Stories by Sixth Division Marines
Wheels On.....or…..Wheels Off??
by Bill Pierce (29th Mar-Wpns)
Our gun was selected to be placed on a small hill facing the looming edifice – the tallest mountain on Okinawa, Mt. Yaetake (yay tack ee). A lone Jap gun, well hidden, was way up in the center of the mountain. We were to go to the back of the small hill, make our way across the right side, and get the gun to the top where a flat place had been found.
The Japanese gun was called “Pistol Pete” by us Marines. He would open up almost like clockwork around 4:00 or 5:00 pm each day and fire at us Marines strung out and scattered on the approach road on Okinawa’s west side. (See page 72 in our “History of the Sixth Marine Division.”) The Jap 150mm gun commanded the entire road, which was easily seen from the height the gun had been placed. Many of us wondered – and still wonder even now – how in the heck the Japs got that huge gun up there.
We unhooked from the 4x4 weapons truck that delivered us up the road to the back of the lower hill and unlimbered our 37mm gun. There were seven of us plus our platoon Sgt. John Emmett. We went up a small trail some 6 feet wide, hauling, pushing, and struggling along the trail on the side of the hill, full ammo bags slung over the shield. We were sniped at, and bullets zinged off the backside of the hill. Whoever was firing at us – his aim was high. We prayed it stayed that way. Our Sgt. told us, “Ignore it and keep moving.”
Unfortunately, we came to a place in the trail where it had caved in. Or maybe it just was never there. We were missing some 3 feet of the trail!
Some thought we would have to return, but others tried to figure out how to get that gun across the abyss looming in front of us. Someone came up with the idea of taking the wheels off. That was squelched, because if they were off and we wanted out of there, we’d have a gun with no wheels on it. Not too good an idea.
The Sgt. figured it out. Four Marines stay on the side of the hill with the small ropes we had tied to the gun. The other lucky guys get down the hillside, and as the gun was pulled forward, with hands under the wheel hanging over the trail, pass the wheel to the Marine in front of you! This was not received too well. But down four or us went looking for good footing in order to pass along our 900 pound Betsy from one to the other. Our hands became the trail!
It seemed like it could not be done, but darned if it didn’t work. The guys holding the gun on top did most of the work, as we passed the tire from one to the next. Finally we got to the path where it widened, and up we came for a five minute or so rest. Sniping still took place, and once in a while a bullet would strike the side of the hill above us. The sniper evidently never got his expert rifleman’s badge, thankfully.
We got the gun up onto the flat place on the hill and found it to be full of rocks. No foxholes could be dug at all, so we piled up the rocks as best we could and placed the gun facing Mt. Yaetake. It was now getting dark, so word was we wait till morning and then we fire at “Pistol Pete.” If we could see him, or figure out where he was hidden, we'd surely get him. He was up there somewhere.
Morning came, and looking out, we saw Marines attacking Mt. Yaetake. From our cat bird seat on the hill, we had a great view of the attack. Word was: Do not fire…repeat...Do not fire! Rocks galore, and if we fire above the Marines, the loose rocks could be released and cause casualties.
So we now secured the 37mm gun, gathered up whatever we came up with, and rolled the gun down the incline toward a road that circled the bottom of the hill. It sure was easier going downhill! So much for getting “Pistol Pete.” The attacking Marines got up there from several sides, and old Pete was never heard from again.
One thing for sure...we got enough exercise for the week!