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!