From April 1 to June 22, 1945 one of the most important battles of the Second World War in the Pacific raged, the battle of Okinawa. When all was said and done more than 20,000 American troops had been killed making it the second most lethal battle in U.S. history. In the midst of that battle was a young Marine, Emory Wilson Hammock, from Ocilla, Georgia, my great uncle.
Emory was born in October, 1916, the third of three children. His older sister Evelyn was my maternal grandmother. Emory joined the Marines in March, 1944 and a little over a year later was in the middle of some of the fiercest fighting of the war. He was in Company A, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. commanded by Col. Edward W. Snedeker. They were among the first to go ashore on Okinawa on Easter Sunday, 1945.
From May 5 – 21, 1945 the 7th was instrumental in the assault and capture of Dakeshi ridge. Col. Joseph H. Alexander writes of this battle:
“It was our most difficult mission,” said Snedeker. After a day of intense fighting, Lieutenant Colonel John J. Gormley’s 1/7 fought its way to the crest of Dakeshi, but had to withdraw under swarming Japanese counterattacks. The next day, Lieutenant Colonel Spencer S. Berger’s 2/7 regained the crest and cut down the counterattackers emerging from their reverse-slope bunkers. The 7th Marines were on Dakeshi to stay, another significant breakthrough.
On May 11, 1945 in the midst of this battle, Emory Hammock was wounded in action. According to my grandmother, he never spoke much of the circumstances or of his injuries other than to say he was wounded and had to lay in the mud and pretend to be dead at one point as Japanese troops swarmed all around him, perhaps during the counterattack at Dakeshi ridge. He kept a picture of his family in the top of his helmet and said that many times that was all that kept him going during the war.
Uncle Emory was discharged in December, 1945. My mother remembers going with my grandmother and Emory’s wife Ruth to the train station in Atlanta to pick him up when he returned from the war. Her five-year-old impression was of a tall, slim man sharply dressed in the uniform of his country.
Uncle Emory later worked as an Administrative Supervisor at Ft. McPherson in Georgia. He died on April 4, 1994 at the age of 77, just a few days after the 49th anniversary of his landing at Okinawa.
I’m thankful for the men of that “Greatest Generation” like my Uncle Emory.