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WWII Chronicles

Sky-Line Ridge, Okinawa

By Barbara Duvall Wesolek
I always knew my uncle, Dugan Dewveall, had been a decorated WWII soldier. I was told he carried a Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) in battle in the Pacific, and the life expectancy of a soldier carrying a BAR on the battlefield was often measured in seconds.

My father was one of his brothers, and he told us Dugan had been fearless all his life, even as a child. He was the first one up to fight the bully, no matter if the bully were bigger. He was the one to ride the wildest horse. Dugan was the one who would be ready to get on stage and play his guitar and sing for a crowd, no matter how large or small. He was a star. And in any music contest, even if the son of the richest man in town predictably won, the crowd applauded loudest for darkly handsome Dugan Dewveall.

His fearlessness, combined with his hatred of Japanese soldiers, made him a killing machine in the Pacific. All war is when young men, who should be home going to school and planning their future, are instead dodging ordnance and hoping to live through the day without being killed or seeing their buddies killed by the current designated enemy who is hoping to live through the day also.

Dugan was a teenager when he went off to war in the Pacific. He came back four years later, never the same again. He had learned to hate Japanese and to love killing them. War is about killing, and in the Pacific theatre, the sand ran red with blood. He was asked once about killing civilians, and he said, "When we flushed out Jap soldiers hiding behind Korean 'comfort women' (sex slaves), using them for shields, we mowed 'em down...we mowed 'em all down!"

He rarely talked about the war, but you had the sense the war wasn't over for him. Sometimes, his dark eyes would appear to harden and grow black. He would sit very still. It was a frightening look. We figured he was thinking of the war. But we never asked.

After the war, Dugan returned to Texas and went to work in the oil field. He was a good hand, and he advanced. He traveled the world and was promoted to running international offshore rigs and also several rigs off the coast of Texas and Louisiana.

Dugan could be quick to anger. There was a wildness in him, and he was always ready for a fight. His men respected him, and perhaps feared him, and they didn't give him any trouble. The big bosses in the oil company headquarters valued his oil rig expertise and his dependability.

After a couple of decades on oil rigs, his black hair began to thin and he developed a paunch, but he was still ready for a fight. He was ready the day he was on deck on his rig and a call came in from oil company headquarters that the U.S. State Department had a boat headed his way with four Japanese business dignitaries, and he was to show them around the rig and describe rig technology to them. Dugan replied, "I'll be ready. I'm strappin' on my side arm right now, and I'll kill every Jap I see."

That was the last word. The boat never appeared. Dugan was still the undefeated warrior.

In going through some of my grandmother's scrap books and Bible, I found some letters he had written from WWII to his mother back in Weatherford, Texas. He knew she worried... he knew she prayed for him every day. His letter below was published in the local newspaper:

Sky-Line Ridge on Okinawa Took Toll of Many Lives.

Staff Sgt. Milton "Dugan" Dewveall, writing from Korea, where he is with the occupation army, in a city about the size of Fort Worth, writes home folks some of his experiences on Okinawa when they took Sky-Line Ridge after a three days battle. Incidentally, he opines that the folks back home might have forgotten by now that there had been a war, and the death and suffering of thousands of our fighting men on Okinawa Island, the toughest of the lot. To help us remember, he describes some of the fighting on Sky-Line Ridge--

"I never mentioned my buddies when on Okinawa, or before the war ended, as censor would not permit. All my buddies but one were killed or seriously wounded and returned to the United States. In the picture I sent, Davis, Crawford, Day, Capt. Spain, were all killed. The other Davis, not in my picture, lost both legs April 19th. So you see why I never mention them any more.

"When we hit Okinawa there were 41 men in my platoon. Three of us are left. All three of us were wounded more or less. I was wounded slightly in the knee. We got replacements three times while the battle was going, and there are only two of the replacement men left, making five of us "old timers" in my platoon. The rest of the platoon are other kids that joined us after the battle was over.

"The little monkeys were really dug in on the ridge. When we hit the ridge there were 35 men in each platoon. There were nine left in my platoon, seven in the third and 19 in the first. You can see what a day we had. We had to leave several boys on the ridge as we were knocked off. That was what hurt me and my men that were left. But they were either killed or wounded so bad they couldn't go. And we couldn't carry them. It was every man for himself, after we were decimated. There were men running around badly shocked so they knew not what they were doing. There were others crying like a little child, others were wounded but able to run. During the day, myself and another kid with Browning automatics crawled to the top of the ridge and we poured bullets into a bunch of Japs and I know that fifty of them dropped. However, there were near 500 there and we couldn't stay. But my buddy stayed, shot through the heart, we learned after we finally took the ridge. He was one boy that did a lot in winning the war.

"We got kicked off the ridge twice before we took it, which was just before we had a rest.We got the rest so we could get replacements, as there was no company left. Nearly all gone. We were seldom even at half strength at any time of the battle. After I started leading a squad of 12 men, I lost three squads, either killed or wounded. I was the only one left twice, and the other time, a boy from Arkansas survived.

"We were on a hill of coral rocks. A Jap sneaked up behind a big rock and began throwing grenades. I started throwing grenades at him. He grenaded me out of my fox hole twice, and then one hit close to me on the ground and I was wounded in the knee. I then threw one that hit the bull's eye and the Jap was no more."

- Barbara Duvall Wesolek, February 26, 2015
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