By Colonel D. Larry Patterson, USAF (Retired)
(Drawings pictured are Mac's own artwork)
My late father-in-law, Bernard F. (Mac) McCarty, had the (well-documented) distinction of being the first Marine to set foot on Yokosuka Air Base, Japan during the occupation of Tokyo Bay on 30 Aug 1945 at the end of World War Two. But more on that later.
Mac was the quintessential citizen warrior of “Fightin’ Forties” America. He was representative of the hundreds of thousands of Marines, soldiers, sailors, and airmen who selflessly cast aside the safety and comfort of civilian life to risk everything in the all out struggle for the survival of their country. Mac quickly made the tough transition from civilian life to become a highly decorated Marine.
Like another fellow Missourian, Mac’s mentor and acquaintance former President Harry S. Truman, Mac was a descendant of the strong pioneer stock that emigrated from the British Isles and settled the Kansas/Missouri “Middle Border Area” during the mid-nineteenth century. Much as Truman, albeit a generation or two later, Mac grew up on a Midwestern farm; was regarded by a myriad of friends to be totally honest, almost to a fault, went to war at a much older than average age; suffered financial difficulty throughout most of his life; consistently immersed himself in civic affairs; and was extremely plain spoken (read that profane).
Although extremely proud of his service to his country, Mac made it a practice never to talk much about his many wartime experiences. He felt as though he had done no more than countless others, and did not like to dwell upon his deeds.
Soon after his death in 1989, while going through some of Mac’s personal effects, I ran across a large cardboard box containing all of his surviving military memorabilia. As I sorted through the artifacts from Mac’s military past, I was suddenly reminded of the warm summer evening in 1967, when, for some reason he broke tradition and began reminiscing about the war. I vividly recalled our conversation of over forty-five years ago as clearly as if it had just taken place.
On that particular evening, Mac and I were sitting in a couple of lawn chairs out on his front porch discussing my rapidly approaching departure for Air Force Officer Training School (OTS), and my upcoming marriage to his daughter Carol. Eventually there was a lull in our conversation. For a while we both just sat there listening to the familiar churr of the cicadas swell and subside, watching the dim phosphorescent greenish-yellow glow of the lightening bugs blink on and off as they quickly flitted in and out of the branches of the tall Missouri jack pine out in the front yard. After a minute or two, Mac stirred a little. He leaned to one side and picked up a slightly crumpled pack of cigarettes and a book of safety matches, which he had earlier tossed onto the table next to him. The chair groaned slightly as he fell against the back with a thud.
He pulled a Raleigh cigarette from the pack, stuck it in the corner of his mouth, lit it with a match, which he quickly extinguished with a vigorous shake of his hand and tossed over the railing out into the yard. He slowly took a long drag from the cigarette. As he turned towards me, he blew a large cloud of smoke my way, and finally broke the silence by saying, “You know, Larry, I was almost thirty when I went to Marine boot camp in 1943. I was ten years older than all the other young boots who were only eighteen or nineteen at most. They called me Grandpa. Hell, I was old enough that I probably could have gotten out of the whole war. And we already had Sonny (Bernard Jr.)—he was almost three. But, all three of my older brothers were already out there in the Pacific. John was in Hawaii running a train, Haddie was a gunner on a torpedo bomber out in New Caledonia, and Al was on the Enterprise out there in the Pacific somewhere. Hell—it was old John’s second war. He was in the Black Watch back during the First World War. He was underage to join up in America, so he snuck off to Canada, and then to Scotland, and joined up. The unit was nicknamed ‘The Fighting Ladies’. So anyway, after procrastinating for a year or so, in 1943 I went ahead and enlisted in the Marines.”
“Martha and Sonny came out to San Diego while I was in boot camp. Then I went out to the Pacific too, so they came back here to Kansas City. I was on the aircraft carrier Cowpens and was in charge of an antiaircraft crew. We had a 20mm Oerlikon triple A (Anti-Aircraft Artillery) battery. You know—you had to load the damn thing by hand. Well, it didn’t take me too damn long to figure out that if I used left-handed guys on one side, and right-handers on the other, we could load the guns a hell of a lot faster than any of the other crews. We could out shoot every other crew on the whole damn ship—‘til they all figured out what we were doing at least. Then there was a hell-of-a run on lefty gun crew members!”
Mac chuckled, and said, “I wanted to name our gun battery after Martha, so I painted her picture on the ammo box along with the name The Dutch Doll.”
“Dutch? Why Dutch?” I asked. “Martha isn’t Dutch, is she?”
“Hell no she isn’t Dutch,” Mac answered, cutting me off sharply. “But Martha’s maiden name was Anschutz, which of course is German, and during the war—hell—I couldn’t very well have called it the German Doll, could I?
“Ahhhhhhh, guess not,” I muttered, feeling like a dumb-shit for not having figured out the obvious for myself.
“I was also in some of the ground assaults on those stinking, God forsaken, malaria infested islands out there in the Pacific,” he continued. “We quickly learned to always keep our bayonets fixed and a round in the chamber, so if the bayonet got stuck in a Jap, you could fire off a round and blow him off the bayonet. I saw a lot of guys get killed trying to take war souvenirs off of the swollen, rotting Jap bodies. The Japs had a bad habit of booby-trapping their dead with grenades and it didn’t take much to set ‘em off. I always went well armed too. I really loved Thompson sub machine guns. But being just a Pfc I wasn’t really supposed to carry one, so it was damn hard to hang on to a Tommy gun for very long.” Mac laughed a little, then added, “But you know me Larry, I’m pretty resourceful, I damn well liberated a Thompson every chance I got.”
Mac was really warming to the subject now. “Hell, I stuffed knives in my boot tops, pistols in my belt, grenades clipped on my belts. I wore two ammo belts around my waist. I even slung ammo belts around my neck sometimes. I goddamn sure didn’t want to ever get to the point where all I had left to defend myself with was my bare hands. Even though they taught it to us in boot camp, I didn’t want anything to do with hand to hand combat—not me. And of course, I always carried that M1 carbine that’s in the house behind the door. I had that same one all through the war—never lost it.”
Mac paused and I asked, “Did you ever see any of your brothers out there?”
Mac laughed. “See them? Jesus did I ever! I never saw Al, but unfortunately I saw both John and Haddie in Hawaii one time.”
“Unfortunately?” I asked. “What do you mean? I would have thought that you would have been glad to see them.”
“I’ll tell you why, but first I’ve got to tell you how the hell I got to Hawaii to start with. I was wounded by some shrapnel—you knew I have a plate in my head didn’t you?” He thumped the top of his head vigorously several times with his left hand as he continued. “Anyway, after I was almost totally recovered, the Marine Corps came up with a real one-time good deal for me. I got to come home to the States on leave for a month or so, to finish recovering, but I had to play MP and escort a Navy prisoner back to the states for a court martial.”
“What was he being court marshaled for?” I asked.
“Oh, I guess he went AWOL or something. I don’t really remember anymore. Anyway, I got to lay over in Hawaii for a couple of days. I got the prisoner temporarily locked up in the base brig so I could go look up John. He was stationed there, running a train, hauling supplies around the island. Somehow, Haddie found out that I was there. I guess John told him. Well anyway, he stole a goddamned airplane and flew it over from one of the outlying islands. Jesus, he wasn’t even a pilot—just a turret gunner. Boy did he ever get racked for doing that—when they finally caught up to him.”
Mac paused momentarily as Martha suddenly came through the screened door, handed him a tall glass of iced tea, then disappeared back into the house without a word, as quickly and silently as she had appeared.
Mac took a sip from the tea glass, set it down on the table next to him and continued. “John and Haddie really fixed my ass that night. The three of us were in a bar downtown and John yelled something about a goddamn Jap standing behind me. Of course, I figured that Japs being little, this guy must be real small. I turned around and came face to face with the biggest bastard I’ve ever seen. He looked like King Kong in a sailor suit—only a lot uglier and meaner. I hit him over the head as hard as I could with a full bottle of beer, but he just blinked, shook his head and then began to take me apart. John and Haddie just stood there and laughed at me. They didn’t even help me!”
“As if that weren’t bad enough, in the next club we went into, Haddie snuck over to a table full of sailors and said, ‘Hey, see that Marine over there?’ pointing to me of course. ‘That Marine said that all sailors are fagots.’ Well, the fight was really on now. Fists flew, tables and chairs were smashed, and bottles sailed through the air like a flock of seagulls. The three of us just barely escaped the shore patrol.”
“After that, we hit some more clubs and I got so drunk that I stole a bicycle. John or Haddie, I don’t remember which, got on the handlebars and we went flying down a steep hill on the damn sidewalk. We ran smooth over a full bird Navy Captain in his dress uniform. Well, we didn’t quite escape the shore patrol that time. So ended my night of fun with John and Haddie in Hawaii. If they hadn’t needed me to take that Navy prisoner to the states PDQ I’d probably still be in the brig!”
“Damn, every time I got together with John or Haddie during the war, all hell broke out. It got so I hated to see either one—much less both of ‘em together.”
Mac stopped talking and took a big swig of iced tea. Then he lit another cigarette, took a long drag, and continued his reminiscing, blowing a fog of smoke out of his mouth and nose as he spoke.
“At the end of the war, after both of the A-Bombs were dropped, the Cowpens sent the first aircraft, a flight of TBM Avenger torpedo dive bombers, in to land on the Japanese homeland. I was on the first one to land on Yokosuka Air Base, and the first Marine to set foot on Japan. There were just five of us in that TBM: the pilot up front, a gunner back in the aft facing gun turret and down in the belly there was a Navy Captain named Duckworth, who was the Cowpens’ skipper, an interpreter and me. Ole Duckworth was Commander of Naval Air Operations in the Tokyo Bay area during the occupation of Japan. The pilot flew the TBM real low over Tokyo so we could look around a little, and then went over to the Jap Naval Air Base at Yokosuka to land.”
“Of course the Japs had surrendered a few days earlier, but we weren’t sure all the little yellow bastards had gotten the word yet. So, we didn’t know what the hell to expect, or what kind of reception we would be met with. When we parked the plane, the Old Man told me to get out first and check it out. I was so nervous I pulled the hatch jettison lever instead of the opening lever. The hatch came off in my hand as I climbed out, and there I stood, my Thompson sub machine gun in one hand, and the damn hatch in the other; looking like a goddamn Roman gladiator holding a shield. Fortunately, the Japs had cleared out and we were the only people for miles around.”
“After that, I stayed at Yokosuka as Duckworth’s driver and bodyguard. I hauled his ass around and saw a lot of interesting things and met a lot of Japs. I also found an old printing press and set up the first English language newspaper in Japan. I printed a little newssheet as often as I could. I set the type by hand and wrote the copy. I think I have a few copies stuck away somewhere. I guess Martha probably knows where they are.”
“After that, when I finally got to come back to the states, I brought several rifles with me. My M-1 carbine, an M1 Gerand, and a Johnson automatic. I didn’t know how to smuggle them ashore, so I just threw them over my shoulder and carried ‘em off the ship like I was supposed to have ‘em. No one said a goddamn word. I still got ‘em. You’ve seen ‘em. They’re in the house in the front hall closet right now.”
Mac took another swig of tea and lit another cigarette. “It’s a funny thing. When I got home—back here that is—there was a big elm tree down by the street—over by the driveway. I had terrible nightmares every night—woke up screaming. I thought there was a Jap sniper up in that tree shooting at me. Every time I saw that damn tree, a cold chill went right down my back. I finally got tired of that and cut the damn tree down. You know, I never had another single nightmare after that.”
Mac took one final drag from the half-smoked cigarette he was holding between his thumb and index finger, and then flipped it out into the yard. His index finger made a dull snapping sound as it propelled the glowing butt into a high, arcing flight, and we both watched it hit the ground and disappear into the high grass. He suddenly began to laugh so hard that he spilled iced tea in his lap. After he brushed most of the tea from his pants he finally said, “Martha’s cousin Melvin and I jerked the rear-end right out from under his car trying to pull the damn stump out. I tied the rope to the axle—bad idea, huh? Well anyway, what the hell, the bad dreams stopped. However, I was so gun shy it took damn near a year for me to quit hittin’ the deck every time I heard a loud noise—like a car backfiring.”
Mac got up out of his chair and stretched both arms above his head. He then picked up the pack of cigarettes and matchbook from the table in one hand and the tea glass in the other and said, “Well, I guess that’s enough war stories for one night. It’s gettin’ too late, night Larry,” as he went into the house, headed for bed.
That long ago evening was the only time Mac ever mentioned his wartime experiences to me in any sort of detail. However, the box of his military memorabilia contained quite a few pictures he took in Japan, several military orders, newspaper articles, a few of his pen and ink drawings of the Cowpens and his 20 MM Oerlikon gun emplacement, and a bundle of letters he wrote to his wife Martha, all of which shed a little more light on Mac’s life as a marine.
One set of orders (copy in “Orders” chapter) states that Mac participated in “Naval Operations” during pre-invasion strikes against the Paulau Islands 9/6-8/1944, Naval Operations against Miadnao 9/9/44, Neporos 9/13/44, Miadano 9/14/44, Luzon 9/21-22/44, Tacaoi 9/24/44, Celebes 9/15-16/44, Nansei Shoto (Sakishima Island) 10/10/44, Luzon 10/11/44, Formosa 10/12-13/44, Repulsed enemy attacks on 10/12, 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17/1944, action against Japanese Fleet 10/25-26/44, Luzon and Manila Bay 11/5-20/44, Mindoro 12/14-16/44, Commended by the Commanding Office for “Heroic Performance of Duty” during a typhoon in the Philippine Sea 12/17-18/44, Formosa attack 1/3-4/45, Luzon invasion 1/6-8/45, French Indo China 1/12-13/45, China and Hong Kong Island 1/15-16/45, Formosa attack 1/21/45, and Nansei Shoto 1/22/45. Man, that must have been one hell of a busy five months!
Another set of orders (copy in “Orders” chapter) titled “PERSONNEL LOADING PLAN – U.S.S. COWPENS SABA FIRST RELAY” lists the names and ranks of the crewmembers of the first nine aircraft to land at Yokosuka during the Tokyo Bay occupation on 30 August 1945. The crew of T81, the lead TBM, was “Capt H. S. Duckworth USN, 57530; McCarty, B. F., Sr.; Pfc, USMCR, 905301; and Lt. H. L. McMasters, USNR, 241833. Crews of the 4 TBMs of the “second relay,” were listed on a separate order. Oddly, the pilots of the aircraft were not listed with the other “crew”.
A yellowed article (copy in “Articles” Chapter) from the Kansas City Star proudly proclaims, “Pfc Bernard F. McCarty made history today by becoming the first Marine of the American occupational forces to set foot on Japanese soil at the Naval Plane Base at Yokosuka.” The article was accompanied by Mac’s official Marine Corps photograph that looked as though it had probably been taken when he was at basic in San Diego several years earlier.
In another article headlined “PRIDE IN MARINE ‘FIRST’.” The Kansas City Star interviewed Martha about her reaction to the news about her husband, and included pictures of her and four and a half year old Sonny (Bernard F. Jr.) at their home on the east side of Kansas City looking at Mac’s picture in the newspaper. (Copy in “Articles Chapter”) Another Kansas City Star photo shows “Officers and Men of the 4th Marine Regiment (including Mac) raising the Stars and Stripes at Yokosuka. Mac said, “I dropped the halyard and the news movie cameras filmed me chasing it around the flagpole like a dummy.”
Another article (copy in “Articles” Chapter) from the Arizona Daily Star dated 15 September 1945, states that Pfc. B. F. McCarty was the first Marine to land on “Yokosuka Naval Plane Base” in Japan, on Occupation Day, 30 August 1945 shortly after 9:00 hrs. It explains that Mac was the personal bodyguard of Navy Captain Herbert S. Duckworth, commander of the U. S. S. Cowpens, and mentions that the aircraft pilot was Lt. H. J. Connors of New York, and that crewmember Lt. H. L. McMasters of California was a Japanese interpreter. The articles further explain that seventeen Air Group 15 aircraft from the Cowpens followed shortly thereafter. Then, at 10:00 hours, the entire 4th Marine Regiment landed and assumed the total occupation of Tokyo Bay. Mac and the other Marines flown in from the Cowpens immediately “secured the airfield,” and, according to Capt Duckworth, “By 1100 hours we had it functioning like a sewing machine.”
Marine Corps Chevron
Volume 4, Number 43
3 November 1945
First to Hit Japan, Claims Marine
A seagoing Leatherneck who beat the 4th Regiment into Japan to become the first Marine to set foot on the Nipponese fortress at Yokosuka Naval Base arrived at MCB this week for discharge. “I beat the 4th by about 30 minutes,” claimed Corp. B. F. McCarty of Kansas City, Mo., who served as personal bodyguard to Navy Capt. Herbert S. Duckworth, commander of naval air operations in the Tokyo Bay area during the occupation of Japan.
Proved By Clipping
McCarty’s claim was backed by a news clipping of a story by the Associated Press describing the landing at Yokosuka. Capt. Duckworth’s plane, a TBM “Avenger,” had hardly stopped rolling on the naval base airstrip before Corp. McCarty armed with “tommy-gun,” jumped out to survey the situation and become the first Marine at Yokosuka. Three fellow Marines from the carrier Cowpens, on which the quartet was doing duty, followed in other planes a few minutes later. They were: PFC. Herman S. Moore, Corp. Henry C. Stock and PFC. Sylvester J. Mullady. All of the Marines were acting as bodyguards to Navy officers.
No Jap Trouble
“We had no trouble with the Japs,” McCarty said, “but I darn near let fire at an American photographer who whipped onto the field with no identification. If he hadn’t let out a few choice American cuss words when he saw the “tommy” aimed in his direction he probably would never have lived to take any more pictures.”
Mission of the navy landing party was to organize landing fields in the area to speed up the air-evacuation of Allied prisoners of war and to pave the way for the landing of the Army some time later.
For their work, McCarty said, 51 naval personnel and six Marines in the unit known as S.A.B.A. (Streamlined Air Base Activities) were given certificates by Adm. Halsey.
With only two years in the Marines, McCarty is eligible for discharge mainly on the strength of 35 points accumulated by participation in seven seagoing engagements.
Mac remained on the Cowpens until its triumphant return to San Diego on Saturday, 27 October 1945. On that day, the city of San Diego honored the men of the Cowpens and the six other ships docking that day with a huge “Navy Day” celebration. (Article in “Article Chapter”).
Mac was discharged a week and a half later. He immediately headed home to Kansas City, Missouri. A faded yellow Western Union telegram still happily proclaims:
WILL ARRIVE AT 9 PM SAT ON ROCK ISLAND TRAIN 44 MEET ME AT DEPOT ALONE DONT TELL ANYONE IM COMING HOME I LOVE YOU= BERNARD.
Like thousands upon thousands of other returning veterans, Mac quickly put the war behind him and got on with his life. Simple as it sounds, this was no easy task. Every G.I. returned home a different person then they had been before the war. The returning vets also found that the people and things back home had changed as well.
Mac entered Kansas City University (now the University of Missouri at Kansas City) under the GI Bill. In order to support his growing family he held down two jobs. Also, still feeling the need to continue his military affiliation, he enlisted in the Kansas City, Missouri 10th Automatic weapons battery, a Marine Reserve unit.
After graduating from college with a BA degree in 1950, Mac applied for a commission in the Marine Reserve. However, being thirty-six years old he was over the maximum age for commissioning. Shortly thereafter, his term of enlistment ran out. Being extremely busy coping with the responsibilities of raising a family and getting his new printing business/small newspaper organized he chose not to re-enlist. Despite this, Mac always considered himself a Marine until the day he died. His uniform perpetually hung in the bedroom closet, and his M1 carbine was always close at hand; clean, locked ‘n’ loaded, and ready for action. I now have it in my closet.
Mac was certainly not a unique individual. Actually quite the opposite is true. Like all four of the McCarty brothers, almost every able-bodied man and many women of Mac’s generation shared similar wartime experiences. Many were less fortunate and gave up much more than just two or three years of their lives. After the passing of well over sixty years, recounting Mac’s military experiences now serves as a reminder to us all of the similar sacrifices and countless contributions made by those other nameless thousands who also answered the same call, and those thousands of patriotic Americans who still choose to do so today.