Posts Tagged ‘Lemuel Shepherd’

WW2 Competitions

|   1 July 2010

Who WAS this man?

This month’s competition proved much harder than I thought it would. But congratulations to Mr Pichardie who correctly identified this US Marine General as Lemeul Shepherd Junior. A signed copy of Michael Burleigh’s ‘Moral Combat’ is on its way to you.

Shepherd had one of the toughest wars of any battlefield General and deserves to be much better known. He was a Marine commander during the brutal and unforgiving ‘island hopping’ campaign in the Pacific. These were deadly offensives – as viewers of Sky’s ‘The Pacific’ will know. Shepherd commanded units on Guadalcanal, Guam and then, as a two star Brigadier General leading the 6th Marine Division, on Okinawa. The photo above captures a pensive Brigadier General Shepherd on Okinawa.

I’ve interviewed both American and Japanese veterans who fought on Okinawa and their stories tell of a hell on earth. One US Marine revealed that not only did his unit habitually refuse to take Japanese prisoners – shooting any who tried to surrender – but that they were taught to believe that the Japanese were an ‘inhuman race’. And battle fatigue as they fought this ‘inhuman’ enemy was so intense that he recalled that he had spent one night hallucinating that he was fighting the Japanese only to discover in the morning that ‘there were no Japanese there’.

As for soldiers of the Japanese Imperial Army, they were ordered to conduct a defence of the island of Okinawa that they knew would almost certainly lead to their deaths. Instead of trying to prevent the Americans from landing on the island, they retreated island into carefully prepared defensive shelters. Here they planned to show their bravery by giving up their lives for their Emperor. You can listen to one Japanese soldier who fought on Okinawa, Hajime Kondo, in the Testimony section of the site. He talks revealingly of the reasons why he thought he ought to kill himself on Okinawa – and why he survived.

In theĀ  video on the site about ‘island hopping‘ you can also here Kondo reveal that the last word he heard spoken by American soldiers before they died was often ‘Mother.’ Kondo thought that curious, since the last word that Japanese soldiers uttered when they died could also be ‘Mother’. (This was something confirmed to me by a Kamikaze pilot – who was cheated of death off Okinawa only because his plane was shot down as he neared his target. He said that the Kamikaze pilots had discussed amongst themselves what their last word should be, spoken as they smashed themselves into a million pieces against the deck of an Allied warship; and everyone said that they would say the word ‘mother’. But he had a problem, his mother had died when he was young, and so he felt he could not say ‘mother’ as he killed himself, so he decided to say the name of a Geisha he loved instead.)

The war on the eastern front in the Soviet Union was truly horrendous, but there was a special, intense kind of nastiness to the war in the Pacific. And that was the war in which history placed Lemeul Shepherd Junior.