To pick up the thread of my post-Easter explorations and discoveries, let me say something about Okinawa, the last battle of World War II. Ken Burns’ documentary “War” for PBS is an excellent resource. There are numerous sites and blogs that describe the many facets of the battle, which involved more than 1500 ships, as well as Marines and Army in the tens of thousands on the ground. It lasted for 82 days. The Navy took 10,000 casualties at sea, evenly divided between dead and wounded. This was an outstanding and historic ratio. The cause of so many deaths was the attack of kamikazi, on some days upwards of 300 at a time. These were suicide missions designed to sink the fleet. As a minesweeper, USS Hilarity would have been in the radar picket rotation, serving in the frontline as Japanese air strikes came in. The Hilarity sank 2 submarines, disabled 78 mines, and won two battle stars. What is lost is the record of damage done to the ship and the number of casualties sustained. She survived through to the Japanese surrender and after August 30 , she was deployed to sweep harbors in Korea and at Nagasaki.
By this time, my father was on his way home. I am slowly piecing together “his” war and the homeward journey. Why was he evacuated so early? What was his medical status? Was he one of the thousands of neuropsychiatric cases, known as “nps” or “combat fatigue”, which were produced in record numbers at Okinawa? How did a sailor who was separated from the Navy in Sept. 1945 in Boston, certified as in good health, become a veteran whose occupation was listed as “Vets Hospital” on my birth certificate in August, 1946? How was I awarded the status and benefits of a “War Orphan” in 1953? Why did my father leave Okinawa, return home and then, so completely fall out of the family’s story?
I have his Honorable Discharge and a few clues about the sail to San Francisco. Much more to be found. But now, the puzzle has a reliable frame.