John Taussing writes to his parents describing the horrific fighting on Okinawa.
"I found two of my buddies. They weren't dead but dying, tied and staked to the ground, their guts cut open and their tongues cut out..."
Dearest Folks: 4-29-45
This letter will undoubtedly seem queer to you as, in this, I'm going to give forth with news. My outfit hit the beach of Okinawa about three hours after the first wave on Easter Sunday (April Fool's Day). We must have surprised them completely because the opposition was light and only few casualties were gotten. Our first night we set up near Yontan airfield, which the infantry had secured about nightfall. I'm in the security section of our battery and 2nd gunner on a 50 caliber machine gun. We were given orders not to fire unless the word was passed. In the wee hours of the morning, along came a hedge-hopper who flew directly over us. I could not spit in his eyes. He circled the field and landed. On getting out he was riddled with lead. Some of those guys never got the word. A few annoying snipers put a couple of rounds close to us, but no one got hurt. Then we moved on and dead bodies appeared. Along the road were arms, legs, heads and torsoes, blood and guts scattered everywhere. Went through the town of China and it was not very pretty. Our flame-throwers, tanks and artillery are not playthings. That night we got two Japs trying to infiltrate near us. Two rounds, two Nips. We were fortunate in having no rain to impede the shipping of the equipment over the ground. The Marines were to take the northern end of the island so we moved up and only met small bands of organized resistance. At every stopping place my section was sent to patrol the area. Once in a while we would send scouts out. If we met any Nips, we either killed them or brought them in. Finally we set up permanent camp.
The place was an old Jap Military school, riddled with bullets and machine-gun fire. The battery moved inside, but us unfortunates have to sleep by our guns in the mud. Here every night bullets came our way but only two have been hit, none killed. Their usual time to infiltrate is between nightfall and 10 P.M. and between 3 A.M. and 5 A.M. Yes, I'll admit at first I was scared half to death. Bullets hurt; a few hand-grenades can do and have done damage; I don't like the look in a dead man's eye, it gives me the shivers. We have been going out on patrols and occasionally meeting "nambues" (Jap Machine Guns). Their mortar-fire is deadly accurate and is causing us to hustle. They call them knee mortars. That is the only thing that they excel us in. They are experts. Our chow is getting better. Easter dinner was K-rations.------1 1/2 cut out by censor ------- and boy do they hit the spot. The water isn't bad, what there is of it.
Now, as for the environment of the place. The people have no decency or morals. Their houses are filthy, as are their human bodies. There are abundant flies, mosquitoes, lice, fleas, ticks and other insects in their houses. They are made out of straw with mats strewn all over, and rice stored away. Malaria, cat fever, typhus, elephantiasis, dengue fever and rare diseases are imminent on "the rock". Rats the size of tom-cats, snakes that are poisonous, frogs, crickets, bugs, bores and all forms of live stock. The women have no decency and have children at the age of twelve or younger, and every nine months there-after 'til they are just worn out. The women do all the work and the men relax. Money seems nothing to them, but food everything.
The stink and smell of dead, bloated bodies in the air everywhere. Dried up blood and bones are strewn around, and wounded people straggling around. When I get home I want to forget about all this that I've seen. I don't want to remember it. Saipan and Tinian were not this bad. In a letter from a girl she said she had met a Marine who was on Iwo Jima. She said he was hard and bitter. My return answer went something like this. I asked her if she expected to see a courteous gentleman that talked about flowers. He undoubtedly saw his best buddies murdered in cold blood. Or perhaps came upon his brother that the Japs had gotten, tortured, castrated and stuffed his organs in his mouth. Inhuman, yes; but that is the way they fight, and that is the way I found two of my buddies. They weren't dead but dying, tied and staked to the ground, their guts cut open and their tongues cut out and their privates stuck in their mouths. Now I ask you, Mom and Dad, can you blame a man for feeling bitter? I will probably be the same way when I get home; I'm trying not to be!
In Germany we are at least fighting people, but over here these yellow-belly bastards (and that's what they are) are just like animals. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that there is also leprosy, syphilis, gonorrhea and other diseases here. I think that will give you a fair idea of what it's like here. I'm grateful that Ted when he was over quick, not so here. It is bad enough for one of us to have to go through it. I hope that Pete will never see it or either of you. That is the one advantage of a flyer; he doesn't see all that.
As for me, I've just gotten over a mixture of cat fever and combat fatigue. My bones are showing and I don't feel too strong, and Have a bad cough as well as jumpy temperature. I'll live, though. My foot that I stuck the axe through is healed and that's O.K. I'm sorry this is such a gruesome letter but it's the truth, something you rarely hear in the papers. I wish you'd read this letter to your friends, so that they will know what it's really like over this way, and so they will not be misled by the papers. Also, if you can get it printed in the home-town paper, I'm sure the people could us it. Please do this, and see if it can go in verbatim. I get sick when I read about the trouble in getting things at home and all that baloney. I sometimes wonder if they know there's a war on. The families that have their sons and relatives over here understand, but those that don't are misled. If you could do what follows for me, I would be grateful. Buy the space, if necessary, in the home paper and print this letter, and then send me a copy of it. It would awaken the people and let them know how much home means to them.
Well, I blew my top and I'm finished. I hope all at home are well and happy and that all of us can come home for good soon.
Lots and lots of love to the best parents in the world.
Pfc. John W. Taussig, Jr., USMC
Regimental H & S Btry
15th Marines, 6th Marine Division
c/o F.P.O., San Francisco, Calif.