Voices of Veterans: Holly Rees

By: Andy Conner Email
By: Andy Conner Email

This week's Voices of Veterans takes a look at the story of World War II veteran and Bryan resident Holly Rees.

Rees served in the Pacific Theater and was wounded at the Battle of Okinawa.

Here's Tom Turbiville with more.

The day I had my pre-induction physical was on D-Day and it was several months after that that I actually went into the service.

"While i was in basic training, we thought we were going into the pacific, but the battle of the bulge broke out after we'd had 10 weeks or 15 weeks of training and they were taking the oldest trainees that hadn't finished and sending them to Europe and the battle of the bulge, so we thought all of a sudden we were going end up in the snow and the ice at Gaston, but luckily the battle of the bulge broke and we were allowed to go ahead and finish our 15 weeks."

After training, Rees set out from Seattle on a 21-day cruise, bound for the Pacific Theater and the Battle of Okinawa, where he spent the next 6 weeks training and fighting in some of the worst conditions.

"I was blown away by the magnitude of everything. The artillery, the airplanes bombing and strafing. We had 7 divisions, 3 marine divisions and 4 army divisions, fighting on Okinawa. It was the largest land battle in the Pacific and we were usually sleep deprived, often hungry and always wet. I mean, it was miserable most of the time."

He arrived in Okinawa 40 days into the battle and fought in the 7th amphibious Infantry Division.

Then, a little more than a month later, on the day that Okinawa was declared secure, Rees suffered a wound that would end his time on the battlefield.

"I remember the day i got shot in the foot. It was what they called the 'Million Dollar Wound,' that it wasn't serious enough to be fatal, but it was serious enough to get a trip home. And i bet there wasn't anybody on the island that wouldn't have traded places, because a trip home sure beat a couple of months more and landing in Japan."

Holly Rees was able to rehabilitate his foot following surgery and although being diagnosed with diabetes in 1981, he opted to forgo insulin shots, and instead controlled his condition with proper diet and exercise.

"Because I got shot in the foot, i couldn't jog or run, but i could sit on a bicycle, and that was my preferred form of exercise and so between diet and exercise I've been able to live with diabetes...it's more like 28 years now.

For Voices of Veterans, I'm Tom Turbiville.

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