of Vallejo, a WWII Navy combat veteran, recalls the Okinawa Invasion, the 60th anniversary of which is today.Photo: David Pacheco/Times-Herald
...One of those is Ken Barden, 82, of Vallejo, who stood watch on an attack transport ship alongside the famous war correspondent Ernie Pyle, whose sensitive dispatches brought World War II home to Americans.
"Many people don't realize Okinawa was the largest land and sea operation of the war - larger than Normandy," Barden
Today's anniversary could very well go unnoticed.Local veterans organizations were unaware of activities, and a Department of Veterans Affairs
spokeswoman said she
was unaware of any national events.
The April 1 fight on Okinawa led to former President Harry Truman's decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, an act which eventually brought about the end of World War II, historians say.
Located 350 miles south of Japan, Okinawa was large enough to hold a base for staging the invasion.The battle lasted 82 days, resulting in the deaths of 120,000 soldiers, and more than 150,000 civilians. Barden
, who was 21 at the time, said luck was on his
side 60 years ago.Anchored quite a distance from the island, Barden
crew woke up to a dark, cold and windy day."Love Day," the code name for the invasion on Okinawa, had begun.
The USS Charles Carroll saddled up to a large chunk of corral reef, and the Navy set up transporters and took troops onto the island. Barden
and a colonel stood on the boat deck with Pyle watching hundreds of U.S. Marines clamor across the beaches.
The famous correspondent said little.He
took a few swigs from a metal flask, and then handed it to the young lieutenant.Believing the flask held coffee, Barden
took a drink and then spat out what he
thought was probably rum or brandy. Barden
watched Pyle leave and follow the mMarines."He
gave me a little wave and off he
Pyle was a slight, thin man who seemed profoundly weary and sad, Barden
I realized that I would survive," Barden
"Even though I was wet and cold, I was grateful."Barden never again saw Pyle, who died 17 days later.
said this year's USS Charles Carroll reunion will probably be the last.A 1994 reunion drew 300 people, but ten10 years later, just 60 came, and half were wives.
"A lot of them are in walkers and canes.It's sad to see the demise of the crew," Barden
is fit and alert for his
is the emcee for Veterans Day and Memorial Day events at Westlake Gold Country senior living center, and he
stays physically and mentally health sharp through volunteer work, and daily exercise.
Sixty years after Okinawa, Barden
is amazed that the younger generation of today knows next to nothing of World War II."Most of the younger generation is completely oblivious to the war," he