‘It don’t make for good remembering.’
He always did what he had to do.
But sometimes he saw only what he wanted to see.
Dick Graves was in the thick of the battle for Okinawa during the early summer of 1945.
He had worked his way to an assignment on the front line, noting in his written experience, that “I was happy to go to the front. I hadn’t seen any action yet and I couldn’t leave without being to the front at least once in my career as a Marine.”
But he consciously avoided looking at scenes that he knew might prove difficult to process.
“I have been asked several times how many Japs I killed. I don’t know that. I shot any I would shoot and never looked back. I didn’t want to know I had taken a human life. There were three times in my experience that I snap shot and never looked to see if I had killed the Jap.
“The way I felt was I had nothing against those Japs. They were there shooting at us because someone forced them to and we shot back to keep from getting killed. I never looked back because now I don’t have to forget that picture. That is how I kept my sanity through the whole ordeal…. The only thing that kept us almost sane it was kill or be killed. That was the only justification we had. There wasn’t a man there with a killer instinct. It had to be forced on us or we couldn’t have done it.
“The only thing that saved us was the flamethrowers. Can you imagine seeing someone come out of a cave and be blasted by a flamethrower? It don’t make for good remembering.”