Bob Sherlock, an Illinois native, was 17 when he enlisted in the Marine Corps on September 13, 1943. He had to wait until December to be called up because “they had so many doggone 17 year olds.”
When he finally did head overseas in May 1944, it was to join the 4th Marine Division. After the fighting on Tinian, in the Mariana Islands, Sherlock was reassigned to the 2nd Marine Division. The 4th Marine Division was heading back to re-equip and the 2nd Marine Division was “shot up” and need of reinforcements, he said in an interview with On Patrol.
After Tinian, it was on to Saipan and then the build up to the Battle of Okinawa. He never went ashore during the Battle of Okinawa, but that didn’t mean he was out of harm’s way.
D-Day morning we got Kamikazed.
I did not like to be locked below decks on the ship so I always volunteered for gun crew. When they had Marines aboard, the Navy always liked to have Marines as extra crew members. … I volunteered for a 20 mm gun crew.
So I’m topside on D-Day morning and I had never heard of Kamikazes and the sailors I was with had never heard of them. They came in that morning and I can remember, they opened up on the horizon—and it was just starting to get light enough—and I could see the 5.38s (5”/38 caliber gun) off of the destroyers firing, and then the 40s (40 mm guns) firing. And then everything around us opened up.
I still couldn’t see what they were shooting at, and all at once I see these exhausts from the engines of the Japanese planes. The first one came in and took out the LST (Landing Ship, Tank) on our bow. Within two minutes’ time, they took out the LST on the stern of us.
We got a couple [magazines] off at them but they learned so quick we didn’t get a chance. Our 40s fired for a minute and then about five minutes later, another wave came in and they took the command ship and they hit a couple other … and I’m thinking, ‘I can’t dig a hole in a steel deck!’
I had great respect for the Navy after that.
Actually the 2nd Marine Division had more casualties the first day of the landing then all the rest of them, but we never put a foot ashore.
Less than two months after the Allies took control of Okinawa, atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively. In September 1945, Sherlock was part of the U.S. occupation forces in Japan.
Samantha L. Quigley is the editor in chief of ON★PATROL.