THEODORE, Ala. (WALA) - All this week, FOX10 News has been sitting down with localveterans who served in the Pacific front during World War II.
A Marine in Theodore served in one of the deadliest battles inthe Pacific, the battle of Okinawa.
Until recently he was tight-lipped about his memories. He saysthey were too painful to share. He kept them hidden for years.
It's a story of fear, terror and death, stories that were alltoo common during that war, but stories that need to be told.
Inside an old chest of drawers under forgotten papers anddocuments lies a heroic symbol of Jim McClure's past, a PurpleHeart. The medal is awarded to veterans who were wounded in battle,but it's a past he keeps buried.
"I get to thinking about it, get to crying. I don't worry aboutit, it's all gone now," World War II Veteran Jim McClure said.
Sixty five years ago, McClure served in the 6th Marine Division,and took part in the last major battle of World War II, the Battleof Okinawa.
The island is just south of Japan. The Imperial forces used itto refuel Kamikaze planes. So from April to June 1945, theAmericans battled to take it over, to prepare for an invasion ofJapan.
"They were vicious, they were fighting for their lives, highlytrained. Young, just like I was. I wasn't scared! Didn't worry menone, I never figured I'd ever see these United States no more,"McClure said.
The battle was 82 days of sheer terror. McClure deliveredammunition to fellow marines and fought along with them. Once whilein a foxhole, the Japanese fired a small rocket at him!
"It comes off there a wobblin, 'we-we-wah-wah', it's asquealing, making an awful racket, and I got hit in my lap, it camein on me and it blowed me up on top of it!" McClure said.
He survived the blast but is forever deaf in his left ear.
On one mission, McClure was sent to scout some Japanese withsome fellow Marines. One will always stick with him.
"Johnny, Johnny Batiste," said McClure.
The group started walking up the hill when they were spotted!One of their comrades was gunned down.
"I dove up under them bushes. Johnny dove up under the ones upin front of me."
They decided to lay low and get out in the morning.
"The night, they come out, there hunting us. They knew theydidn't send one man out by himself, so they sent them Japs on thathill, and he was hunting some," McClure recalled.
But things turned for the worst.
"They found Johnny! They caught him, they drug him outta there,boy he was cussing and a fighting and a raising hell, and I startedto get up, open fire, but I was scared, I didn't know if my riflewas any good or not. I didn't have my rifle, I had one I picked up,I didn't know where to shoot. Anyhow, I didn't, they carried himdown, I heard him hollerin' and a screaming going down thathill."
"Nobody know where he went to. I know what happened, theycarried him down and killed him and mutilated him," He looks backsadly.
McClure later escaped, and as he ran back to the Americans, hewas shot in the foot. The injury earned him the Purple Heart.
By the end of the battle, 12,000 Americans were killed ormissing and McClure nearly became one of them.
"I wasn't no hero, they had some heroes in there, but all themgot killed," McClure said.
So many men deserved to come home. They didn't get that chance,but McClure did. He doesn't consider himself a hero, but he waswilling to sacrifice himself for his country. There has to besomething heroic about that.
McClure says after the battle of Okinawa, his division waspreparing to storm the beaches of Japan and prepare for aninvasion.
But after the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima andNagasaki, the Japanese surrendered and the invasion was called off.
McClure said if the Americans did invade Japan, thecasualties would have been enormous, and McClure feels certain hewould have died.
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