On this day 68 years ago, the American Army and Marine Corps in 66 vessels lay off the shore of the small Japanese Island of Okinawa. For days Okinawa had suffered bombardment and airstrikes from American Naval vessels.
The American command wanted to soften up Japanese resistance since this would be the first American landing on an island considered by Japan as part of its homeland. For days minesweepers cleared the waters near the Hagushi Beaches where the landing was planned.
The American command considered Okinawa to be the last stepping-stone before hitting the Japanese Home Islands. They anticipated huge numbers of casualties.
My dad was aboard the USS Gage, an Army major attached to the Sixth Marine Division, which was created specifically for the invasion of Okinawa and was disbanded after Okinawa was declared secure.
Dad carried a “secret Marine serial number” to use after the landing in his intelligence work.
On L-Day, Landing Day, 60,000 American troops waded ashore before nightfall, with few shots fired. When our troops realized this wasn’t going to be another terrible battle for the beaches, some wit renamed the day to Love Day.
The Japanese were dug in further inland. That was where the battle joined.
Today I found a photo tucked amidst dusty papers on a closet shelf. This is my mother and me when I was about age 10. This would make it a few years after the end of WWII. In this photo I see the delight and security I felt with my mother–she possessed so many wonderful attributes. Possibly the most important is that she was a wonderfully kind person, and I was an insecure, frightened little creature unsure of myself in every way. I barely felt I had a right to be at home in the world–had endless nightmares of myself abandoned, all alone, crying…. In those days I think maybe people believed that an adopted child could settle into an adoptive family and be “just like” a biological child.
I was fortunate. The social worker from whom I recently secured my adoption papers said that with my mom and dad I really won the luck of the draw. That’s true, though of course I didn’t always realize it growing up. Apparently the case worker who did a home visit a year after I was placed with my parents said that it was obvious even then that I had a special bond with my dad. That’s true. I adored him. And I took my mom for granted. She was so…there. So…always there. Always warm, dependably loving.
How on earth do I write about this without getting ridiculously sentimental? On the other hand, it’s all real.
The other day I heard phrase “global fear.” There is so much fear in this world–and thus ever it has been. I recall chatting with one of my teachers, Robert P. Dana, at Cornell College, in Mt. Vernon, Iowa, when I was a freshman there. Bob was a poet and teacher, who eventually became Iowa Poet Laureate. He was also a teacher of many wonderful things.
One day I stopped by to show him my new pair of new leather boots that came almost up to my knees. I was seventeen and wanting to embrace the whole big world. I thought it was like watermelon: I could bite off chunks and chew, with its lovely cool, pink juices running down my chin.
I said, “These boots make me feel intrepid.” It’s possibly the first time I ever spoke that word aloud, and perhaps the last. But it was true. I felt as if I could leap Iowa’s big muddy rivers or possibly knock down abandoned barns with one strong kick.
The Cold War thing, I said, had been getting to me, making my nerves sing a little bit. My dad had worked with the Soviets in Korea right after WWII, as secretary to the American team of negotiators trying to put North and South Korea back together again. The Russian threat was ever present in our house.
Bob said, “People on America’s early frontiers always worked with a musket on their shoulders or only a few feet away. Life has always been like that. There’s always a threat.”
So maybe life’s about how we buck up our intrepidity, and go about our daily lives with peace in our hearts, but always understanding that things can change in a nanosecond.
Who remembers the Booth Memorial Hospitals? Only the women who worked there as Salvation Army officers, probably, or those who have access to the records, the thousands of mostly young, unmarried women who sought shelter there in the late 19th century and much of the 20th. I was born at the Booth in Des Moines, Iowa, some decades ago.
In the summer of 2012 I received my adoption records from the State of Iowa, which now releases very old records. The only thing missing was a photo of my birth mother, which apparently does not exist. My adoptive mother is deceased–she was wonderful–but I would still like a photo of the woman who gave birth to me. Her name was Zelda. Unfortunately, by the time I learned her name, I was also able to trace her death records. I also learned that her older child, my half brother, had also died. Too late, too late. Sometimes I think life is a collection of sadnesses, and how long one lives depends on how many people we love and how many of those we lose. I am blessed to still have my sweetheart of almost 51 years.
Lowell and Joan dancing some 20 years ago to our favorite local dance band, Country Comfort. Not sure where this was, but we were way into the music and dancing. Every Friday night, if possible.
Two of my favorite people, campaigning for a great candidate, me! I have never known such consistently kind and caring people, both deceased for nearly a decade, and I still laugh at the marvelous comedy of this routine. Talk about abundant blessings!