Tori-Shima

Tori-Shima

by Dick Schoof

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Overview

Tori-Shima by Dick Schoof

The sky darkened as in the middle of a summer thunderstorm. Millions of birds had taken to the air after the first shell had landed on the tiny island of Lava Rock of Tori-shima. Yes, the sky darkened from gooney birds and terns that were nesting on the rocky prominence you could hardly call an island. The birds circled our ships in their vast multitudes and continued as our ships continued to shell the rocky shore. Shell after shell exploded in a shower of smoke and debris, with huge flames reaching the sky. The noise from the shelling was deafening. We were invading this tiny island that reputedly had many Japs on it, so the bombardment continued for an hour. Now we were ready to invade the rock, so we loaded our amtracs and slogged away from the LST as the ramp was let down into the sea.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781490710587
Publisher: Trafford Publishing
Publication date: 09/10/2013
Pages: 48
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

TORI-SHIMA


By Dick Schoof

Trafford Publishing

Copyright © 2013 Dick Schoof
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4907-1058-7


CHAPTER 1

The sky darkened as in the middle of a summer thunderstorm. Millions of birds had taken to the air after the first shell had landed on the tiny island of Lava Rock of Tori-shima. Yes, the sky darkened from gooney birds and terns that were nesting on the rocky prominence you could hardly call an island. The birds circled our ships in their vast multitudes and continued as our ships continued to shell the rocky shore. Shell after shell exploded in a shower of smoke and debris, with huge flames reaching the sky. The noise from the shelling was deafening. We were invading this tiny island that reputedly had many Japs on it, so the bombardment continued for an hour. Now we were ready to invade the rock, so we loaded our amtracs and slogged away from the LST as the ramp was let down into the sea.

We had arrived on this island from Okinawa, my second invasion. Now we plowed through the sea waves, which sloshed over the front of the crude little boats.

Reaching the outer fringe of the great reef that surrounded the island, our navy men opened up with all the small-caliber guns we had, blasting the lava rocks into little pieces. Not a Jap to be seen. The island was so small that at high tide, you could throw a rock across it. Not a blade of grass, no trees, just jagged lava to rip your boots. Two kinds of birds, gooney birds and terns, and two kinds of lizards, small brown ones and shiny gray-bodied ones with blue iridescent tails. No other living thing on the huge island of Tori-shima.

Our amtrac bounced across the huge reef shoreward and stopped at dry land where we unloaded our gear and looked for a place to set up our tent.

What a joke that was. We finally found a fairly level spot and cleaned out all the birds' nests, hacking away with our trenching tool and then setting up our small tent. Next came two wood-framed canvas cots. Back down at the beach, nothing but small rocks. We gathered our weather equipment and set that up in our tent. As all twenty-one of us GIs set up our tents and equipments, we realized we had taken up all the landing space for the birds. This resulted in one bird landing and sending a parked one into the air. The result was that birds were constantly flying. With so many birds in the air, we were constantly being bombarded. Ugh! Smelly too.

The two most important things we had to do was to set up a water distiller so we had fresh water. The second was to improvise a toilet system. This consisted of a fifty-five-gallon drum with the top off. Boards were placed across the top, and that became our potty. Another ugh! Super stinky! We poured gasoline on top and burned it to reduce the volume and the stink. Just don't get downwind of the smoke!

Our island commander was an army shavetail lieutenant and, in all his great wisdom, decided that Ed and I should have a 55mm in front of our tent facing a distant island where there were reported to be 1,900 Japs, sure! What we two knew about a big gun you could fit on the tip of a needle—yes, we were Army Air Corps, not fighters. Weathermen don't fight.

We had brought along enough food for two weeks and several cases of C rations. All were told there was enough for four weeks. That became our greatest problem. We were supposed to be supplied once a week by a small ship. Turns out that the kamikazes were flying down from Japan in great numbers, and our supply ship never arrived at all in the three and one-half months we were on Tori.

So of course, we had to do something about that problem. We turned to the seas.

We had no fishing gear, so hand grenades became our fish-getters. What we did was unscrew the cap of a grenade and replace it with an explosive cap and wire it to a plunger with a long wire. At the end of the reef, one GI would peer through a mask, watching for a school of fish to enter the area near the bomb. Remove your head, and the other guy would hit the plunger, and boom, supper. But not so easy.

Now, to retrieve the fish. They were yellow-finned tuna of twenty pounds and in twenty-five feet of water. Two of us daredevils would dive over the side with a huge brain coral in our hands and scoot to the bottom. To hell with the barracuda.

Lunch was more important. Now struggle back to the surface. Looking up, you could see the surface clearly but never seem to get there swimming with one hand and fish in the other. Then, finally, pop to the surface and gulp air. Lucky if you could make two dives, but now, we had food. We had plenty of help carrying the fish back to shore. The tuna was cut in one and one-half-inch-thick steaks. A number 10 can was filled with small coral chunks and filled with gas, throw in a match, and you have a great burner. No, it doesn't blow up. For some unknown reason, we had a great number of number 10 cans of old-fashioned peanut butter.

The oil comes to the top, and we used that to fry the fish in a skillet we stole from the mess area. Yes, you guessed it, fish for breakfast, fish for lunch, and fish for supper.

Guess what we ate the next day? Fish! Day after day, you guessed it again—fish. Ugh! Ed and I were responsible for collecting weather information three times a day and to send it back to our main base in Okinawa. We were some fifty miles northeast of the main base, so we encountered the weather quite some time before it reached Okie since the weather moves from west to east. Actually, the three weather observations we had to do could be done by one person, and it only took a half hour of our precious time to make the readings, encode it to secrecy transmission, take it to the signal corps guys, and send it. Big job! So we both had plenty of time on our hands to do as we pleased. So after exploring the island, which was about a half of a mile long and barely fifty yards wide, there was little to do for most of us. So when the sun rose to the brilliant blue sky and Ed had the duty, I'd start roaming the extensive reef at low tide, searching for the many beautiful shells. The animals were still inside the shells, so I'd lay them out on the shore to rot. Later on, the shells were placed in a sandbag and held down in the surf to cleanse the putrid stuff out of them.

This became a fairly daily activity for me. Spending so much time out on this vast reef, I became quite familiar with the inhabitants of the area. One morning, as I sloshed through the receding tide water, I came to a rather large depression in the reef that held a fair amount of water and usually a number of nice shells, so I knelt down to search the bottom, and as I did, the bottom of the reef seemed to start moving. Was I seeing things, or was I getting sunstroke? After blinking several times, I finally noticed two black dots and then the outline of an octopus!

One of those dreaded creatures of the stories of the Pacific that captured divers and killed them. What was I to do? I grabbed my trusty trench knife and stabbed it many times with no results. Now I picked up a piece of brain coral and bashed it.

Picking up the coral, the monster was gone. Then I felt it crawling up my arm. Oh God! Finally, I dislodged the animal and placed it on the end of my knife. Can you believe it was no bigger than a marble with a tentacle spread of perhaps ten inches?

Was I the hero when I showed it to the boys back at our tent area?

After many days of combing the reef for shells, I decided that I would have to start looking at the side of the reef that dropped off to about thirty feet of water.

Going down the side, there were many shells to be found. So I spent a great deal of time searching the side of the reef with the only pair of goggles we had on the island.

There were many different things to see attached to the surface of the algae-covered lava. At one point, I found a fair-size hole in the surface and heard a clicking noise.

As I looked in the hole, I saw a large white moray eel snapping its jaws at me.

Deciding safety is the better part of valor, I made a hasty retreat to the surface and caught my breath. That ended my collecting for the day. Needless to say, with all that sun and water, my skin was a dark brown and my hair was as gold as could be. My collection of shells had grown to two sandbags full as the months went by. The shells were beautiful colors, and I used them to make necklaces and pendants. Some shells had a trapdoor in front of the shell made of shell material, and these became known as "cat's eyes." When polished, it made exquisite necklace settings.

There were two main functions for our being on Tori. The first I mentioned was to send weather info back to Okinawa three times a day so our pilots would have weather reports from the west of the main island. The second function was to intercept the bogeys that were coming down from Japan to bomb our ships in the harbor. To do this, we had five marines, headed by a captain, that monitored a radar tower they had installed. They could see the Jap planes a good distance north of us and could then send our CAP (combat air patrol) to intercept them. We usually had five planes circling us all day, P-51s mostly. The first time a patrol came out to circle us, I happened to be in the radar tent and heard the flight leader say "Look at all those monkeys down there on that island" not realizing that we were Americans. "Let's strafe them, boys." Our captain got on the horn and gave them what for! Next day, the patrol came out at six in the morning and skimmed our island, cleaned their guns just overhead. I hit the deck and tried to burrow into the lava rock. I think my shorts were soiled. I made a point of going to the radar tent and often got a chance to chat with the pilots in our CAP. After a time, I got to know each pilot by his voice; they couldn't give their names over the air. Loving the water as I did, I got a hankering for some way to get out on the water, and it finally struck me that if I could get one of the pilots to drop their wing tanks to me, I could make a pretty fair double pontoon boat from it.

So I got on the horn and asked the flight leader to drop me his wing tanks. "Oh no," he said, "that's against regulations, only in combat can we do that."

"Gosh, we have two bogeys on the screen, you'd better drop your tanks and go get them!"

Nice guy, he did it, and I had the makings of a watercraft of sorts. Spent a good deal of time lashing them together and putting a platform on them made from crate boards, then I made a paddle out of some crate material. Now I am ready to go and didn't have to wait for the tide to go out. Neat little job. All the guys had to try it out. Sure was a hit on our lonely rock.

Now came the big shocker: we got torpedoed! Yes, torpedoed! Our rock in side view from a distance out in the ocean would look very much like a ship, and that is exactly what a sub captain saw at dusk when he raised his periscope. Now all ships of our navy send out a special radio signal, I. F. Not being a ship, we didn't have an identification frequency signal. So the captain of the sub guessed that we were a Jap ship and boom. The island shuddered, and the pen I was using writing a letter home slipped across the page. "Holy Christ," I said to myself, "guess this lava rock is going to blow up." So I raced to my boat and paddled like the devil to get away before the island sunk or blew up. Down the rocky hill I scampered to my beached boat and paddled away.

As I got out beyond the reef, a shout brought me back. "It was only a sub!" As I returned and raced to the top edge and spotted the huge U-turn, boiling white water of the sub retreating to get as far away as possible from its mistake. That was one red-faced skipper. We found out later that the story of the sub commander who sank an island in the Pacific got written up in Life magazine; what a laugh we had, some relief from the monotony.

Over the eons of time, the lava at the shoreline had been eroded away so that it had an inner curve, a concave, to it. At high tide, the waves rolling in would hit the curve and splash back toward the ocean. This was an important feature to one of the events that occurred about two months after we arrived on the rock. I was out scouring the reef one morning and noticed that the water off the reef had a peculiar oily appearance. The seabirds were acting strangely as well. Then I heard Ed yell, "Hey, Dick, come up here quickly!" There was Ed at the barometer, pointing.

"Good Lord, that thing is going down like a shot bird." The mercury was now down in the twenty-eight inches and dropping fast. We watched it closely for an hour, and it kept falling. Time to alert the island commander and all the other eighteen GIs. Sure as an arrow, the typhoon was headed directly for us. We all put all the loose lava around the bottom of our tents and lashed extra ropes to the tent pegs. All us dogfaces got our supplies and equipment battened down. Now we sat and watched the barometer drop. The sky clouded, and the waves started to roil.

The wind was now picking up, and the spray from the waves was flying across the rock—and this was only the beginning. The wind was picking up, and now it was up to seventy miles per hour. The waves now rolling in were monstrous. The wind continued to increase, and the mercury was still going down. After about another hour, the velocity of the wind was easily over 100 mph, and the waves rolling in from the south were some twenty feet high. Another hour passed and the mercury now read below twenty-seven inches and dropping, with the wind still increasing. The monstrous waves would hit the concave lava and roar back at the ocean only to be picked up by the wind and hurled back at the ocean, only then to be picked up by the wind and hurled back at the rock. Needless to say, the water and rain smashed at our tents, and inside, we had a fine steady mist covering us and everything inside our little home.

Some three hours later, we experienced the rare phenomenon of the eye of the typhoon. All was still. The sun came out in a cloudless sky. Ed and I called out to all that they should expect the wind to turn 180 degrees and batter us again.

Sure enough, it hit us again from the other quadrant. Our warning had saved a great deal of trouble, but we still had plenty of repair to take care of. Those monstrous waves hitting the curved lava and sending sheets of water across the rocky shore were something to behold.

The days rolled on. Day after day the sun rose in a beautiful blue sky. No, I wasn't bored since I had a number of things to occupy my time. Shell collecting, chasing birds, and exploring the rock. I arose one morning, ready to explore the narrow island rock. The lava over the centuries had been eroded into sharp pointed projections that tore our GI boots to pieces. Luckily, we had plenty of new boots with us, so I grabbed a new pair before starting my exploration. First, I found a small cave that had been used in the past. I guessed fishermen or people gathering guano (bird poop). No one had been in that cave for a long time.

Walking on down the rock, the island narrowed to a point above the water of the East China Sea. There was nothing to see except the huge number of seabird nests and a glimpse of a darting lizard. The latter quickly hid in a crevice after speeding away. This stretch of our island was only about the length of a football field but very narrow. The land at that end was totally bare. No trees, no grass, nothing. So narrow you could throw a stone across it. Going the other way, it was a similar experience, nothing but jagged lava rock.

There was another activity that kept several of us busy. Turns out we had Pacific lobsters that roamed the reef at high tide. These lobsters had only tiny front claws but huge, long antenna instead. We found out that, as the tide went out, we could stun them and have a change of diet. The way we did this was to strap one guy on the front of our amtrac with hand grenades on his belt. The driver would race across the reef when the tide was down to knee high, and the guy up front directed him to follow the scurrying crustacean until we got close to the quarry, toss the grenade in front of him, and pray that the explosion was in the right spot. Boiled in seawater and a dash of peanut oil, they made good eating—almost as good as Maine lobster. We sure learned to improvise.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from TORI-SHIMA by Dick Schoof. Copyright © 2013 Dick Schoof. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
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Tori-Shima 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Has been waiting. "R u going to try to milk me or make me pre.gnant?"
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