Staff Sgt. John Sidur was carrying a comrade who had his arm blown off, along with another injured soldier, when he was confronted by two Japanese soldiers with their guns pointed straight at them.
He was confident they weren’t going to shoot so he took the two soldiers he was carrying and dropped them off with other wounded soldiers. To avoid the rest of the madness surrounding him, which was a suicide attack known as the Banzai Charge, he quickly dove into a trench where he was met by another Japanese soldier with his gun drawn.
This Jap jumped up he must have been lying there ` he jumped up on the top and he was pointing at me and then the other guy. Back and forth,` he said. `I swear, they must have wanted to give up. Why they didn’t shoot? They must have wanted to surrender.`
The Japanese soldier was then shot by the soldier by Sidur’s fellow infantryman.
`If he wanted to have killed us he could have killed us right away,` he said. `They must have wanted to give up, but we didn’t know.`
The situation Cohoes resident Sidur, 92, and his fellow soldiers had found themselves in was a suicide mission by 4,000 Japanese soldiers carrying rifles, bayonets and grenades on July 7, 1944 during World War II. There were 406 American soldiers who were killed during the battle, along with 52 who were wounded, according to Sidur’s nephew Bob Greene.
He said Sidur’s unit had been in heavy combat three weeks prior to the Banzai Charge. The Japanese realized that they were not going to be able to defeat the large number of American forces during the battle after they had sent all their ships to fight in the Philippine Seas, said Greene. This left them with no reinforcement.
On a rainy afternoon on Aug. 22, Sidur was joined by fellow soldiers from the Army National Guard’s 105th infantry, including John Goot, and Don Trudeau, a member of the 165th infantry who was awarded a Purple Heart. The weather didn’t seem to bother the three men as they traded war stories.
While Goot said with three different people giving their account, they may not all agree on what exactly happened, but Sidur said he was learning so much from just talking things out with the other two.
On Aug. 15, Sidur was awarded the Purple Heart, for an injury sustained during fighting in Okinawa, Japan, that resulted in a bullet lodged in his right hand on April 21, 1945.
That was not the first time he had been injured during battle, though.
During the Banzai Charge in Saipan, Sidur was shot in the same hand, as well as along his entire arm. There was no medical record of his treatment by a corpsman with the 2nd Marine Division, which was the reason he did not receive a Purple Heart for that injury.
Sidur and Goot were riflemen in the infantry, while Trudeau was a part of the anti-tank company where he fired motors to take out tanks and armored cars.
When the battle had turned sour for the Japanese, Emperor Hirohito promised soldiers, as well as the civilians in Saipan, eternal rewards in the afterlife if they were able to kill at least seven American soldiers before they died, according to Greene.
The two infantries were alerted of the charge by a Japanese scout the night before. When the next day came, a large gap stood between the 105th and the 165th, a gap the Marines were supposed to close, as well as one the Japanese soldiers took advantage of around 5 a.m.
`When the flares when up in the morning and I could see the Japanese, I said, ‘Oh, Christ almighty,’` said Goot. `They were by the hundreds. It was a turkey shoot.`
He said that since the Marines were not there to close the gap, it allowed the Japanese to run right through.
Trudeau said the civilians were coming at them with whatever supplies they could find, such as pitchforks and clubs.
`They sent them through first,` he said. `The soldiers took charge after them. If they [the civilians] didn’t make that charge, they pushed them off the cliffs.`
The men remembered this day in Saipan more vividly than any of the other battles they were involved in during World War II. It is so badly burned into Sidur’s memory that it is the reason for the 65-year delay in him receiving a Purple Heart.
Greene wanted to make sure his uncle got the recognition he deserved, since he knew he had been shot during the war. He went and requested Sidur’s entire medical records in the archives. The only documentation they were able to find was for when he was injured in Okinawa.
`I said, ‘What’s this about? I’ve got nothing on Saipan but it says April 21, 1945, says you got shot,’` said Greene. `And he thinks about it ,and he goes, ‘Oh that must have been when I got shot on Okinawa.’`
Greene said the memory of Saipan was so ingrained in Sidur’s head that the fact he had been shot on Okinawa had never even crossed his mind.
Sidur was elated to receive the award after all of these years, even if the Marine corpsman had forgotten to file the paper work.
`I felt great after waiting all that time,` said Sidur.