these  men must have been transported to the battle site on the USS Sumter, and certainly many of the wounded were brought back to the Sumter's Hospital Corps for treatment.   In the end, 372 Americans died and almost 1600 were wounded in the battle, while the Japanese lost 7,870 men.



Please enjoy the many other posted submissions to this week's Sepia Saturday site!

15 comments:

Little Nell said...

Welcome to Sepia Saturday- I'm catching up after being away, and see you joined us last week. If this post is anything to go by I think your contributions will be very enjoyable. I like the way you homed in on the lone soldier in both pictures, very perceptive.

Jinksy said...

Intriguing bit of history - thanks.

Postcardy said...

That is a great photo. The men in the photo must be happy just to be alive when so many died there.

Bob Scotney said...

Interesting photo of men trying to relax. Somehow I don't think the lone soldier has managed it.Fine post.

barbara and nancy said...

So sad to think this was their only moment of joy. Hope they all made it home.
Nancy Javier
Ladies of the grove

Christine H. said...

With all the suffering and terror of war, it's good to see these guys enjoying a break.

Howard said...

Fascinating. So many casualties on such a tiny island.

Liz Stratton said...

Thoroughly enjoyable post showing the lighter side of the War while reminding us of the toll of War. The camaraderie between the troops and the locals is very evident. Excellent post. Thanks for sharing.

Brett Payne said...

A quick flight to Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands courtesy of Google Earth shows it to be a long, long way from anywhere. And it may be the largest atoll, but it seems there's precious little usable land - perhaps an idyl;lic place to spend a holiday, but otherwise a rather lonely spot. Nice to see that your father and his friends received a great welcome from the indigenous folk.

Sheila @ A Postcard a Day said...

I love this picture. there is so much to see in it and the more you look at it, the more you see.

Rob From Amersfoort said...

Nice pic! I'm glad to see they also had fun, and that they were mingling with the locals. The US sure has had some tough fights in that part of the world.

Just Stuff From a Boomer said...

What a great photo. It is just a peak into their world at that important time in their lives. These are things to cherish for sure.

TICKLEBEAR said...

I think only one cause stand to reason to rejoice for, to have survived yet another day in such dire situations. the death of friends and enemies are nothing to rejoice for, but war serves its purpose, to steady the power of balance.
great shot anyway. I like the casualness in it.
:)~
HUGZ

Anonymous said...

I'm actually a Marshallese and seeing this photo makes me PROUD :D thanks for the post :)

mary said...

Thank you! I am so glad you found it!