World War II Veterans Wings of Freedom

Sil Giusti

Active Duty: 1945 - 1947

Sil Giusti in Manila
Sil Giusti in Manila
mid 1946

Sil Giusti 's story:

When I was 17, I began investigating the branches of service I wanted to join. Single men 18 years of age were drafted into the infantry; however, if he joined while he was still 17 he would have some say as to which branch and job he would do.

My first choice was the Navy Air Corp specifically the V5 Program - WILDCAT (Grumman) fighter plane. I applied, passed the written tests with flying colors but failed the physical because I could not pass the perception test. I was determined to join the military so I tried the Army Air Corp, the Coast Guard and the Navy. Again my eyes kept me out.

I received an invitation to join the Army Special Training Program (ASTP - one year minimum at a college). I joined (still 17) the Army Enlisted Reserve Corps, ASTP. After reporting to the Presidio of Monterey I was told the ASTP was canceled.

Instead, I was put in the Infantry and received Heavy Weapons Training (30 caliber water-cooled machine guns, 81 MM mortars and 105 MM Baby Howitzers). I was now a trained replacement (17 weeks) and shipped to Okinawa. We left the ship by climbing over the side, down a heavy cargo net and onto a landing craft which took us to the beach without incident. I was assigned to the 96th Division, 381st Infantry Regiment.

The invasion of Okinawa began on Easter Sunday morning, April 1, 1945. Starting from the cove area of the beach north of Naha, the Capital of Okinawa, our 96th Division moved eastward across the island along with the 7th. The 27th and 77th turned south; the Marines turned north where they secured the Japanese air strips and, later, elements of the 6th Marine Division headed south. Four or five days after we landed, the battle became intense and it became very obvious we were facing a formidable enemy. In the next three plus months, we attacked the main Japanese defense lines like Sawtooth Ridge, Naha and Shuri, the Japanese counterattacked, etc., over every hill and escarpment, with fierce battles at Conical Hill and Yonabaru. Fighting continued onto Hill 167, Big Apple and Anagachi - a three square mile area. After the fall of Shuri, the Japanese continued fighting a hopeless battle and, in doing so, took out a high number of American Officers. Inch by inch the Japanese defended their territory. During the last two week period, the enemy's futile stand cost the Japanese 10,000 lives against 1,000 American casualties. Fighting continued to Medeera. Our 96th Division alone lost nearly 8,000 men. Two of our Generals were killed; General Buckner died on the 18th of June and the next day we lost General Easley. Marine Ltd. General Geiger assumed temporary command.

The bloody battle, which officially lasted 73 days but actually lasted 83, ended with our control of the escarpment at the southern tip of Okinawa approximately 14 miles from the starting point. Overall, the Japanese lost more than 110,000 (dead), America lost 48,000 troops (dead plus wounded) - the heaviest toll of the war in the Pacific.

The 96th left Okinawa August 1, 1945 on an LCI (Landing Craft for Infantry) for Mindoro in the Philippines to prepare for our landing on Japan. While we were en route, on August 6th, the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The Japanese submarine fleet was still very active and one of our convoy, a Destroyer Escort, was sunk with 100% casualties two nights before we arrived on Mindoro. We landed on Mindoro and on the 9th the US dropped a bomb on Nagasaki.

The next orders for the Infantry was to "clean up the island (Mindoro, San Jose Area) which meant disposal of Air Force bombs, dig up the body bags and place the remains into caskets to be shipped to the USA and more island clean-up and then we could go home." Had my 19th birthday on Mindoro.

The 96th Division did go home taking about 3,000 old timers, the rest of us (approximately 2,000) were transferred into the 86th Division, the Black Hawk, on Luzon.

The "remainders" group from the 96th with combat experience (of which I was a part) were placed in a combat battalion on Luzon and sent to Mindanao to protect the Island people from the Moros/Muslim Malay tribe. After the Fourth of July we returned to Manila and then home to the good old USA.

Fifty-five years later, in 2001, the Presidential Unit Citation was awarded to the 96th Infantry Division for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an armed enemy during the period of April 1 to June 30, 1945.

Sil Giusti at home
Sil Giusti at home 1945

Sil Giusti Presidential Unit Citation (page 1)
Presidential Unit Citation
(page 1)
Sil Giusti Presidential Unit Citation (page 2)
Presidential Unit Citation
(page 2)

 

 
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