[HONORABLE MENTION] Battlefield pickup returned to owner after 67 years!
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  1. #1

    Sep 2007
    Jacksonville N.C.
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    Battlefield pickup returned to owner after 67 years!

    Corporal Lody R. (Bob) Salyers, Fox Company/381st Regiment/
    96th Infantry Division, Okinawa 1945
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Shortly after landing at Kadena AB on Okinawa in April 1981– my first time there with the Navy – a friend and I took a bus to the Sugar Loaf Hill battle area (then the Makiminato US Housing neighborhood). We met Mickey Van Dyke, an Air Force Veterinarian’s Assistant (he lived there and was metal-detecting for relics!), and we immediately struck up a friendship.

    Sometime during that month, Mickey took me to Kakazu Ridge, site of the first major Japanese defensive line on Okinawa. We walked the lower slopes of the ridge and found, in addition to lots of shrapnel (it was everywhere) and ordnance, many bits of US equipment. Lying in the open in the shallow depression of a shellhole or foxhole, I spied a US canteen cup. Picking it up, I noticed that it had LODY scratched on one side, and BOB SALYERS on the other side. I mentioned in a letter home that I hoped “to trace him or his family down.”

    Returning to the states, I wrote the 96th Division and 27th Division associations, as well as the Office of WWII Records in Washington, D.C., and – wrongly assuming that Lody was the name of the owner’s home-town, I asked if they had any records on a Robert Salyers. No luck or no reply. I then spent some time and energy researching the phone books of a few US towns named Lody, but again – no luck. I then gave up the search and used the canteen cup for a pen/pencil holder on my desk…..until just recently!

    Several months ago, I was corresponding with Chris Majewski (who runs the Battle of Okinawa museum at Camp Kinser, Okinawa), and Bob Wilke (who manages the related website http://www.okinawarelics.com , and I was asked to photograph the battlefield relics that I still had (having given away about half of them over the years).

    Two photographs of the canteen cup were put up on the website, and just a few weeks later, I received an email from Dan Sieczkowski, who was intrigued enough to do some “digging” on the internet. He informed me that he might’ve found a “match” – a GI with that name who was in the 130th Signal Intelligence Bn. But that unit was on Guam during the Okinawa campaign, not arriving on Okinawa until September 1945. And this unit was a radio direction-finding outfit, not a line infantry unit.

    However, about a week later, Dan wrote again, telling me that there was a large contingent of Salyers in the small town of Coeburn, VA (population about 2000). I checked www.switchboard.com and counted 65 people with that name in that one little town! I wrote down the phone numbers of the first five, and decided that I would hang up if I got a voice-mail machine, figuring that I’d catch “a real person” eventually… and assumed that they all had to be related!

    I hung up on the first 4 calls, but on the 5th call (the last number that I had written down), I spoke to a Bill Salyers, who said he knew an elderly man in town named Lody Salyers, and he would give him my name and phone number when he next saw him…Two days later, Bill called me back, and said that this elderly man had indeed fought on Okinawa! Bill gave me his phone number, and I was thrilled to finally speak to Lody “Bob” Salyers!
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    Mr. Salyers is approaching his 92nd birthday, and although his speech is difficult to understand on the phone, his mind is incredibly sharp! Before Okinawa, he had fought in the Leyte campaign in the Philippines. A BAR-man and Scout, he was well-liked and respected by his Rifle Company Commander, Captain Bollinger. They had been together for a long time, and were the same age (born in 1919, they were older than most of the other GIs), so maybe they had something in common, despite the difference in rank. Mr. Salyers felt that he was the Captain’s “right hand man.”

    Mr. Salyers remembers the unopposed landing on the Hagushi beaches, the Marines turning north and the GIs turning south after cutting that narrow part of the island in half. He remembers going on patrol at night, the rain and mud, the tiny vertical “spider holes” that Japanese soldiers would hide in – impossible to see - until the GIs passed by them and were fired on from behind. He remembers the hapless civilians, caught in the middle of the fighting, who were heartlessly sacrificed by Japanese trickery.

    He also remembers removing the “bone urns” from Okinawa family tombs, so his men could sleep in them, dry and protected from artillery and mortar fire. I was amazed that he could – after all these years – accurately describe both the exterior and interior of an Okinawan family tomb, remarking that GIs preferred to sleep on the narrow ledges that lined the inside walls, rather than on the floor of the tomb.

    His 96th Division first attacked Kakazu Ridge on 10 April 1945, but progress was extremely slow, difficult and costly. The official Army history reports that the amount of Japanese artillery, and the accuracy of it, was worse than anything that the Army had experienced up until that point (very late in the war). Everyone, from the Generals to the Privates, realized that it was going to be a long campaign.

    Mr. Salyers remembers seeing a large concrete-appearing smoke-stack nearby (which I assume was probably a sugar cane refinery).

    On 13 April, during a Japanese artillery/mortar barrage and counter-attack, Mr. Salyers suffered a severe concussion. He lost sight of his ammo bearer (a BAR-man’s assistant.) No longer able to stand or walk, he collapsed and a Medic put some pills under his tongue…and as his unit withdrew, the Medic camouflaged him in a hole, and promised to return or send someone back for him later. Mr. Salyers briefly worried about being discovered and captured by the Japanese, but passed out.

    When he awoke (he thinks days later), he was shocked to find himself lying on a stretcher in Graves Registration! Suffering from an extreme headache and vertigo (a spinning head), he was taken to a Medical unit and given codeine for pain.

    Unfortunately, he was given too much codeine and for too long, and became addicted to it. It took 3 months for him to be weaned off it, and by then, the battle of Okinawa was over. He returned to his unit, and Captain Bollinger – still in charge – took care of his still-suffering Scout, ensuring that he remained on “light duty,” and was promoted to Sergeant. Many replacements were being received to bring the unit back up to authorized strength, for the upcoming invasion of Japan. There was plenty of work to do, but Mr. Salyers got the easy jobs.

    Mr. Salyers still suffers from constantly ringing ears. He never pursued getting a medical disability from the Army. As he (and so many other GIs said), all he wanted was his discharge. He just recently consulted with the VA, for help with his ringing ears. But it’s a big bureaucracy, and his records were apparently lost in that fire in the St. Louis records office decades ago….But he has never forgotten his problems with codeine, and for the last 60+ years has always refused to take cough medicine that contains that drug.

    The place where I found the canteen cup matches the left flank of the 2nd Bn/381st Regiment during the battle for Kakazu Ridge. See both the Belote and Appleman histories of the Okinawa campaign.

    As of this writing, the canteen cup is enroute back to Mr. Salyers. He is very excited about seeing it again, and his daughter plans to have the local press do a story on this. Happy ending! MB 8/18/2011

    (Fifteen years ago, with the help of Bill Pierce of the 6th Marine Division Association, I was able to return the canteen cup of Marine Captain Lee A. Sellers, who was wounded and evacuated from the base of Sugar Loaf Hill during that battle. He also had a local newspaper article done on his “reunion” with his long-lost piece of gear. He has since passed away.)
    Kace likes this.

  2. #2
    Felinepeachy

    Re: Battlefield pickup returned to owner after 67 years!

    Wow, what a fantastic story.

  3. #3
    us
    Aug 2011
    Maine
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    Re: Battlefield pickup returned to owner after 67 years!

    That's awesome!

  4. #4
    us
    Oct 2010
    OH
    Minelab Equinox
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    Re: Battlefield pickup returned to owner after 67 years!

    man, that is absolutely priceless. read like a book. great job!

  5. #5
    ca
    Aug 2010
    Ontario canada
    fisher f75
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    All Types Of Treasure Hunting

    Re: Battlefield pickup returned to owner after 67 years!

    good thing you took the time to research the rightful owner, this way you can get great story's like this and give the family a story they never would have heard if he didn't see the cup to re-jot his memory, imagine identifying the owners of all the relics you find and hearing all the story's i often wounder how relics get to were they are and whose they were and if they are still alive.

  6. #6

    Apr 2007
    explorer se /whites xlt
    122
    3 times

    Re: Battlefield pickup returned to owner after 67 years!

    thats what its all about

  7. #7
    um
    Jun 2011
    Monroe County Ohio
    Etrac ~ Tesoro Vaquero ~ Pro Pointer
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    Re: Battlefield pickup returned to owner after 67 years!

    That is Awesome... Great story
    Etrac ~ cz6 ~ Pro pointer

  8. #8
    us
    Looking for that ONE find.

    Nov 2005
    South Central Kansas
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    Re: Battlefield pickup returned to owner after 67 years!

    My hat off to you sir for doing such a good deed.

    Burdie

  9. #9
    us
    Nov 2008
    North Texas
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    Re: Battlefield pickup returned to owner after 67 years!

    That is awesome! My father was also in the 96th, fought in Leyte (was shot in the toe while trying to keep his boots dry and out of his fox hole) and then went on to fight in Okinawa where he almost died from shrapnel. My dad was Capt. Caldwell. He would have loved to have heard this great story! Good job!

  10. #10
    us
    Jun 2007
    Simi Valley California
    439
    12 times

    Re: Battlefield pickup returned to owner after 67 years!

    One of the best stories Ive read here.

  11. #11
    us
    Jun 2011
    Oklahoma
    White's XLT
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    Re: Battlefield pickup returned to owner after 67 years!

    fantastic story

  12. #12
    us
    Sep 2007
    wakeman, ohio
    J.W.FISHERS pulse 8x
    1,666
    50 times
    Shipwrecks

    Re: Battlefield pickup returned to owner after 67 years!

    excellent story, glad to hear the history behind that cup. a very nice piece of work , thank you for sharing.
    them that dive will be the lucky ones !!

  13. #13
    us
    Aug 2009
    La Florida
    Metrotech 220, Spartan 175, Metrotech 330, Garrett CXiii With Bloodhound Attachment. Garrett Hand Scanner, and others.
    30
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    Re: Battlefield pickup returned to owner after 67 years!

    Absolutely outstanding!

    Great story, Wilkere, thank you for sharing.

    Regards,

    The, "Gringo."

  14. #14
    us
    Jan 2011
    Phoenixville, PA
    White's V3X, Garrett Ace 350
    342
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    Metal Detecting
    Banner Finds (1)

    Re: Battlefield pickup returned to owner after 67 years!

    Fantastic Story...Truly Epic, and amazing that you were able to find something and return it to a survivor of that bloody battle...

  15. #15
    ca
    Aug 2011
    Ontario
    37
    5 times

    Re: Battlefield pickup returned to owner after 67 years!

    A wonderful story, and well done on the return.

 

 
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