Almost 75 years ago, on Aug. 14, 1945, Japan surrendered, ending the terrible bloodshed of World War II.

Warfare is awful. But it takes someone who has been in battle to fully know the horrors of it.

Such a person was Staff Sgt. James Drury, of Moorhead, who was in combat in the Pacific during WWII.

Jim was in the middle of the fight on Okinawa. While there, he kept a diary.

Staff Sgt. James Drury. Special to The Forum
Staff Sgt. James Drury. Special to The Forum

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His sister, Kathleen Tweiten, Fargo, sent a copy of it to “Neighbors.”

It’s too long to reprint here, but here is some of what he wrote about one day — May 3, 1945.

Editor’s note: Minor edits were made in his descriptions of the fighting due to offensive terminology.

Riflefire, grenades

“We held the ridge and lost several more men from mortars and grenades.

“That night we stayed on the ridge flanked by the 2nd and 3rd platoon.

“The (Japanese) tried a banzai but were held back by heavy hand grenade and machine gun fire from our men. We threw 1,700 grenades that night.

“About midnight, (they) tried to get out of a hole. The kid on guard in our hole froze when he tried to shoot (them). I took the gun away from him and emptied it into the hole.

“I threw several grenades at (one of them), but he got up on a ledge and threw two back at us. The first one hit by the side of our hole near my head. It went off and hit Potts and Santola. Potts was hit in the mouth and eyes. He got out of the hole and ran to the medics’ hole.

“(The Japanese soldier) threw a second grenade. This I saw coming, and as it headed into our hole, I hit it with my rifle butt and knocked it out. It went off by my head on the other side of the rocks we had piled around our hole. I couldn’t see anything or hear anything as it blew dust and rocks all over me.

“I threw one grenade after another (Japanese soldier), and they finally went back into their hole. They tried to get out several times, but I drove them back with my M-1 rifle and grenades.

“I kept firing the rest of the night and threw all the grenades we had left, which was about 50.

“I helped bring Joe Patroza down off the ledge; he was shot in the stomach while trying to get back into his hole.

“We spotted (an enemy soldier) in a shell hole and started throwing grenades at him. He caught the grenades and threw them back.

“Joe crawled out of his hole and was going to fire into (the soldier’s) hole, but they spotted him and started firing at him. Joe tried to make it back to his hole, but they shot him through the stomach. Darling pulled him into the hole and gave him his sulfa pills and put a bandage on him.

“The 3rd platoon lost almost all their men and platoon leader.

Emil Anderson, from Fargo, was only a few yards away when the heavy fighting began. He was in a hole with Jimmy Howell and his brother Robert and Mike Revake. The (Japanese) threw a mortar shell in the hole with them. It injured Jimmy, Mike and killed Jimmie’s brother.

“I heard Emil firing at (them), and then he hollered for help. But he was silenced by (them). They shot and bayoneted him. He got out of the hole and tried to go down a ladder. He fell and got caught on a tree. He died a few minutes later. I helped take him down the next day and felt bad over it all.

“That same night (a Japanese) captain came running through the 2nd platoon’s area and threw a grenade at Lt. Gornto’s hole, setting off his white phosphorus grenade and burning up all his ammo and equipment.

“The 2nd platoon opened up on him and filled him full of lead. While he was dying, he kept singing and saying, ‘continue the banzai.’ They got a saber off him the next morning which was covered with blood. They think he cut Gilham in the stomach, as he was cut up badly just before they shot (the Japanese) captain.

“After being cut up, Gilham fell off the ridge. The doctors tried several operations, but he died a few days later.”


Military family

There is just a small section of Jim Drury’s diary about the battle on Okinawa. He also fought in the battle for Leyte.

His sister Kathleen says there were eight siblings in the family.

“Jim was my oldest brother,” she writes.

“All three of my brothers served in the armed forces. Jim was in the Infantry in the Pacific. John was a Marine in China at the same time. My younger brother, Tom, served 22 years in the Navy, partly in Vietnam.

“I also had a nephew who was a Navy top gun pilot who flew many missions over Vietnam.”

After Jim left the service, he returned to Moorhead, married Florence Probstfield in 1951, worked for the Peterson Truck Farms and then had a 28 year career with Greyhound Lines.

“As Jim aged,” Kathy writes, “his memory started to go, so his daughter moved him to Grand Forks to be near her.

“He never talked about the war until later years, when I’m sure some of those horrible memories came flooding back. The tears would come when he did talk about those awful times.”

Jim died in 2006. He was survived by two daughters, a grandson, a brother and three sisters.

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