Every man I know has at least the purple heart. That's how serious our casualties were, because when you're at this for 82 days and you're in an atmosphere that anything you do could get you killed, to survive all of that is, that's no good planning. It's just good luck.
My name is Dick Whitaker. I graduated high school in June of 1944, and I entered the United States Marine Corps the following month. On March 13, 1945, which happened to be my 19th birthday, we boarded ships, again not knowing where we were going, but ended up landing on the Island of Okinawa Shima on April 1, 1945.
And that was a big surprise, because we walked to shore. The landing on Okinawa was unopposed. And then we learned that the battle plan, that the generals had establish to defend the island, involved allowing us to come ashore and then stopping us on a line called the Shuri Yana burrow line, which was midway in the island of Okinawa. And that's where the major part of that 82-day campaign was fought.
As far as my own experience, I was first assigned to Fox company, second battalion, 29th Marine, six Marine division. That was a rifle company and I was in this ammunition carrier in a machine gun platoon. And when we went north to relieve an army unit that had become bogged down, that was still my job. And on May 17th, my unit, which consisted of this second platoon of Fox company and my machine gun section, we assaulted a place called Sugar Loaf Hill and took heavy casualties. We were the 11th assault.
And when that little engagement was over, my rifle company had gone from 251 men to 61 men. I was hit in the hand by a sniper. I spent two days in a battalion aid station. And when I came back, my job changed as I was reporting in to company commander. His runner was hit by a sniper and killed, and I became the company runner. We were there a total of 101 days and we were in combat 82 days. My regiment in the end registered an 82% killed or wounded ratio. You know, there's an old saying that the dead ones are still there. The real heroes are still there. I believe that. I'm only here because I'm lucky.
I arrived home at 3:00 in the morning on Memorial Day, 1946. Great day to get home from a war.