Remembering my grandfather, Darlo Smith, C Company, 184th Reg., 7th Infantry Division. He was killed on the island of Okinawa, April 22, 1945.
My grandfather joined from just across the river from Davenport Iowa in Rock Island Illinois.
After literally years in theater, my grandfather was killed in the last American battle of the war. Had he lived another month, he would have survived. He was among the last American casualties of World War II. Here is an account of his death from a unit history.
At 1730 on 22 April the First Platoon spearheaded the attack on Klatt Ridge, which was on extension of Hill 178, one of the enemy’s most important island defensive lines. The Platoon made two attempts to secure the Ridge, both proving unsuccessful and necessitating withdrawal because of the growing number of casualties unstained. The enemy defense seemed to be impregnable, the position being better defended by machine gun, mortar and artillery than any the Company had previously encountered.
The Second Platoon and the machine gun position from the Weapons Platoon rotor trend the First Platoon in on attempt to outflank the enemy positions on the left. The Japs allowed the platoon to advance well up into their positions and then brought them under intense sniper and machine Gun cross fire and mortar fire. The attempt to secure the enemy position was useless, and the platoons withdrew, suffering heavy casualties. As it won too dark to attempt another attack the Company dug in with Easy Company for the night.
During the engagements of this day four members of the Company worn killed and twelve were wounded. Plc Tacconi was killed by an enemy sniper. In the absence of his squad leader, Pfc Darlo Smith assumed command of the squad, which he was leading in the attack on Klatt Ridge when he was mortally wounded by fire from an enemy machine gun. Pfc John IH. Michael, a member of a flame thrower team, died on the battlefield from wounds received from sniper fin, Pat Rubio L. Dunn was successful in reaching his objective along with two others, on top of the Ridge, at which time his squad came under heavy sniper fire and was forced to withdraw. During this action Pat Dunn was missing; his body was found two boys later. He was evidently killed instantly by sniper fire.
Our positions remained the same during the day of the Old of April. At 2300 of this day, the most merciless, concentrated Japanese artillery barrage of the Pacific War begun upon our positions. An estimated 7000 rounds of all calibers were laid on us in a bombardment that lasted for three hours and forty-five minutes. No casualties wore inflicted upon the Company, but we wore severely shaken up. However, Pvt Greiss, one of the members of our Company who was with the Battalion Security squad the rear area, was mortally wounded during the night from enemy ‘artillery. It was found that the, enemy used this concentration to conceal their withdrawal from Hill 178, which the 17th Regiment later took it without opposition.
The map shows Hill 178 and the location of my grandfather’s death. It also shows battle lines the day before his death. C Company isn’t shown, he was attached to E Company.
Hill 178, Okinawa 1945
An American infantryman from my grandfather’s unit, 184th Reg., 7th Infantry Div., looking tense during fight to take Okinawa from its fanatical Japanese defender. This photo was taken approximately 3 miles south of where Darlo was KIA.
A battle-weary infantryman of the 184th reg. with his BAR (rifle) at his side, eating canned “C” ration lunch of meat, beans & desert during mid-morning respite in the fighting against Japanese enemy on hillside.
Darlo and my grandmother before the war. She is still with us.
My grandfather (D.E. Smith) was buried on Okinawa in front of and to the right of the grave of General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr. General Buckner was the highest-ranking American to have been killed by enemy fire during the Second World War.
The view from Hill 178 on Okinawa as it appears today.
Darlo also fought in the invasion of Kwajalien Atoll and across Leyte in the Philippines. Here is a souvenir he sent home during the war.
He wrote this letter to his sister four days before he was killed in action. He speaks of his wife, Marjorie and my father Jimmie. He says after his experiences, he will never miss Mass again when he gets home.
He was 24 when he died in battle. He had never met his 2 year old son; my father.
Holding a souvenir of the Battle of Leyte in the Philippines.
I had the honor of serving shortly with my grandfather’s division – the 7th Infantry Division – in 1985.