PLATTSBURGH — U.S. Army Capt. Edward Siegel, his love life in tatters, was assigned to the 375th General Hospital on Okinawa, Japan.
During the Battle of Okinawa, “Operation Iceberg” thoroughly blitzed the largest of the Ryukyu Islands.
Jane Whitmore transcribed her father’s recollections of that ravaged sector of the Pacific Theater during World War II.
“When we landed on Okinawa, there was absolutely nothing on the island. Only thing standing was a small part Shuri Castle in Naha, which was the capital, and this was tilted on the side. It almost looked like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The rest of the island was absolutely decimated by gunfire, explosions, bombings, and so forth. There was no water, no facilities, no electricity, absolutely nothing.”
Siegel, a New York Orthodox Jew, called the Pentagon. The powers that were ordered the woman he loved, Capt. Gretchen Boody, a Wisconsin Methodist and nurse, to Okinawa.
It was a reunion for the faith-crossed lovers on the island where more than 65,000 Allies were killed, wounded or missing in action and more than 100,000 Japanese soldiers were killed, captured or committed suicide.
“They are so thrilled,” Whitmore said. “They’re off to a theater of war. They are there from June of 1945 until September 1945.”
There, the faith-crossed couple’s romance weathered typhoons and near annihilation.
Siegel was deep into Kathleen Windsor’s novel “Forever Amber,” when “the world around us became one of sound and fury, and wind and dirt, and so forth.”
In the aftermath of a Japanese-ammunition dump’s ignition by sniper fire, a red-hot, unexploded, 3-inch naval shell fell into the trench Siegel shared with Johnny Tice, a dentist sandpapering a model airplane. Siegel dog-eared his page. Tice packed his airplane in its plastic box. Wordlessly, they exited the trench. Their subsequent shakes continued long after their realization of their luck.