The Taking of Ryukyu Retto: A Tribute to Roy Elmer Vittatoe

This story first appeared in another format on this past Memorial Day to honor the sacrifice made by Roy Elmer Vittatoe in World War II.  It bears repeating here to once again acknowledge our gratitude to those who fought and died to preserve the many freedoms we enjoy to this day.

Roy Elmer was a first cousin of Uncle Thereisno.  He was born to John Washington Vittatoe and Sallie Matilda Justice on May 1, 1920 in Petros, Morgan County, Tennessee.

Sallie Justice Vittatoe

Roy Elmer’s Mother, Sallie Justice Vittatoe

In the 1940 Federal Census, Roy Elmer was working as a coal miner in Morgan County.  By the time he enlisted in the US Army as a private on July 25, 1944 at Camp Forrest, Tennessee, he was married and had at least two daughters.

Roy Elmer Vittatoe

A photo of Roy Elmer Vittatoe from his Find A Grave Memorial # 64265684

Private Vittatoe was assigned to Company C, 381st Regiment, 96th Infantry Division, and deployed to the Pacific Theater.  By the time he arrived in the Pacific, he had been promoted to PFC.  In late March of 1945, his unit landed by troop transport ship on the Japanese island of Okinawa, also known as Ryukyu Retto.  The Battle of Okinawa began on April 1, 1945, and was the last major battle of World War II.  The Okinawa Campaign involved about 287,000 US Army and Air Corps, US Marines, and US Navy.  The progress of Company C was a slow, tedious, and bloody fight to take out Japanese soldiers and their pillboxes.  The Japanese had little regard for their own civilians, and about 100,000 of them died as a result of the hellish fighting, many at the hands of Japanese soldiers.  The Japanese also lost close to 100,000 military during the Okinawa Campaign.  The US military lost some 14,000 during the time from April 1 to June 22, 1945.  On June 15, 1945, while fighting on the front lines in the Battle of Okinawa, PFC Roy Elmer Vittatoe was killed by the Japanese.  He was originally interred in Okinawa Island Cemetery.  The Commander of the US Forces in Okinawa, General Simon Buckner, also was killed during an artillery shelling by the Japanese.  Victory on Okinawa was declared on June 22, 1945.  PFC Vittatoe was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart posthumously.  Then, on March 9, 1949, his remains were moved and he received a proper burial in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii (The Punchbowl).  His military headstone is located in Plot O, Row O, grave # 266.  If you should venture into  the island paradise take the time to pay a reverent visit to PFC Vittatoe’s grave.

Roy Elmer Vittatoe

Military Interment Form and Headstone, from Ancestry and Find A Grave.

As I close, just remember what I always tell my kids “Liberty for All and Justice for a select Few.”  I’ll see you on down the road.

Uncle Thereisno Justice

 

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