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Battle of Okinawa: Central Pacific Task Forces

Battle of Okinawa: Central Pacific Task Forces


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Battle of Okinawa: Central Pacific Task Forces.

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Battle of Okinawa


Battle of Okinawa: Central Pacific Task Forces - History

Operation I CEBERG , as the plan for the Okinawa campaign was officially called, marked the entrance of the United States upon an advanced stage in the long execution of its strategy in the Pacific. Some 4,000 miles of ocean, and more than three years of war, separated Okinawa from Pearl Harbor. In 1942 and 1943 the Americans had contained the enemy and thrown him back in 1944 their attack gathered momentum, and a series of fierce island campaigns carried them toward the Japanese inner stronghold in great strides.

The Allied advance followed two main axes, one through the islands of the Central Pacific, the other through the South and Southwest Pacific. Navy task forces and some other elements operated on both fronts as needed. The result was "unremitting pressure" against Japanese military and naval might, a major objective of American strategy.

Near the close of 1943, a thrust at the Gilbert Islands from the Central Pacific, in which Tarawa, Makin, and Apamama were seized, paved the way for the assault on the Marshalls on 31 January 1944. American forces captured Kwajalein, Majuro, and Eniwetok, and their fleet and air arms moved forward. At the same time, American carriers heavily attacked Truk, and that formidable enemy naval base in the Carolines was thenceforth immobilized. Saipan, Tinian, and Guam in the Marianas fell to American arms in the summer of 1944, and, in the First Battle of the Philippine Sea, the U. S. Navy administered a crushing

defeat to the Japanese fleet that tried to interfere with the American push westward. In September and October the Americans occupied Ulithi in the western Carolines for use as an anchorage and advanced fleet base, and took Angaur and Peleliu in the Palau Islands, situated close to the Philippines.

Meanwhile, American forces in the South and Southwest Pacific were approaching Mindanao, southernmost of the Philippine Islands, by advances through the Solomons and New Guinea in which Japanese armies were neutralized and isolated on Bougainville, New Ireland, and New Britain. The capture of Wakde on the northeastern coast of New Guinea in May 1944 was followed by the seizure of Biak and Noemfoor. During the summer a Japanese army attempting to break out from Wewak in Australian New Guinea was subdued. The invasion of Morotai in September placed American forces within 300 miles of Mindanao. 1 (See Map No. 1.)

The ultimate goal of American operations in the Pacific was the industrial heart of Japan, along the southern shores of Honshu between the Tokyo plain and Shimonoseki. American strategy aimed to reach this objective by successive steps and to take advantage, on the way, of Japan's extreme vulnerability to submarine blockade and air bombardment. Throughout most of 1944 Army and Navy staffs in the Pacific Ocean Areas had been planning for the invasion of Formosa (Operation C AUSEWAY ) in the spring of 1945. On the basis of the Joint Chiefs of Staff directive of March 1944, the general concept of this operation had been outlined, the availability of troops considered and reviewed many times, and the assignment of task force commanders announced. On 23 August, a joint staff study for C AUSEWAY had been published. It was clear that Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief, U. S. Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas, intended to invade Formosa after Southwest Pacific forces had established positions in the Central and Southern Philippines C AUSEWAY , in turn, was to be followed by operations against the Ryukyus and Bonins, or against the China coast. Either course would lead eventually to assault on the Japanese home islands. 2

On 15 September the Joint Chiefs directed Gen. Douglas MacArthur to seize Leyte on 20 October, instead of 20 December as planned, and to bypass

Mindanao. At the same time, Admiral Nimitz was instructed to bypass Yap. 3 On the next day Admiral Nimitz reconsidered the Formosa operation. He believed that the early advance into the Central Philippines, with the opportunity of acquiring the desired fleet anchorages there, opened up the possibility of a direct advance northward through the Ryukyus and Bonins rather than through Formosa and the China coast. He reviewed the objectives of C AUSEWAY the establishment of air bases from which to bomb Japan, support China, and cut off the home islands from resources to the south- with reference to the new possibility and in a letter to his Army commanders requested their opinions on the subject. 4

Lt. Gen. Robert C. Richardson, Jr., Commanding General, U. S. Army Forces, Pacific Ocean Areas, replied that only those steps should be taken which would lead to the early accomplishment of the ultimate objective--the invasion of Japan proper. From this point of view the occupation of Formosa as a stepping stone to an advance on Japan via the China coast did not, in his opinion, offer advantages commensurate with the time and enormous effort involved. He proposed instead, as a more economical course, a dual advance along the Luzon-Ryukyus and the Marianas-Bonins axes. He fully agreed with General MacArthur's plan to seize Luzon after Leyte. The seizure of Luzon would provide air and naval bases in the Philippines from which enemy shipping lanes in the China Sea could be blocked and, at the same time, Formosa effectively neutralized. From the ample bases in Luzon, it would be possible and desirable to seize positions in the Ryukyus for the prosecution of air operations against Kyushu and Honshu. The occupation of bases in the Bonins would open another route from the Marianas for bomber operations against Japan. The air assaults on Japan would culminate in landings on the enemy's home islands. 5

Lt. Gen. Millard F. Harmon, Commanding General, U. S. Army Air Forces, Pacific Ocean Areas, in his reply to Admiral Nimitz referred to a previous letter which he had written to the Admiral, recommending, as an alternative to the invasion of Formosa and the China coast, the seizure of islands in the Ryukyu chain, for development as air bases from which to bomb Japan. He restated these views and emphasized his opinion that if the objective of C AUSEWAY was the

acquisition of air bases it could be achieved with the least cost in men and materiel by the capture of positions in the Ryukyus. 6

The commander of the ground troops designated for C AUSEWAY , Lt. Gen. Simon B. Buckner, Jr., Commanding General, Tenth Army, presented the primary objection to the entire Formosa operation. He informed Admiral Nimitz that the shortages of supporting and service troops in the Pacific Ocean Areas made C AUSEWAY unfeasible. General Buckner added, about a week later, that if an invasion of Luzon was planned the need for occupying Formosa was greatly diminished. 7

Admiral Nimitz communicated the substance of these views to Admiral Ernest J. King, Commander in Chief, U. S. Fleet. The latter, who had been the chief proponent of an invasion of Formosa, proposed to the Joint Chiefs of Staff on 2 October 1944 that, in view of the lack of sufficient resources in the Pacific Ocean Areas for the execution of C AUSEWAY and the War Department's inability to make additional resources available before the end of the war in Europe, operations against Luzon, Iwo Jima, and the Ryukyus be undertaken successively, prior to the seizure of Formosa. Favorable developments in the Pacific and in Europe might make C AUSEWAY feasible at a later date. 8 On the next day, 3 October, the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued a directive to Admiral Nimitz to seize one or more positions in the Ryukyu Islands by 1 March 1945. 9 On 5 October Admiral Nimitz informed his command that the Formosa operation was now deferred and that, after General MacArthur invaded Luzon on 20 December 1944, the Pacific Ocean Areas forces would seize Iwo Jima on 20 January 1945 and positions in the Ryukyus on 1 March. 10

The projected Ryukyus campaign was bound up strategically with the operations against Luzon and Iwo Jima they were all calculated to maintain unremitting pressure against Japan and to effect the attrition of its military forces. The Luzon operation in December would allow the Southwest Pacific forces to continue on the offensive after taking Leyte. The occupation of Iwo Jima in January would follow through with another blow and provide a base


Map No. 3 -- Okinawa Island Group

for fighter support for the B-29's operating against Japan from the Marianas. The seizure of Okinawa in March would carry the war to the threshold of Japan, cut the enemy's air communications through the Ryukyus, and flank his sea communications to the south. Okinawa was, moreover, in the line of advance both to the China coast and to the Japanese home islands. 11

The direct advance to the Ryukyus-Bonins line from the Luzon-Marianas was thus conceived within the framework of the general strategy of destroying by blockade and bombardment the Japanese military forces or their will to resist. The Ryukyus were within medium bomber range of Japan, and it was estimated that 780 bombers, together with the necessary number of fighters, could be based there. An advanced fleet anchorage was available in Okinawa. From these airfields and naval bases American air and naval forces could attack the main islands of Japan and, by intensified sea and air blockade, sever them from the Japanese conquests to the south. The captured bases could also be used to support further operations in the regions bordering on the East China Sea. Finally,

Nature of the Target

The Islands

The Ryukyu Islands lie southwest of Japan proper, northeast of Formosa and the Philippines, and west of the Bonins. (See Map No. l.) The islands, peaks of submerged mountains, stretch in an arc about 790 miles long between Kyushu and Formosa and form a boundary between the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The archipelago consists of about 200 islands, only 30 of which are large enough to support substantial populations. The climate is subtropical, the temperature ranging from about 60F. to 83F. Rainfall is heavy, and the high humidity makes the summer heat oppressive. The prevailing winds are monsoonal in character, and between May and November each year the islands are visited by destructive typhoons. 13

Approximately in the center of the arc is the Okinawa Group (Gunto) of some fifty islands clustered around the island of Okinawa. The Kerama Islands lie in an area from ten to twenty miles west of southern Okinawa. Kume, Tonachi, Aguni, and Tori form a rectangle to the north of the Kerama Group. Ie Shima stands off the jutting tip of the Motobu Peninsula on northern Okinawa, while farther to the north lie the Iheya Islands and Yoron. A chain of small islands, called by the Americans the Eastern Islands, extends along the eastern shore of southern Okinawa. Lying in the path of the Japan Current, the entire Okinawa Group is surrounded by seas warm enough to allow the growth of coral, and hence all the islands are surrounded by fairly extensive reefs, some of which extend several miles off shore. (See Map No. 2.)

Okinawa is the largest of the islands in the Ryukyus. Running generally north and south, it is 60 miles long and from a to 18 miles wide, with an area of


Map No. 4 -- Island of Okinawa


Map No. 5 -- Southern Okinawa

485 square miles. It is entirely fringed with reefs: on the western side the reef lies fairly close to shore and is seldom over a mile wide on the eastern side, where the coast is more sheltered, the reef extends for some distance off shore, the widest and shallowest points being north of Nakagusuku Bay. (See Maps Nos. II and III.)

When Commodore Perry's ships sailed into Naha Harbor, on 26 May 1853, Okinawa was a semi independent country, paying tribute to China and Satsuma. It was annexed in 1879 by Japan, which integrated the Okinawan people almost completely into the Japanese governmental, economic, and cultural structure. The racial origins of the Okinawans are similar to, but not identical with, those of the Japanese, and the Okinawan stock and culture had been subject to extensive Chinese influence. While the Okinawans generally resemble the Japanese in physique, they differ appreciably in their language, the native Luchuan tongue. The predominant religion among the Okinawans is an indigenous, animistic cult, of which worship of fire and the hearth is typical veneration of ancestors is an important element in this religion and the burial tomb the most characteristic feature of the Okinawa landscape a feature which the Japanese were to convert into a formidable defensive position.

The standard of living of the Okinawan people is low the Japanese made no attempt to raise it, regarding the Okinawans as inferior rustics. Most of the inhabitants subsist on small-scale agriculture. When the invading Americans climbed up from the beaches, they found every foot of usable land cut into small fields and planted with sugar cane, sweet potatoes, rice, and soy beans. In 1940 the population of the island was 435,000.

The terrain in northern Okinawa, the two-thirds of the island above the Ishikawa Isthmus, is extremely rugged and mountainous. A central ridge, with elevations of 1,000 feet or more, runs through the length of the region the ridge is bordered on the east and west by terraces which are dissected by ravines and watercourses, and it ends at the coast in steep cliffs. About 80 percent of the area is covered by pine forests interspersed with dense undergrowth. Troop movements are difficult in the region as the use of vehicles is confined to the poor road that hugs the western shore. The Motobu Peninsula, which is nearly square in shape and juts to the west, has also a mountainous and difficult terrain. Two mountain tracts separated by a central valley run east and west the length of the peninsula. Successive coastal terraces are well developed on the north, east, and west of the peninsula. About three and one-half miles off the northwest end of the Motobu Peninsula is the small flat-topped island of Ie Shima, with a sharp pinnacle about 500 feet high at the eastern end.

The southern third of Okinawa, south of Ishikawa, is rolling, hilly country, lower than the north but broken by terraces, steep natural escarpments, and ravines. This section is almost entirely under cultivation and contains three-fourths of the population of the island here, too, are the airfields and the large towns-Naha, Shuri, Itoman, and Yonabaru. It was in this area that the battle for Okinawa was mainly fought. The limestone plateau and ridges are ideal for defense and abound in natural caves and burial tombs, easily developed into strong underground positions. Generally aligned east and west, the hills offer no north-south ridge line for troop movement, and thus they provide successive natural lines of defense, with frequent steep slopes created by artificial terracing. Rice paddies fill the lowlands near the coasts. The roads are more numerous than in the north, but, with the exception of those in Naha and its vicinity, they are mostly country lanes unsuited for motorized traffic. Drainage is generally poor, and heavy rains turn the area into a quagmire of deep, clay-like mud.

South of Zampa Point on the west there is a 15,000-yard stretch of coast line which includes nearly 9,000 yards of beaches, divided by the Bishi River. These are known as the Hagushi beaches, deriving their name from a small village at the mouth of the river. The beaches are not continuous but are separated by cliffs and outcropping headlands. They range from 100 to 900 yards in length and from 20 to 45 yards in width at low tide, and some are completely awash at high water. A shallow reef with scattered coral heads borders the entire stretch of beach and, in many places, is almost a barrier reef, with deeper water between its crest and the shore line than immediately to seaward. The beaches are for the most part coral sand and most have at least one road exit. A low coastal plain flanks the beaches from Zampa Point south to Sunabe it is dominated by rolling hills which afford excellent observation, good fields of fire along the beaches, and extensive cover and concealment. Less than 2,000 yards inland on the plain lie the Yontan and Kadena airfields, north and south of the Bishi River. A 400 foot-high hill mass, rising southeast of Sunabe and extending across the center of the island, dominates the entire beachhead area. Composed of innumerable sharp ridges and deep ravines, it is a major obstacle to rapid troop movements and can be used effectively for a strong delaying action.

South of the Sunabe hills, down to the Uchitomari-Tsuwa line, the island narrows to 5,500 yards. The terrain is essentially similar to that behind the Hagushi beaches, with heavily wooded uplands and extensively terraced and cultivated valleys and lower slopes. The hills and ridges are generally low except for some high peaks in the general vicinity of Kuba on the east coast, from which observation

of the area is excellent. Roads are adequate for light Japanese transport but not for the heavy strain of American military traffic.

On the east coast, the Katchin Peninsula on the north and the Chinen Peninsula on the south extend into the ocean to inclose the spacious fleet anchorage of Nakagusuku Bay, called by the American troops "Buckner" Bay. A low coastal plain from one-fourth to one mile wide runs along the shore of the bay from the Katchin Peninsula to Yonabaru. At Yonabaru the plain extends inland to the west through an area of moderate relief and joins another coastal flat extending northeastward from Naha. A cross-island road follows this corridor and connects the two cities. Naha, the capital of the island, with a population of 65,000, is Okinawa's chief port and can accommodate vessels up to 3,000 tons. Southwest of the city, on the Oroku Peninsula, was the Naha airfield, the most highly developed field on the island.

In the region north of the Naha-Yonabaru corridor and in the vicinity of Shuri, the ancient capital of Okinawa, lies the most rugged terrain in the southern part of the island. From the high ground near Shuri and from many other vantage points in this area observation is excellent to the north and south and over the coastal regions. At the highest point the hills rise about 575 feet, but the lack of pattern, the escarpments, steep slopes, and narrow valleys characteristic of the region make the major hill masses ideal territory for defense. Many of the escarpments are sheer cliffs without topsoil or vegetation. The low ground is filled with twisting ridges and spotted with small irregular knolls, rendering observation difficult and providing excellent locations for minor infantry and antitank positions. The most prominent features of the region are the strong natural defensive line of the Urasoe-Mura Escarpment, rising from the west coast above the Machinato airfield and running for 4,500 yards across the island in a southeasterly direction, and the chain of hills through Tanabaru and Minami-Uebaru to the east coast southwest of Tsuwa.

South of the strong Shuri positions the terrain is rough, but there are few large escarpments. There are some broad valleys and an extensive road net which would facilitate troop movements. The terrain in the southern end of the island consists of an extensive limestone plateau, surrounded by precipitous limestone cliffs. The northern side of the plateau is a 300-foot escarpment which rises vertically from the valley floor in a jagged coral mass. On the top of the plateau major hills-Yuza-Dake and Yaeju-Dake-cover all approaches from the north, east, and west. Along the southeastern coast, much of the stretch from Minatoga to the eastern end of the Chinen Peninsula consists of beaches.

American Intelligence of the Enemy

American knowledge of the enemy and of the island of Okinawa was acquired slowly over a period of many months and in the face of many difficulties. With Okinawa isolated from the world by the Japanese, information of military value concerning this strategic inner defense line of the Empire was scarce and difficult to obtain. Limited basic intelligence was garnered from documents and prisoners captured on Pacific island battlefields, from interrogation of former residents of the Ryukyus, and from old Japanese publications. The great bulk of the data was obtained through aerial photographic reconnaissance. This, however, was often incomplete and inadequate, particularly for terrain study and for estimating enemy strength and activity. The distance of the target from American air bases-1,200 nautical miles-necessitated the use of B-29's and carrier planes for photographic missions the former afforded only high-altitude, small-scale coverage, while the latter depended on the scheduling of carries strikes. The relatively large land masses involved and the prevalence of cloud cover added to the difficulty of obtaining the large-scale photographs necessary for detailed study of terrain and installations. 14

The target map prepared by American intelligence represented all that was known of the terrain and the developed facilities of the island. This map, scale 1 : 25,000, was based on aerial photographs obtained on 29 September and 10 October 1944 and was distributed about 1 March 1945. Incomplete coverage, varying altitudes of the planes, and cloudiness over parts of the island at the time prevented clear delineation, and certain portions of the map, including that of the high ground north of Shuri, had either poor topographic detail or none at all. Additional photographic coverage of the island was obtained on 3 and 22 January, 28 February, and 1 March 1945 that of 22 January was excellent for the proposed landing beach areas. To supplement aerial photography a submarine was sent from Pearl Harbor to take pictures of all Okinawa beaches. The submarine never returned. 15

Hydrographic information was complete, but its accuracy could not be checked until the target was reached. As the data agreed with a captured Japanese map they were presumed to be accurate. The most reliable information on the depth of the water over the reefs was obtained from Sonne Strip photography and was made available to the troops in March. 16

The first estimate of enemy strength, made in October 1944, put the number of Japanese troops on Okinawa at 48,600, including two infantry divisions and one tank regiment. 17 In January 1945 this estimate was raised to 55,000, with the expectation that the Japanese would reinforce the Okinawa garrison to 66,000 by 1 April 1945. At the end of February, however, the January estimate was still entertained. All these figures were based on interpretation of aerial photographs and on the use of standard Japanese Tables of Organization: there was no documentary evidence corroborating the estimate of the number of troops on the island. 18

It was believed that the Japanese had moved four infantry divisions to the Ryukyus during 1944. These were identified as the 9th, 62d, 24th, and 28th Divisions. Army intelligence learned that one division, perhaps the 9th, had been moved from Okinawa to Formosa in December 1944. In March 1945 American intelligence estimated that the Japanese forces on Okinawa consisted of the following troops, which included 26 battalions of infantry:

Headquarters 32d Army 625
24th Division (triangular) 15,000-17,000
62d Division (square) 11,500
44th Independent Mixed Brigade 6,000
One independent mixed regiment 2,500
One tank regiment 750
One medium artillery regiment, two mortar battalions, one anti-tank battalion, three antitank companies, and antiaircraft units 5,875
Air-ground personnel 3,500
Service and construction troops 5,000-6,000
Naval-ground troops 3,000
Total 53,000-56,000

It was considered possible that elements of the 9th and 28th Divisions might also be present on Okinawa proper. Enemy forces were known to be organized under the 32d Army, commanded, it was thought, by General Watanabe, with headquarters at Naha. Shortly before the landings the estimate of Japanese troops was raised to 65,000 on the basis of long-range search-plane reports of convoy movements into Naha. 19

Calculations based on Japanese Tables of Organization indicated that the enemy could be expected to have 198 pieces of artillery Of 70-mm. or larger caliber, including twenty-four 150-mm. howitzers. 20 The Japanese were presumed to have also about 100 antitank guns of 37-mm. and 47-mm. caliber in addition to the guns carried on tanks. The tank regiment on Okinawa had, according to Japanese Tables of Organization, 37 light and 47 medium tanks, but one estimate in March placed the total number of tanks at 90. Intelligence also indicated that rockets and mortars up to 250 mm. could be expected. 21

Aerial photographs disclosed three main defense areas on Okinawa, centering in Naha, the Hagushi beaches, and the Yonabaru-Nakagusuku Bay area on the east coast. Prepared positions for four infantry regiments were noted along the bay for one regiment, behind the Hagushi beaches and for one battalion, along the beaches at Machinato above Naha. It was believed that a total of five or six battalions of troops would be found in the northern part of Okinawa and le Shima and that two divisions would be concentrated in southern Okinawa. The main strength of the Japanese artillery was believed to be concentrated in two groups-one about two miles east of Yontan airfield and the other about three miles due south of Shuri the probable presence of guns was deduced from the spoil which had been deposited in front of cave or tunnel entrances on the slopes of ridges in a manner suitable for gun emplacements. 22

At the end of March 1945 intelligence indicated that there were four operational airfields on Okinawa at Naha, Yontan, Kadena, and Machinato the first two were the best. All were heavily defended with numerous antiaircraft and dual purpose gun emplacements. The Yonabaru strip, which had been in an initial stage of construction in October 1944, was reported as having been abandoned

by February 1945. Apparently not intending to defend Ie Shima very determinedly, the Japanese, in the latter part of March, were reported to have rendered the airfield there unusable by digging trenches across the runways. 23 Land-based enemy aircraft on Okinawa was not expected to constitute a danger the Americans fully expected that the airfields would be neutralized by the time they invaded the island. It was reported on 29 March, however, that enemy fighter and transport planes were being flown in at night to the Kadena airfield. On 31 March no activity was observed on any of the Okinawa airfields. It was constantly stressed that heavy enemy air attacks would probably be launched from Kyushu, 350 miles to the north. The potential threat of small suicide boats against shipping was also pointed out. 24

Tenth Army believed that the most critical terrain for the operation was the area between the Ishikawa Isthmus and the Chatan-Toguchi line, particularly the high ground inland which dominates the Hagushi beaches and the valley of the Bishi River. The enemy could defend the beaches from prepared positions with one regiment, maintaining mobile reserves in the hills north and south of the river. Other reserves could be dispatched to the landing area within a few hours. It was expected that the Japanese would wait until the night of L Day to move their artillery. Alerted by American preliminary operations, they might have a division in position ready for a counterattack on the morning of the landings. From terrain 3,000 yards inland that offered both cover and concealment, the Japanese could launch counterattacks of division strength against both flanks of the landing area simultaneously. If the landings were successful, the enemy's main line of resistance, manned by a force of from nine to fifteen battalions, was expected to be at the narrow waist of the island, from Chatan to Toguchi, south of the landing beaches. 25

The Plan of Attack

Basic Features of the Plan

The immediate task imposed upon the American forces by the terms of the general mission was the seizure and development of Okinawa and the establishment of control of the sea and air in the Ryukyus. The campaign was divided into three phases. The seizure of southern Okinawa, including Keise Shima and islands in the Kerama Group, and the initiation of the development of base facilities were to constitute the first phase. In the next phase Ie Shima was to be occupied and control was to be established over northern Okinawa. The third phase consisted of the seizure and development of additional islands in the Nansei Shoto for use in future operations. The target date of the operation was set at 1 March 1945. 26

Planning began in October 1944. The general scheme for Operation I CEBERG was issued in the fall of 1944 by Admiral Nimitz as Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas (CINCPOA). The strategic plan outlined was based on three assumptions. First, the projected campaign against Iwo Jima would have progressed to such an extent that naval fire-support and close air-support units would be available for the assault on Okinawa. Second, the necessary ground and naval combat units and assault shipping engaged in the Philippines would be released promptly by General MacArthur for the Okinawa campaign. Third, preliminary air and naval operations against the enemy would ensure control of the air in the area of the target during the operation. 27

Air superiority was the most important factor in the general concept of the operation as outlined by Admiral Nimitz's staff. The CINCPOA planners believed that American air attacks on Japan, from carriers and from airfields in the Marianas, combined with the seizure of Iwo Jima, would force a concentration of enemy air strength around the heart of the Empire-on the home islands, Formosa, the China coast, and the Ryukyus. From these bases, strong

CHART I
Organization of Allied Forces for the Ryukyus Campaign,
January 1945

Source: Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas, Operations in the Pacific Ocean Areas, April 1945, Plate I, opp. p. 76 (with adaptations).

The American Forces

The isolation of Okinawa was to be effected with the aid of land-based air forces of commands outside the Pacific Ocean Areas (POA). Planes from the Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA) were to engage in searches and continuous strikes against Formosa as soon as the situation on Luzon permitted. Twentieth Air Force B-29's from China and the Marianas were to bomb Formosa, Kyushu, and Okinawa during the month preceding the landings. The China-based XX Bomber Command was to concentrate on Formosa, while the XXI Bomber Command from the Marianas would attack Okinawa and then shift to Kyushu and other vulnerable points in the home islands during the fighting on Okinawa. The Fourteenth Air Force was to conduct searches along the China coast and also, if practicable, bomb Hong Kong. 29

All the forces in Admiral Nimitz's command were marshaled in support of the I CEBERG Operation. (See Chart 1.) The Strategic Air Forces, POA, was assigned the task of neutralizing enemy air bases in the Carolines and the Bonins, of striking Okinawa and Japan when practicable, and of providing fighter cover for Twentieth Air Force bombing missions against Japan. The Commander, Forward Areas Central Pacific, was to use his naval air strength to provide antisubmarine coverage, neutralize bypassed enemy bases, and, in general, furnish logistic support. Provision of intelligence on enemy naval units and interdiction of the sea approaches from Japan and Formosa were the tasks of the Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet. The enemy was to be contained in the North Pacific Area, and the lines of communication were to be secured in the Marshalls-Gilberts area. Logistic support was to be provided by General Richardson's

CHART II
Organizations of Central Pacific Task Forces for the Ryukyus Campaign,
January 1945

Source: Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas, operations in the Pacific Ocean Areas, April 1945, Plates I and II, opp. p. 76 (with adaptations).

United States Army Forces, POA (USAFPOA), the Air and Service Forces, Pacific Fleet, and the South Pacific Force. All the armed forces in the Pacific Ocean Areas, from the West Coast to Ulithi and from New Zealand to the Aleutians, were directed to support the attack on Okinawa. 30

The principal mission in seizing the objective was assigned to a huge joint Army-Navy task force, known as the Central Pacific Task Forces and commanded by Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, Commander of the Fifth Fleet. (See Chart II.) Admiral Spruance's forces consisted of naval covering forces and special groups (Task Force 50), which he personally commanded, and a joint Expeditionary Force (Task Force 51), commanded by Vice Admiral Richmond K. Turner, Commander, Amphibious Forces Pacific Fleet. General Buckner, Commanding General, Tenth Army, was to lead the Expeditionary Troops (Task Force 56) under Admiral Turner's direction. 31

Command relationships prescribed for the operation differed in some respects from those in previous operations against island positions remote from Japan. Because the campaign would entail prolonged ground combat activities by a field army on a large island close to the enemy's homeland, it was necessary to define clearly the relationships between Army and Navy commanders for the successive phases of the operation. Admiral Nimitz accordingly provided that initially the chain of command for amphibious operations would be Admiral Spruance, Admiral Turner, General Buckner. However, when Admiral Spruance determined that the amphibious phases of the operation had been successfully completed, General Buckner was to assume command of all forces ashore. He was thereafter to be directly responsible to Admiral Spruance for the defense and development of the captured positions. In time, Admiral Spruance would be relieved by Admiral Nimitz of these responsibilities, and General Buckner would take over complete command of the forces in the Ryukyus. As Commander, Ryukyus Force, a joint task force of ground, air, and naval garrison troops, he would be responsible only to CINCPOA for the defense and development of the newly won bases and for the protection of the sea areas within twenty-five miles. 32

Admiral Spruance, as commander of Task Force 50, had at his disposal Vice Admiral Mitscher's Fast Carrier Force (Task Force 58), a British Carrier Force

CHART III
Organization of Expeditionary Troops for the Ryukyus Campaign,
January 1945

Source: Commander Task Force 51, Commander Amphibious Forces, U. S. Pacific Fleet, Report on Okinawa Gunto Operations from February 17 May to 17 May 1945, Part 1, pp. 2-4 Tenth Army Action Report Ryukyus, 26 March to 30 June 1945, Ch. 2 Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas, Operation in the pacific Ocean Areas, April 1945.

(Task Force 57), special task groups for aerial search and reconnaissance and antisubmarine warfare, and fleet logistic groups. Task Force 58 had a major share of the mission of neutralizing Japanese air strength. Its fast carriers were to strike Kyushu, Okinawa, and adjacent islands in the middle of March, to remain in a covering position east of the target area during the week preceding the invasion, to support the landings with strikes and patrols, and to be prepared for further forays against Kyushu, the China coast, or threatening enemy surface forces. The British carriers, the first to participate in Pacific naval actions with the American fleet, were given the task of neutralizing air installations on the Sakishima Group, southwest of the Ryukyus, during the ten days before the landings. 33

The Joint Expeditionary Force (Task Force 51) was directly charged with the capture and development of Okinawa and other islands in the group. It was a joint task force of Army, Navy, and Marine units and consisted of the Expeditionary Troops (Task Force 56-see Chart III), shipping to transport them, and supporting naval and air units. Direct naval and air support for Task Force 51 was to be furnished by its Amphibious Support Force (Task Force 52), made up of escort carriers, gunboat and mortar flotillas, mine sweepers, and underwater demolition teams, and by the Gunfire and Covering Force (Task Force 54) of old battleships, light and heavy cruisers, destroyers, and destroyer escorts. The transports and tractor units of the Northern Attack Force (Task Force 53) and Southern Attack Force (Task Force 55) were to land the ground troops in the main assault on the Okinawa beaches, while a number of task groups were assigned the task of transporting the troops for subsidiary landings and the floating and area reserves. Task Force 51 also included a transport screen, a service and salvage group, and several specialized naval units. 34

The troops who would assault the objectives constituted a field army, the Tenth Army, which had been activated in the United States in June 1944 and shortly thereafter had opened headquarters on Oahu. General Buckner formally assumed command in September 1944, having come to the new assignment from the command of the Alaskan Department, where for four years he had been organizing the American defenses in that area. His new staff included many officers who had served with him in Alaska as well as some from the European Theater of Operations. The major components of Tenth Army were

XXIV Army Corps and III Amphibious Corps (Marine). The former consisted of the 7th and 96th Infantry Divisions and was commanded by Maj. Gen. John R. Hodge, a veteran leader of troops who had met and defeated the Japanese on Guadalcanal, New Georgia, Bougainville, and Leyte. III Amphibious Corps included the 1st and 6th Marine Divisions and was headed by Maj. Gen. Roy S. Geiger, who had successfully directed Marine operations on Bougainville and Guam. Three divisions, the 27th and 77th Infantry Divisions and the 2d Marine Division, were under the direct control of Tenth Army for use in special operations and as reserves. The area reserve, the 81st Infantry Division, was under the control of CINCPOA. Also assigned to Tenth Army for the purpose of defense and development of the objectives were a naval task group, the Tactical Air Force, and the Island Command. 35

A total of 183,000 troops was made available for the assault phases of the operation. 36 About 154,000 of these were in the seven combat divisions, excluding the 81st Division, which remained in New Caledonia all seven divisions were heavily reinforced with tank battalions, amphibian truck and tractor battalions, joint assault signal companies, and many attached service units. The five divisions committed to the initial landings totaled about 116,000. The 1st and 6th Marine Divisions, with 26,274 and 24,356 troops, respectively, each carried an attached naval construction battalion and about 2,500 replacements in addition to their other supporting combat and service units. The reinforced 7th, 77th, and 96th Divisions averaged nearly 22,000 men per division but each was about 1,000 understrength in organic infantry personnel. The 27th, a reserve division, was reinforced to a strength of 16,143 but remained nevertheless almost 2,000 understrength organically. The 2d Marine Division, also in Army reserve, numbered 22,195. 37 (See Appendix C, Table No. 4)

Tenth Army, as such, had never directed any campaigns, but its corps and divisions had all been combat-tested before the invasion of the Ryukyus. XXIV Corps had carried out the conquest of Leyte, and III Amphibious Corps had captured Guam and Peleliu. The 7th Division had seen action on Attu, Kwajalein, and Leyte, the 77th on Guam and Leyte, and the 96th on Leyte. The 27th had taken part in the battles for the Gilberts and Marshalls and for

Plan for the Capture of Okinawa

Using the CINCPOA Toint Staff Study as a basis, each of the major commanders prepared his plans and issued his operation orders. Although each plan and operation order was derived from that of the next superior echelon, planning was always concurrent. The joint nature of the operation also required extensive coordination of the three services in all operational and logistical problems. Joint conferences thrashed out problems of troop lists, shipping, supplies, and strategy. Corps and task force commanders worked together on the plans for amphibious operations. Corps and division staffs were consulted and advised by Army for purposes of orientation and planning. To ensure inter-service coordination, Navy and Marine officers were assigned to work with Tenth Army general and special staff sections. 38 In some cases planning was facilitated by utilizing the results of work on other operations. Thus the naval staff developing the gunfire support plans was able to use the operations at Iwo Jima to test and strengthen the general command and communications framework, which was generally similar for both operations in the same way Tenth Army logistical planners took advantage of their work on the cancelled Formosa operation, adapting it to the needs of the Okinawa campaign. 39

Out of these planning activities came extremely important decisions that modified and expanded the scope of proposed operations. Tenth Army found it necessary to enlarge the troop list by about 70,000 to include greater numbers of supporting combat elements and service units. Its staff presented and supported a plan for initial assault landings on the west coast of Okinawa, just north and south of Hagushi, as the most feasible logistically and as consonant tactically with the requirements of CINCPOA. The naval staff insisted on the necessity of a sustained week-long naval bombardment of the target and on the consequent need for a protected anchorage in the target area where the fleet units could refuel and resupply. As a result it was decided to capture the Kerama Islands

just west of Okinawa, a week before the main landings, and the 77th Division was assigned this task. At the suggestion of Admiral Turner a landing was to be feinted on the eastern coast of the island, and the 2d Marine Division was selected for this operation. The commitment of these two reserve divisions impelled Tenth Army to secure the release of the area reserve division to the Expeditionary Troops, and the 27th Division was designated the floating reserve. In its place, as area reserve, the first Division was ordered to stand by in the South Pacific. Finally, CINCPOA was twice forced to set back the target date because delays in the Luzon operation created difficulty in maintaining shipping schedules and because unfavorable weather conditions appeared likely in the target area during March. L Day (landing day) was set for 1 April 1945. 40

As finally conceived, the plan for the capture of Okinawa gave fullest opportunity for the use of the mobility, long range, and striking power of combined arms. After the strategic isolation of Okinawa had been effected by land- and carrier-based aircraft, the amphibious forces were to move forward to the objective. Task Force 52 (the Amphibious Support Force) and Task Force 54 (the Gunfire and Covering Force), assisted by the fast carriers of Task Force 58, were to begin operations at Okinawa and the Kerama Group on L minus 8 (24 March). They were to destroy the enemy defenses and air installations by naval gunfire and air strikes, clear the waters around the objective and the beaches of mines and other obstacles, and provide cover and protection against hostile surface and air units to ensure the safe and uninterrupted approach of the transports and the landings of the assault troops. After the landings they were to furnish naval support and air cover for the land operations. 41

Mine sweepers were to be the first units of the Amphibious Support Force to arrive in the target area. Beginning on L minus 8, they were to clear the way for the approach of the bombardment units and then to sweep the waters in the landing and demonstration areas to the shore line. 42 Underwater demolition teams were to follow the mine sweepers, reconnoiter the beaches, and demolish beach obstacles. 43

Naval gunfire was to support the capture of Okinawa by scheduled destructive bombardment in the week before the landings, by intensive close support

of the main and subsidiary landings and the diversionary feint, and thereafter by delivering call and other support fires. The fire support ships with their 5- to 16-inch guns were organized into fire support units, each consisting of 2 old battleships, 2 or 3 cruisers, and 4 or 5 destroyers, that were to stand off the southern part of the island in accordance with definite areas of responsibility. In view of the size of the objective and the impossibility of destroying all targets, fire during the prelanding bombardment was to be laid on carefully selected targets the principal efforts were to be directed to the destruction of weapons threatening ships and aircraft and of the defenses opposing the landings. Profitable targets were at all times to be sought by close observation, exploratory firing, and constant evaluation of results. Covering fires were to be furnished in conjunction with fire from gunboats and mortar boats in support of mine-sweeping operations and beach demolitions. 44

On L Day, beginning at 0600, the naval guns were to mass their fires on the beaches. Counterbattery and deep supporting fires were to destroy the defense guns and keep enemy reinforcements from moving up to oppose the landings. As the assault waves approached the beaches, the fires of the big guns would lift to targets in critical areas inland and to the exterior flanks of the troops. Mortar boats and gunboats were to lead the boat waves to the shore, delivering mortar and rocket fire on the beaches. All craft would begin 40-mm. fire on passing the line of fire support ships and would fire at will until H Hour. 45 After the landings scheduled fire on areas 1,000 yards inland and on the flanks would be continued, but top priority would be given to call fires in direct support of the assault elements. 46

All scheduled bombardments until H minus 35 minutes were to be under control of the commander of Task Force 52. After that time, because of the size of the landing forces and the extent of the beaches, the commanders of the Northern and Southern Attack Forces would assume control of the support of their respective landing forces. The commander of Task Force 51 was to remain responsible for the general coordination as well as the actual control of bombardment in the Army zone. By 1500 each day he would allocate gunfire support vessels for the succeeding twenty-four hours in accordance with approved requests from Army and Corps. 47

Air support was to be provided largely by the fast carriers of Task Force 58 and by the escort carriers of Task Force 52. The fast carriers were for the first time to be available at the target area for a prolonged period to furnish support and combat air patrols. They were to cover mine-sweeping operations, hit targets on Okinawa which could not be reached by naval gunfire, destroy enemy defenses and air installations, and strafe the landing beaches. The escort carriers would provide aircraft for direct support missions, antisubmarine patrols, naval and artillery gunfire spotting, air supply, photographic missions, and the dropping of propaganda leaflets. After L Day additional support was to be furnished by seaplane squadrons based on the Kerama Islands and by the shore-based Tactical Air Force of the Tenth Army. 48 The latter was eventually to be responsible for the air defense of the area, being charged with gaining the necessary air superiority and giving tactical support to the ground troops. 49

Provision was made for the careful coordination of all naval gunfire, air support, and artillery both in the assault and in the campaign in general. Target information centers, to be established at army, corps, and division levels, would collect and disseminate data on all targets suitable for attack by the respective arms and keep a record of attacks actually carried out. In addition, at every echelon, from battalion to army, representatives of each support arm--artillery, naval gunfire, and air--were to coordinate the use of their respective arms for targets in their zones of action and advise their commanders on the proper employment of the various types of supporting fires. Requests for support would thus be coordinated and screened as they passed up through the various echelons for approval. 50

Under cover of the sustained day and night attacks by the naval and air forces, the first phase of the campaign-the capture of the Kerama and Keise Islands and of the southern part of Okinawa-was to begin. On L minus 6, the Western Islands Attack Group was to land the reinforced 77th Division on the Kerama Islands. The seizure of these islands was designed to give the joint Expeditionary Force, prior to the main assault on Okinawa proper, a base for logistic support of fleet units, a protected anchorage, and a seaplane base. Two regimental combat teams were to land on several of the islands simultaneously and to proceed from the southeast end of the group to the northeast by island-

hopping maneuvers, capturing Keise Island by L minus 1. All hostile coastal defense guns that could interfere with the construction of the proposed naval bases were to be destroyed. Organized enemy forces would be broken up without attempting to clear the islands of snipers. Two battalions of 155-mm. guns were to be emplaced on Keise in order to give artillery support to the landings on the coast of Okinawa. Then, after stationing a small garrison force in the islands, the division would reembark and be prepared to execute the Tenth Army's reserve plans, giving priority to the capture of Ie Shima 51 (See Map No. 6.)

While the 77th Division was taking the lightly held Kerama Islands, the preliminary operations for softening up Okinawa would begin they would mount in intensity as L Day approached. Beginning on 28 March fire support units would close in on the island behind the mine sweepers and demolition teams. The Northern and Southern Attack Forces would arrive off the west coast early on L Day and land their respective ground forces at H Hour, tentatively set for 0830. III Amphibious Corps would land, two divisions abreast, on the left flank, north of the town of Hagushi at the mouth of the Bishi River XXIV Corps would land, two divisions abreast, on the right flank, south of Hagushi. The four divisions in landing would be in the following order from north to south 6th Marine Division, 1st Marine Division, 7th Division and 96th Division. The two corps were then to drive across the island in a coordinated advance. The 6th Marine Division was first to capture the Yontan airfield and then to advance to the Ishikawa Isthmus, the narrow neck of the island, securing the beachhead on the north by L plus 15. The 1st Marine Division was to head across the island and drive down the Katchin Peninsula on the east coast. South of the Corps' boundary, which ran eastward from the mouth of the Bishi, the 7th Division would quickly seize the Kadena airfield and advance to the east coast, cutting the island in two. The 96th was required initially to capture the high ground commanding its beaches on the south and southeast then it was to move rapidly down the coastal road, capture the bridges near Chatan, and protect the right of the Corps. Continuing its attack, it was to pivot on its right flank to secure the beachhead on the south by L plus 10 on a line running across the isthmus below Kuba and Futema. 52

The choice of the beaches north and south of Hagushi for the initial assault was made after a study by Tenth Army of all the landing beaches in southern

Okinawa and a survey of several plans of action. The various plans were weighed in the light of the requirements of the CINCPOA Joint Staff Study and considerations of tactical and logistical feasibility. The preferred plan was finally chosen for a number of reasons. First, it would secure the necessary airfields by L plus 5. Second, it would provide the unloading facilities to support the assault. The Hagushi beaches were considered the only ones capable of handling sufficient tonnage to sustain a force of two corps and supporting troops, and this seemed to outweigh the disadvantages of not providing for the early capture of the port of Naha and the anchorage in Nakagusuku Bay. Third, the plan would result in separating the enemy forces. Fourth, it would concentrate the troops on one continuous landing beach opposite the point where the greatest enemy resistance was expected. Fifth, it would use the terrain least advantageous for enemy resistance to the landings. Finally, it would permit maximum fire support of the assault. 53

The scheme of maneuver was designed to isolate the initial objective, the southern part of the island, by seizing the Ishikawa Isthmus, north of the landing beaches, to prevent enemy reinforcement from that direction. At the same time the establishment of a general east-west line from Kuba on the south would prevent reinforcement from the south. Thereafter, the attack was to be continued until the entire southern part of the island was occupied. 54 Ground commanders hoped that, for the first time in the Pacific, maneuver could be used to the utmost. The troops would cut across the island quickly, move rapidly to the south, break up the Japanese forces into small segments, bypass strong points, and mop up at leisure. 55

While the troops were landing on the west coast, the 2d Marine Division would feint landings on the southeast coast. This demonstration, scheduled for L Day and to be repeated on L plus 1, would be as realistic as possible in order to deceive the enemy into believing that landings would be made there as well as on the Hagushi beaches. After the demonstration the division would be prepared to land on the Hagushi beaches in support of the assault forces. 56

The 27th Division, as floating reserve, was to arrive at Ulithi not later than L plus 1 and be on call of the Commander, Joint Expeditionary Force. It was

to be prepared to seize the islands off the east coast of Okinawa and then to land on that coast in support of XXIV Corps. 57

In case the preferred plan for landing on the west coast proved impracticable, an alternate plan was to be used. In this plan, the capture of the Kerama Islands was to be followed by a similar sweep through the small islands east of southern Okinawa that guarded the entrance to Nakagusuku Bay. On L Day two Marine divisions would land on the southeast coast of Okinawa, between Chinen Point and the town of Minatoga. During the next three days the marines were to seize high ground in the area in order to support a landing by two divisions of XXIV Corps on the lower part of Nakagusuku Bay, between Kuba and Yonabaru. Although the alternate plan met most of the requirements for a successful landing operation, it was distinctly a second choice because it would allow the enemy reserves to offer maximum opposition to the second landings and would require a prolonged assault against all the enemy forces on the island to complete the first phase of the mission. 58

Psychological Warfare and Military Government

Despite general skepticism as to the effectiveness of psychological warfare against the Japanese, 59 an attitude which resulted from its failure in many previous operations, the American plan called for an intensive effort to weaken the enemy's will to resist. Intelligence agencies prepared 5,700,000 leaflets to be dropped over Okinawa from carrier planes. More millions of leaflets were to be printed at the target and scattered over specific areas by bombs and shells. Tanks with amplifiers, an airplane with an ultraloud speaker, and remotely controlled radios dropped behind enemy lines would also tell the enemy why and how he should surrender. 60

The plans for psychological warfare were also directed toward influencing the Okinawans, and in this connection there was greater optimism. Because the Okinawans were of a different stock and culture from the Japanese, and had been treated by their rulers as inferiors rather than as elements to be assimilated to Japanese nationalism and militarism, it was hoped that the civilians would not be as hostile, or at any rate as fanatical, as the Japanese.

The Okinawans also presented the American planners with the problem of military government. The problem was twofold--that of removing the Okinawans from the front lines and that of caring for them it was necessary to handle the problem in such a way as to facilitate military operations and to make available to the occupying forces the labor and economic resources of the areas. Approximately 300,000 natives lived in southern Okinawa thousands of others were in the north and on near-by islands. Never before in the Pacific had Americans faced the task of controlling so many enemy civilians.

Basic responsibility for military government in the conquered Japanese islands devolved on the Navy, and Admiral Nimitz was to assume the position of Military Governor of the Ryukyus. However, in view of the fact that most of the garrison forces were Army troops, Admiral Nimitz delegated the responsibility to General Buckner. The latter planned to control military government operations during the assault phase through his tactical commanders corps and division commanders were made responsible for military government in the areas under their control and were assigned military government detachments whose mission was to plan and organize civilian activities behind the fighting fronts. As the campaign progressed and increasing numbers of civilians were encountered, teams attached to military government headquarters of Tenth Army would assume charge, organize camps, and administer the program on an island-wide basis. During the garrison phase the Island Commander, on order of General Buckner, would exercise command over all military government personnel. Maj. Gen. Fred C. Wallace would act through a Deputy Commander for Military Government, Brig. Gen. W.E. Crist. 61

The major problem of Military Government was to feed and provide emergency medical care for the approximately 300,000 civilians who were expected to be within the American lines by L plus 40. Each of the combat divisions mounted out with 70,000 civilian rations of such native staples as rice, soy beans, and canned fish and also with medical supplies. Military Government personnel would land in the wake of assault units to handle a huge "disaster relief" program. Additional supplies of all kinds were to be included in the general maintenance shipments. 62

Mounting the Attack

Organizing the Supply Line

The planning and execution of I CEBERG presented logistical problems of a magnitude greater than any previously encountered in the Pacific. For the assault echelon alone, about 183,000 troops and 747,000 measurement tons of cargo were loaded into over 430 assault transports and landing ships at 11 different ports, from Seattle to Leyte, a distance of 6,000 miles. (See Appendix C, Tables Nos. 4 and 5.) After the landings, maintenance had to be provided for the combat troops and a continuously increasing garrison force that eventually numbered 270,000. Concurrently, the development of Okinawa as an advanced air and fleet base and mounting area for future operations involved supply and construction programs extending over a period of many months subsequent to the initial assault. Close integration of assault, maintenance, and garrison shipping and supply was necessary at all times. 63

Factors of distance dominated the logistical picture. Cargo and troops were lifted on the West Coast, Oahu, Espiritu Santo, New Caledonia, Guadalcanal, the Russell Islands, Saipan, and Leyte, and were assembled at Eniwetok, Ulithi, Saipan, and Leyte. The closest Pacific Ocean Area bases were at Ulithi and the Marianas, 5 days sailing time to Okinawa (at 20 knots). The West Coast, which furnished the bulk of resupply, was 6,250 nautical miles away, Or 26 days' sailing time. Allowing 30 days to prepare and forward the requisitions, 60 days for procurement and loading on the West Coast, and 30 days for sailing to the target, the planners were faced with a 1120-day interval between the initiation of their calculations and the arrival of supplies. This meant in practice that requisitioning had to be started before a Troop Basis had been fixed and the details of the tactical plans worked out. Distance, moreover, used up ships and compelled the adoption of a schedule of staggered supply shipments, or "echelons," as well as a number of other improvisations. Mounting the troops where they were stationed, in the scattered reaches of the Pacific Ocean and Southwest Pacific Areas, required close and intricate timing to have them at the target at the appointed moment. 64

Broad logistic responsibilities for the support of I CEBERG were assigned by Admiral Nimitz to the various commanders chiefly concerned. Admiral Turner, as commander of the Amphibious Forces Pacific Fleet, furnished the

shipping for the assault troops and their supplies, determined the loading schedules, and was responsible for the delivery of men and cargo to the beaches. General Buckner allocated assault shipping space to the elements of his command and was responsible for landing the supplies and transporting them to the dumps. The control of maintenance and garrison shipping, which was largely loaded on the West Coast, was retained by CINCPOA. Responsibility for both the initial supply and the resupply of all Army troops was assigned to the Commanding General, Pacific Ocean Areas, while the Commanders, Fleet Marine Force, Service Force, and Air Force of the Pacific Fleet were charged with logistic support of Marine, Navy, and naval aviation units. The initial supplies for the troops mounting in the South Pacific and the Southwest Pacific were to be furnished by the commanders of those areas. 65

The first phase of supply planning involved the preparation of special lists of equipment required for the operation, which included excess Tables of Equipment items, equipment peculiar to amphibious operations, and base development materials. Such lists, or operational projects as they were known, had been prepared for the projected Formosa operation when this was cancelled the projects were screened and reduced to meet the needs of I CEBERG . 66

At a very early stage in the planning it became evident that there was a shortage of available shipping. The number of combat and service troops included in the initial Troop Basis far exceeded the capacity of allocated shipping. As a result, tonnage had to be reduced for some units while other units were eliminated entirely from the assault echelon and assigned space in the next echelon. Later, in January 1945, it became apparent that there was still not enough shipping space in the assault echelon to transport certain air units and base development materials designed for early use. It was necessary to request CINCPOA to increase the over-all allocation of LST's and LSM's, as well as to curtail cargo tonnage and provide for the quick return of LST's to Saipan to load eight naval construction battalions. 67

Providing the assault troops with their initial supplies was not a difficult problem as generally there were sufficient stocks on hand at each of the mounting areas. When the assault units embarked, they took with them a 30-day supply of rations, essential clothing and equipment, fuel, and medical and construction

supplies. Initial ammunition quotas consisted of five CINCPOA units of fire. 68 On Leyte, XXIV Corps found that SWPA logistics agencies did not have sufficient rations on hand to supply it as required, and the shortage was overcome by having the Corps joined at Okinawa by two LST's loaded with rations from Tenth Army reserve stocks in the Marianas. 69

Equipment issued to the troops included weapons and instruments of war never before used against the Japanese. New-type flame-thrower tanks, with an increased effective range and a larger fuel capacity, were available for the invasion. Each division was issued 110 sniper scopes and 140 snooper scopes, devices for seeing in the dark by means of infrared radiation the former were mounted on carbines and permitted accurate night firing, while the latter were on hand-held mounts and could be used for night observation and signaling. Army artillery and antiaircraft units used proximity (VT) fuzes over land areas for the first time in the Pacific. During the campaign tests were conducted with a new mortar-locating device, the Sound Locator Set GR-6, and the 57-mm.. and 75-mm. recoilless rifles and 4.2-inch recoilless mortars. 70

Supplies to maintain the troops at the target were scheduled to arrive twenty-one shipments from the West Coast. Loaded ships were to sail from Pacific ports at 10-day intervals, beginning on L minus 40 (20 February 1945), and to arrive at the regulating stations at Ulithi and Eniwetok beginning , L minus 5, there to await the call of General Buckner. These maintenance shipments, planned to provide automatic resupply until L plus 210 (31 October 1945), were based on the estimated population build-up at the scheduled time of arrival. The principal emergency reserves were kept at Saipan and Guan. 71

The main logistical task of the operation, in Admiral Nimitz's opinion, v. the rapid development of air and naval bases in the Ryukyus to support further operations against Japan. The Base Development Plan for Okinawa, published by CINCPOA, provided for the construction of eight airfields on Okinawa, two of which were to be operational by L plus 5, a seaplane base, an advanced fleet.

base at Nakagusuku Bay, and the rehabilitation of the port of Naha to accommodate support shipping. Base development responsibilities also included immediate support of the assault by the early construction of tank farms for the bulk storage of fuel and for the improvement of waterfront unloading facilities and of roads. Later a large construction program was planned that included roads, dumps, hospitals, communications facilities, water supply systems, and housing and recreational facilities. A plan for the development of Ie Shima as an advanced air base was also prepared. 72

General Buckner was charged with the responsibility for base development in the Ryukyus. Assigned to Tenth Army for the execution of the Base Development Plan was the Island Command Okinawa, or Army Garrison Force, with Maj. Gen. Fred C. Wallace in command. Some of the Island Command troops were to land in the assault echelon and to provide logistic support for the assault troops during and immediately after the landings. At the conclusion of the amphibious phase, the Island Command was to act as Tenth Army's administrative and logistical agency, operating in effect as an Army service command and an advanced section of the communications zone. As such, it was to be in charge of the base development program as well as of the garrisoning and defense of the captured positions. Garrison troops and base development materials were scheduled to arrive at Okinawa in seventeen echelons. These were based primarily on the unloading capacity of the Hagushi beaches the tonnage in each echelon was kept within the estimated discharge capacity between the arrivals of the echelons. Most of this garrison shipping was loaded on the West Coast and Oahu, but some originated in the South Pacific and the Marianas. 73

Training and Rehearsal of Troops

and sniper scopes, and the one standard tank battalion which was converted to an armored flame thrower battalion received instruction in the use and maintenance of its tanks. Many service units received little specialized training because of the pressure of their regular duties and, in some cases, the circumstance that they had been released to Tenth Army only a few days before mounting from Hawaii. 74

When, in December 1944, XXIV Corps received its warning order, it was in action over a large part of southern Leyte, engaged in virtually separate operations on the east and west coasts of the island. The Corps was not released from tactical responsibility until 10 February 1945, and it did not complete the assembly of all its units in the staging area at Dulag until 18 February. Training and rehearsals had to be sandwiched between the rehabilitation program for its combat-weary units and the mounting-out for the new operation. The 7th, 77th, and 96th Divisions were able to engage only in a very limited amount of training specifically oriented to the Okinawa operation, but all managed to train in the use of the sniper scope and of flame throwers. The Corps was, however, able to engage in a full-scale nonfiring rehearsal with the 7th and 96th Divisions and amphibious elements of the Southern Attack Force in Leyte Gulf from 15 to 19 March 1945. In addition to training in the techniques of amphibious landings, the troops practiced the breaching and scaling of sea walls. Assault regiments of the two divisions landed and moved inland for 1,000 yards in a simulated attack, after which critiques were held and the exercise repeated. The 77th Division conducted practice landings separately in Leyte Gulf from 9 to 16 March. The 27th was able to engage in intensive training in Espiritu Santo between October 1944 and 25 March 1945, when it embarked for the target four landing rehearsals were also held between 20 and 25 March. 75

All the Marine divisions scheduled for the Okinawa campaign had several months in which to train and rehearse. The 1st Marine Division, finding training facilities restricted in the Russell Islands, arranged for each of its regiments to take a month's training on Guadalcanal, where adequate artillery, mortar, and small-arms ranges were available. The 6th Marine Division trained on Guadalcanal, conducting numerous division problems and field exercises. On Saipan the 2d Marine Division had the advantage of practicing against the Japanese still holed up in the hills. The III Amphibious Corps conducted a combined

Mounting Out

Responsibility for the loading of the assault units was decentralized through delegation to the commanders at the various mounting points the Commanding General, Tenth Army, however, retained control of the mounting of units from Oahu. The commanders of the III Amphibious Corps and XXIV Corps were responsible for embarking their respective troops in the South Pacific and Leyte. The 2d Marine Division supervised the loading of its own troops and other units mounting from Saipan. Units which originated on the West Coast were moved to the assigned mounting points for integration with the assault echelon. 77

All loading was conducted according to the transport doctrine of the Amphibious Forces Pacific Fleet and the logistical directives published by Tenth Army. One transport squadron of fifteen APA's (transports) and six AKA's (cargo ships), together with the requisite number of LST's and LSM's, was allocated to each division, and additional allocations were made for Corps and Army troops. (See Chart IV.) Altogether, 111 APA's, 47 AKA's, 184 LST's, and 89 LSM's were loaded in mounting the joint Expeditionary Force. Transport Quartermaster Teams were activated and assigned to Army units to load their troops and equipment, while Marine units used the teams which had functioned in previous operations. Admiral Turner also sent two combat loading teams, trained in embarkation procedures and familiar with the policies of his command, to aid in the loading of the two corps at Leyte and the Guadalcanal-Russells area. and of the 27th Division at Espiritu Santo. All loading plans and operations were subject to the approval of the captain of each ship as well as of the transport squadron commander concerned. 78

Tenth Army headquarters and most of its attached troops mounted out of Hawaii, while the 7th, 77th, and 96th Divisions embarked at Leyte, where the largest number of ships was loaded. Each division did its own loading under general supervision of the Corps. The chief difficulty encountered was the necessity of loading across the open beaches in the Dulag area on the east coast of Leyte. Piers were nonexistent or of too flimsy a construction to withstand the battering which they took in the high surf and tide. LST's and LSM's were

LOADING SUPPLIES FOR OKINAWA-not only arms, ammunition, and food but also great quantities of construction material (above). Barrels of fuel and boxes of other materiel are shown below being loaded at Leyte.

CHART IV
XXIV Corps Assignment of Shipping for the Assault on Okinawa

Source: XXIV Corps Action Report Ryukyus, 1 April to 30 June 1945, chart opp. p. 21.

beached as near shore as possible and vehicles had to be driven through the water 105-mm. artillery was loaded by means of DUKW's and pontoon cause-ways. Transports were loaded in the stream by ships' boats, LCT's, and LSM's. Many lighters and landing craft on Leyte had been diverted to the needs of the Luzon campaign in February when loading began, and a hurry call was sent to Tenth Army for additional lighterage. Loading plans also went awry because of the lack of accurate advance information on the characteristics of ships to be loaded. Much time was consumed by the necessity of unloading newly arrived supplies across the open beaches and reloading them in the assault shipping. The 27th Division loaded separately at Espiritu Santo, where it met difficulties of transportation and misunderstandings with naval officials. 79

III Amphibious Corps and its units mounted out in the Guadalcanal-Russells area. Loading was out in the stream but was facilitated by an ample supply of lighterage and by excellent sandy beaches. Assault troops were embarked on transports initially and were transferred to landing ships at the staging point at Ulithi, a method which shortened the time to be spent in the uncomfortable, crowded LST's and LSM's. 80

Movement to the target got under way on 18 March 1945, when the slow tractor group carrying the assault troops which were to take the Kerama Islands left San Pedro Bay, Leyte. Transports with other 77th Division troops sailed from Leyte three days later, and the remainder of the division followed on 24 March. The tractor groups of the Southern Attack Force sailed from Leyte on 25 March, and the faster transports followed two days later. The course from Leyte was approximately NE by N to a point about 300 miles south of Okinawa, when it was changed to N by NW directly to the target. Units of III Amphibious Corps in the Northern Attack Force sailed from the Guadalcanal area on 12 March, arriving on 21 March at Ulithi, where four days were spent in topping off supplies and effecting the transfer of troops to landing ships. The Northern Tractor Flotilla left from Ulithi on 25 March. The tractor groups carrying the 2d Marine Division to the demonstration beaches left Saipan the same day. When the remainder of the Northern and Southern Attack Forces and the Demonstration Group set forth on 27 March, Americans and Japanese were already engaged in land fighting in the Kerama Islands. 81

Footnotes

1. Biennial Report of the Chief of Staff of the United States Army, July 1, 1943 to June 30, 1945 . . ., pp. 71, 73 see also maps, pp. 66-68.

2. U. S. Army Forces, Middle Pacific, History of G-5 Section, pp. 169-76 JCS 713/4, 12 Mar 44 JCS 924, 30 Jun 44: Opns against Japan Subsequent to Formosa.

3. Biennial Report Chief of Staff, p. 71.

4. Ltr CINCPOA to USAFPOA, Serial 000113, 16 Sep 44, sub: C AUSEWAY Objectives, cited in USAFMIDPAC G-5 Hist, pp. 176-77.

5. Ltr HUSAFPOA to CINCPOA, Serial 0003, 27 Sep 44, sub: C AUSEWAY Objectives.

6. Ltr Hq AAFPOA to CINCPOA, 24 Sep 44, sub: C AUSEWAY Objectives, cited in USAFMIDPAC G-5 Hist, p. 177 USAFPOA Participation in the Okinawa Operation Apr-Jun 45, I, 143.

7. Ltr Hq Tenth Army to CINCPOA, 26 Sep 44, sub: Feasibility of C AUSEWAY Opn Ltr Hq Tenth Army to CINCPOA, 4 Oct 44, sub: C AUSEWAY Objectives. Both cited in USAFMIDPAC G-5 Hist, PP. 177, 179.

8. JCS 713/18, 2 Oct 44.

9. JCS 713/19, 3 Oct 44.

10. CINCPOA dispatch 050644,-Oct 44, cited in USAFMIDPAC G-5 Hist, p. 180.

11. JCS 713/18, 2 Oct 44.

12. JPS 404/14, 7 Oct 44.

13. The description of the terrain of Okinawa is taken from the following sources: CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bull No. 161-44, 15 Nov 44: Okinawa Gunto Office of the Chief of Naval Opns, Civil Affairs Handbook Ryukyu Islands, Op Nav 13-31, 15 Nov 44 Joint Amph Force Int Sec-Tenth Army G-2 Info Bull, Feb 45: Hagushi Landing Area USAFPOA G-2 Objective Data Section, 1 Feb 45: Study of Okinawa Gunto Tenth Army Tentative Opn Plan I CEBERG 1-45, 6 Jan 45, Annex 3 Tenth Army G-2 Int Monograph Ryukyus Campaign, Aug 45, Pt. 1, Sec. A, p. 4 Interv 1st I&H Service Off with 1st Lt Robert Seeburger, Photo Imerp Off, G-2 XXIV Corps, 4 Jul 45 personal obsn from air by Lt Col John Stevens, Tenth Army Historian, 9 Jun 45. All interviews and notes of personal observation are recorded in the Okinawa Diary kept by Lt Col John Stevens and M/Sgt James M. Burns of the 1st Information and Historical Service. The diary is on file in the Historical Division, WDSS.

14. Comdr Task Force 51, Comdr Amph Forces, U S Pac Flt, Rpt on Okinawa Gunto Opn from 17 Feb to 17 May 45, 25 Jul 45 (hereafter cited as CTF 51 Actn Rpt), Pt. V, Sec. A, Int Rpt. Tenth Army Actn Rpt Ryukyus 26 Mar to 30 Jun 45, 3 Sep 45, Ch. 11, Sec. 11, G-2 Rpt interv 1st I&H Service Off with Lt Col James R. Weaver, G-2 Sec, Tenth Army, 10 Jul 45.

15. CTF 51 Actn Rpt, Pt. V, Sec. A, p. 6 (hereafter cited by part, section, and page as follows:V-A-6) interv 1st I&H Off with Lt Col James R. Weaver, G-2 Sec, Tenth Army, 10 Jul 45.

16. III Amph Corps Actn Rpt Ryukyus, 1 Jul 45, p. 10.

17. Comdr in Chief Pacific Ocean Areas (CINCPOA) Joint Staff Study I CEBERG , Serial 00031, 25 Oct 44, p. 8.

18.Tenth Army Tent Opn Plan 1-45, 6 Jan 45, Annex 3, G-2 Current Estimates, p.10 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bull No. 53-45, 28 Feb 45: Okinawa Gunto, p. 14. The only mention of possible civilian conscription is in Tenth Army Estimate of the Situation, 3 Nov 44, P. 2.

19. XXIV Corps G-2 Summary No. 3 I CEBERG , 6 Mar 45 XXIV Corps Actn Rpt Ryukyus, 1 Apr 45--30 Jun 45. P. 116.

20. CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bull No. 53-45, p. 14.

21. XXIV Corps G-2 Summary No. 3 CINCPOA Joint Staff Study I CEBERG Comdr Amph Forces Pacific Fleet (CTF 51) Opn Plan A1-45, 16 Feb 45, Annex B: Int Plan.

22. CTF 51 Opn Plan A1-45, Annex B: Int Plan CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bull No. 53-45, pp. 8-12 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bull No.161-44, 15 Nov 44, pp. 110-12.

23. CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bull No. 53-45, pp. 15-24 USAFPOA G-2 Objective Data Section, 1 Feb 45: Study of Okinawa Gunto Tenth Army Actn Rpt, Ch. 7, Sec. IV, p. 1 (hereafter cited by chapter, section, and page as follows: 7-IV-I).

24. Tenth Army Tent Opn Plan 1-45, Annex 3: G-2 Current Estimates 96 Div FO No. 12, 5 Mar 45, Annex 4, App. 1, p. 3 Tenth Army Opus Summary No. 10, 29 Mar 45, and No. 16, 31 Mar 45.

25. Tenth Army Tent Opn Plan 1-45, Annex 3: G-2 Current Estimates.

26. CINCPOA Joint Staff Study I CEBERG , p. 1. This was not a directive but a basis for planning the operation.

27. Ibid.

28. Ibid., pp. 2-4.

29. Fifth Fleet Opn Plan 1-45, 3 Jan 45, Annex E: Air Plan.

30. CINCPOA Opn Plan 14-44, 31 Dec 44, with changes to 20 Jul 45, P-3 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Opns in the Pacific Ocean Areas during Apr 45, 16 Oct 45, Plate I.

31. Rad CINCPOA to CG Tenth Army, 9 Oct 44, cited in Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 3-0-1 .

32. CINCPOA Opn Plan 14-44, Annex F: Command Relationships in Ryukyus Opn.

33. Fifth Fleet Opn Plan 1-45, pp.1, 5, Annex E: Air Plan.

34. CTF 51 Opn Plan A1-45, 16 Feb 45, p. 1.

35. Tenth Army Tent Opn Plan 1-45, 6 Jan 45, pp. 1-10

36. CTF 51 Actn Rpt, Pt. V, Table 1.

37. Ibid., Tables 2a-2g: III Amph Corps Actn Rpt Ryukyus, 1 Jul 45, p. 28 XXIV Corps Actn Rpt Ryukyus, p. 6 7th Div Actn Rpt Ryukyus, 30 Jul 45, Annex 1, App. B, pp. 1, 2 27th Div Actn Rpt Ryukyus, 19 Jul 45, p.10 96th Div Actn Rpt Ryukyus, Ch. IX, p. 21.

38. Tenth Army Actn Rpt, Ch. 3: Preliminary Planning.

39. CTF 51 Actn Rpt, V-C-1 Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 11-IV-3, 4.

40. Tenth Army Actn Rpt, Ch. 3: Preliminary Planning.

41. CTF 51 Opn Plan A1-45, p. 35.

42. Ibid., Annex A CTF 52 Actn Rpt Okinawa, 1 May 45, V-H-1.

43. CTF 52 Actn Rpt, V-G-1.

44. CTF 51 Opn Plan A1-45, Annex G: Ship's Gunfire Support Plan.

45. Ibid., App. III.

46. Tenth Army Tent Opn Plan 1-45, Annex 6: Naval Gunfire Support.

47. Ibid., CTF 51 Opn Plan A1-45, Annex G: Ship's Gunfire Support Plan.

48. CTF 51 Opn Plan A1-45, Annex H: Air Support Plan.

49. Tenth Army Tent Opn Plan 1-45, Annex 7: Air Support Plan.

50. Tenth Army Tent Opn Plan 1-45, Annex 5: Planning and Coordination of Artillery, Naval Gunfire and Air Support.

51. CTF 51 Opn Plan A1-45, Annex A, pp. 35, 38 77th Div Opn Plan I CEBERG , 18 Feb 45, Opn Plan I (Preferred Plan).

52. Tenth Army Tent Opn Plan 1-45, pp. 12-13 XXIV Corps FO 45, 8 Feb 45: Preferred Plan, pp. 2-6.

53. Tenth Army Estimate of the Situation I CEBERG , 3 Nov 44, pp. 6-11.

54. Tenth Army Tent Opn Plan 1-45, p. 12.

55. Interv 1st I&H Off with Gen Buckner, CG Tenth Army, 21 Mar 45, and with Gen Hodge, CG XXIV Corps, 12 Mar 45.

56. Tenth Army Tent Opn Plan 1-45, p. 13.

57. Ibid., pp. 13-14.

58. Ibid., Annex 18 Tenth Army Estimate of the Situation I CEBERG , pp. 9, 11. Plan Baker was the basis for the alternate plan.

59. Interv with Gen Buckner, CG, Tenth Army, 21 Mar 45, Command Ship El Dorado, off Leyte, and with Gen Hodge, CG, XXIV Corps, 12 Mar 45, Leyte interv with 2d Lt Alfred S. Yudkoff, Combat Propaganda Team en route to Okinawa, Mar 45.

60. Tentative Opn Plan, I CEBERG , Annex 5, "Intelligence Plan," pp. 1-15.

61. CINCPOA Opn Plan 14-44, Annex G: Tenth Army Tent Opn Plan 1-45, Annex 15: Military Government Tenth Army 0pnl Directive No. 7, 6 Jan 45 Tenth Army Tech Bull Mil Govt, 25 Feb 45, p. 5 Tenth Army Mil Govt Opn Rpt, 2 Aug 45.

62. Tentative Opn Plan, I CEBERG , "Military Government Plan," Annex 15, pp.1-5. Cf. App. 1, Table of Population.

63. CTF 51 Actn Rpt, I-5, 6, 7, and V-I-12 Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 11-IV-1,2.

64. CINCPOA Joint Staff Study, p. 29 Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 11-IV-1-12 Com Phibs Pac Op Ord A1-45.

65. CINCPOA Opn Plan 14-44, Annex D, pp. 1, 2, 20, 21.

66. Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 11-I V-3, 4.

67. Ibid., 5-0-4, 11-IV-8.

68. A CINCPOA U/F was a balanced assortment of ammunition based on Central Pacific experience. It included, among other types,100 rounds for the M1 Rifle, 1,500 for the .30-caliber machine gun. 600 for the .50-caliber machine gun, 275 for the 60-mm. and 81-mm. mortars, 250 for the 105-mm. howitzer: M2, and 150 for the 155-mm. howitzer. See Tenth Army Tent Opn Plan 1-45, Annex 13, App. B, Incl. for the complete description of CINCPOA U/F, 6 Dec 44.

69. CINCPOA Opn Plan 14-44, Annex D, pp. 4-11 Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 11-IV-11: inter 1st I&H Off with Brig Gen David H. Blakelock, ACofS G-4, Tenth Army, 22 May 45.

70. Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 11-III-8, 9 11-XI V-15 USAFPOA, Participation in the Okinawa Operation, I, 63, 240. See also below, pp. 256-57.

71. CINCPOA Opn Plan 14-44, Annex D, pp. 8-12: Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 11-IV-5.

72. CINCPAC-CINCPOA Opus in the POA during May 45, p. 46 CINCPOA Joint Staff Study, App. E CINCPOA Base Development Plan L EGUMINOUS , Serial 000221, to Feb 45 (L EGUMINOUS was the code name for the base development of Okinawa) Tenth Army Actn Rpt,11-IV-7.

73. CINCPOA Opn Plan 74-44, Annex D, p. 36, and Annex F, pp. 1, 2 Tenth Army Tent Opn Plan 1-45, Annex 12: Island Command Plan Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 5-0-8, 9 11-IV-6, 9, 10 11-XXVI-1.

74. Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 4-0-1-6, 11-III-8, 9.

75. XXIV Corps Actn Rpt, pp. 4, 6, 8, 18 7th Div Actn Rpt, pp. 4, 28, 29 96th Div Actn Rpt, Ch. V, pp. 1, 2 77th Div Actn Rpt, pp. 8, 19 27th Div Acm Rpt, pp. 18-21.

76. III Amph Corps Actn Rpt, PP- 23, 24.

77. Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 5-0-1, 2, 6.

78. CTF 51 Actn Rpt, V-I-14, 21 Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 5-0-1, 3. 6, 7.

79. Ibid. see also sections on loading in the Actn Rpts of XXIV Corps and the 7th, 27th, 77th, and 96th Divisions.

80. III Amph Corps Actn Rpt, pp. 3 1, 32.

81. CTF 51 Actn Rpt, II-7-13 XXIV Corps Actn Rpt. Ch. VI.


Contents

Allied [ edit | edit source ]

The last picture of General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr., right, the day before he was killed by Japanese artillery on 19 June 1945.

Overall Allied command authority for battle was Fifth Fleet (under Admiral Raymond A. Spruance). ⎖] Fifth Fleet was divided into several task forces and groups:

  • Fast Carrier Force (TF 58) under Vice AdmiralMarc A. Mitscher with 88 ships (including 11 fleet carriers, 6 light carriers, 7 battleships and 18 cruisers) ⎖] (TF 57) under Vice Admiral Sir Bernard Rawlings with 4 carriers, 2 battleships, 5 cruisers, 14 destroyers and fleet train ⎖]
  • Gunfire and Covering Support Group (TF 54) under Rear AdmiralMorton L. Deyo with 10 old battleships, 11 cruisers and 30 destroyers. ⎗]
  • Task Force 51 (TF 51 also Joint Expeditionary Force) under Vice Admiral Richmond K. Turner (who was holding position of Commander, Amphibious Forces, Pacific): ⎘]
    • Amphibious Support Force (TF 52) under Rear Admiral William H. P. Blandy⎘]
      • TG 52.1: 18 escort carriers with 450 aircraft ⎘]
      • Special Escort Carrier Group: 4 escort carriers with Marine Aircraft Group 31 and 33 ⎘]
      • Mine Flotilla (TG 52.2)
      • Underwater Demolition Flotilla (TG 52.11): ten 100-men UDT aboard a destroyer escort ⎘]
      • 170 fire support landing craft

      TF 56 was the largest force within TF 50 and was built around the 10th Army. The army had two corps under its command, III Amphibious Corps, consisting of 1st and 6th Marine Divisions, and XXIV Corps, consisting of the 7th and 96th Infantry Divisions. The 2nd Marine Division was an afloat reserve, and Tenth Army also controlled the 27th Infantry Division, earmarked as a garrison, and 77th Infantry Divisions. In all, the Army had over 102,000 Army (of these 38,000+ were non-divisional artillery, combat support and HQ troops, with another 9,000 service troops), ⎘] over 88,000 Marines and 18,000 Navy personnel (mostly Seabees and medical personnel). ⎙] At the start of Battle of Okinawa 10th Army had 182,821 men under its command. ⎙]

      Most of the air-to-air fighters and the small dive bombers and strike aircraft were U.S. Navy carrier-based airplanes. The U.S. Navy sustained greater casualties in this operation than in any other battle of the war. [ citation needed ]

      Although Allied land forces were entirely composed of U.S. units, the British Pacific Fleet (BPF known to the U.S. Navy as Task Force 57) provided about ¼ of Allied naval air power (450 planes). It comprised a force which included 50 warships of which 17 were aircraft carriers, but while the British armored flight decks meant that fewer planes could be carried in a single aircraft carrier, they were more resistant to kamikaze strikes. Although all the aircraft carriers were provided by Britain, the carrier group was a combined British Commonwealth fleet with British, Canadian, New Zealand and Australian ships and personnel. [ citation needed ] Their mission was to neutralize Japanese airfields in the Sakishima Islands and provide air cover against Japanese kamikaze attacks.

      Japanese [ edit | edit source ]

      Commanders of the Japanese Thirty-Second Army, February 1945.

      The Japanese land campaign (mainly defensive) was conducted by the 67,000-strong (77,000 according to some sources) regular 32nd Army and some 9,000 Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) troops at Oroku naval base (only a few hundred of whom had been trained and equipped for ground combat), supported by 39,000 drafted local Ryukyuan people (including 24,000 hastily drafted rear militia called Boeitai and 15,000 non-uniformed laborers). In addition, 1,500 middle school senior boys organized into front-line-service "Iron and Blood Volunteer Units", while 600 Himeyuri Students were organized into a nursing unit. ⎚]

      The 32nd Army initially consisted of the 9th, 24th, and 62nd Divisions, and the 44th Independent Mixed Brigade. The 9th Division was moved to Taiwan prior to the invasion, resulting in shuffling of Japanese defensive plans. Primary resistance was to be led in the south by Lt. General Mitsuru Ushijima, his chief of staff, Lieutenant General Isamu Chō and his chief of operations, Colonel Hiromichi Yahara. Yahara advocated a defensive strategy, whilst Chō advocated an offensive one. In the north, Colonel Takehido Udo was in command. The IJN troops were led by Rear Admiral Minoru Ota. They expected the Americans to land 6–10 divisions against the Japanese garrison of two and a half divisions. The staff calculated that superior quality and numbers of weapons gave each U.S. division five or six times the firepower of a Japanese division to this would be added the Americans' abundant naval and air firepower.

      The Japanese had used kamikaze tactics since the Battle of Leyte Gulf, but for the first time, they became a major part of the defense. Between the American landing on 1 April and 25 May, seven major kamikaze attacks were attempted, involving more than 1,500 planes.


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      America's Bloody Battle To Capture Okinawa From Japan Was A 'Steel Typhoon'

      The savage final land battle between “the eagle and the sun” was America’s longest and bloodiest campaign in the Pacific Theater.

      As one island or island group in the Pacific was fought over by American and Japanese forces, it became clear that Japan’s days as a combatant in World War II were numbered. One after another, these Imperial outposts fell to the Americans, who were clawing their way ever closer to the Japanese home islands.

      Just as Nazi Germany could only be defeated by the Allies seizing one mile after another on their way to Berlin, American planners had looked at the maps of the Pacific and plotted a roadmap across vast stretches of ocean, with the arrows all pointing at Tokyo.

      Beginning in August 1942, at Guadalcanal, the war in the Pacific had been a bloodbath as American forces wrestled one tropical island after another from a tenancious enemy for whom the word “surrender” was the equivalent of “dishonor.” After the Americans, near the end of 1943, had seized the Gilbert Islands of Tarawa, Makin, and Apamama, the Marshall Islands were next in the crosshairs. The islands of Kwajalein, Majuro, and Eniwetok were taken, opening the sea lanes for further battles in the Marianas, where the defenders of Saipan, Tinian, and Guam waited to be slaughtered.

      In the waters around the Philippines, huge naval and aerial battles erupted, and the Japanese were soundly defeated. Still the Japanese refused to give up, and so the American juggernaut rolled on, unchecked, crushing opposition at tiny places with such unfamiliar names as Peleliu and Angaur in the Palau Islands. More islands would continue to fall like dominoes—Biak, Noemfoor, Morotai—each one bringing the Americans and their devastating Boeing B-29 Superfortress heavy bombers closer to Japan.

      Although islands such as Mindanao and Formosa were on the American hit list, they would be bypassed, their garrisons cut off and allowed to wither in favor of other, more strategic islands. On October 3, 1944, American commanders in the Pacific received orders to attack and seize Japanese-held territory in the 620-mile-long Ryukyu chain of islands that extend southward from Kyushu, Japan’s southernmost home island. The main island in the Ryukyus, located almost midpoint in the chain, is named Okinawa.

      A new operation was conceived to invade Okinawa. Its code name: Iceberg.

      In a top-level command conference on December 12, 1944, Japanese military leaders in Tokyo pondered the next move of their American opponents on the vast ocean highway leading to the home islands: Formosa or Okinawa? Japanese martial doctrine asserted “decisive battle” to defeat their enemy, both on land and at sea, and Okinawa seemed their best bet to inflict both as 1945 was about to dawn.

      After hitting the invasion beaches at Hagushi Bay on Okinawa’s southwestern shore, American Army and Marine Corps troops fan out and push the defenders to the far ends of the island.

      For their part, the Allies coveted strategic Okinawa as the final staging point for the projected twofold invasion of the Japan homeland itself—Operation Downfall and its twin parts, Operations Olympic (the attack on Kyushu) and Coronet (the invasion of the main island of Honshu).

      Japanese Emperor Hirohito’s generals and admirals saw the coming island battle as their last chance to destroy the invading enemy before the home islands could be ground under the foe’s iron heel from the west. Thus, for both sides, Okinawa was to become the crucial battle of the entire war. It would also be the largest and costliest land battle of the Pacific campaign.

      Indeed, due to the later two American atomic bomb attacks that ended the war in sudden flashes, the fight for the island fortress was to be the last such ground combat between them.

      Okinawa is a rugged, mountainous island, a scant 350 nautical miles south of Japan’s sacred home islands. The Japanese landed on the island in 1609. When American Navy Commodore Matthew C. Perry landed there with his “black ships” in 1853 on his way to Japan, he called Okinawa “the very door of the Empire.” He recommended that the U.S. fleet establish a base there. Okinawa was annexed to Japan proper in 1879, and in 1945 it was included in the 47 Japanese administrative prefectures.

      The Japanese began to build up their defenses—artillery positions, bunkers, trenches, caves, tunnels, spider holes, and minefields—on the island in 1944. Imperial Lt. Gen. Mitsuru Ushijima—nicknamed the “Demon General”—was given command of the 877-square-mile “ocean island fortress” of Okinawa in August 1944. The island was defended by the 32nd Army, about 120,000 men strong. This initially encompassed the following units of the Imperial Japanese Army: the 9th, 24th, and 62nd Divisions, as well as the 44th Independent Brigade.

      However, the loss of the 9th Division to shore up defenses in the Philippines before the start of the Okinawa battle forced Ushijima to enlist many native home-guard units from Okinawa proper to bolster his ranks. In March 1945, American intelligence estimated 53,000-56,000 enemy troops stationed on the island shortly before the invasion, this number was upped to 65,000.

      In actuality, Ushijima had 77,000 Army troops at his command: 39,000 infantry combat troops and 38,000 “special troops” from artillery and other units. These included 20,000 Boeitai (drafted militia) native Okinawans, 15,000 nonuniformed laborers, 15,000 students in Iron and Blood Volunteer Units, and 600 more students in a nursing unit.

      Mitsuru Ushijima was one of Japan’s most experienced commanders. He was born on July 31, 1887, in Kagoshima City, Japan, and graduated from the Imperial Japanese Army Academy in 1908, and from the Army Staff College in 1916 during World War I.

      He took part in the Siberian Intervention and the Second Sino-Japanese War between the two world wars as well. A brigade and divisional commander between the world wars, Ushijima also was commandant of the elite Toyama Army Infantry School and in 1939 was promoted to the grade of lieutenant general.

      During the early part of World War II, Ushijima commanded troops in China and Burma. He again became a commandant—both of the NCO Academy and the Army Academy—during 1942-1944.

      Despite his rather gruff nickname, this Japanese commander was described as being a humane man who discouraged his senior officers from striking their subordinates and who disliked displays of anger because he considered it a base emotion. According to staff members, Ushijima was a calm and capable officer who evoked confidence among his soldiers.

      Commander of U.S. ground forces, Lt. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr. (right), surveys the battlefield in this photo taken just minutes before he was killed by an enemy shell, June 18, 1945.

      In contrast to Ushijima was his temperamental chief of staff, Army Lt. Gen. Isamu Cho, termed “Butcher” Cho by author David Bergamini. Cho served Japanese Prince Asaka in that same capacity during the brutal “Rape of Nanking” in China in 1937, during which thousands were slaughtered (See WWII Quarterly, Fall 2011).

      Isamu Cho was born on January 19, 1895, in Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan. He graduated from the Army Academy in 1916 and the Staff College in 1928. His early military service was in the radically politicized Kwantung Army in eastern China, and he also took part in several right-wing Army coups against civilian politicians in Japan.

      His later service included tours of duty in the puppet state of Manchukuo, on the frontier with the Soviet Union, on the island of Formosa, and in Indochina.

      During 1942-1944, Cho commanded the 10th Division. He was promoted to lieutenant general in 1944 before becoming chief of staff to Ushijima’s 32nd Army. In basic disagreement with his commander’s defensive shugettsu (bleeding) strategy, he felt that all-out aggressive action was the only way to defeat the Americans.

      A violent man who both smoked and drank too much, Cho was known for slapping subordinates. While ruthlessly seizing all civilian food supplies for his troops, Cho asserted, “The Army’s mission is to win, and it will not allow itself to be defeated by helping starving civilians.”

      Colonel Hiromichi Yahara was the talented operations officer of Ushijima’s 32nd Army. Born October 12, 1902, he joined the Army in 1923, teaching strategy at the Army War College. It was he who persuaded Ushijima to adopt the defensive jikyusen (war of attrition) strategy employed on Okinawa to bleed white the Americans, as opposed to General Cho’s preferred massed banzai charges. Yahara and Cho clashed often over tactics, but the general eventually relented and allowed Colonel Yahara to return to his former tactical doctrine of “retreat and defend.”

      After the war, Yahara’s U.S. Army interrogation officer noted, “Quiet and unassuming, yet possessed of a keen mind and a fine discernment, Colonel Yahara is, from all reports, an eminently capable officer, described by some POWs as ‘the brain’ of the 32nd Army.”

      In the spring of 1945, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, commander of Pacific Ocean Area Forces, had an immense arsenal at his disposal. Practically every plane, ship, submarine, soldier, and Marine in the Pacific was made available for Iceberg.


      This Pacific Battle Meant Japan's Days Were Numbered

      As one island or island group in the Pacific was fought over by American and Japanese forces, it became clear that Japan’s days as a combatant in World War II were numbered. One after another, these Imperial outposts fell to the Americans, who were clawing their way ever closer to the Japanese home islands.

      More From The National Interest:

      Just as Nazi Germany could only be defeated by the Allies seizing one mile after another on their way to Berlin, American planners had looked at the maps of the Pacific and plotted a roadmap across vast stretches of ocean, with the arrows all pointing at Tokyo.

      Beginning in August 1942, at Guadalcanal, the war in the Pacific had been a bloodbath as American forces wrestled one tropical island after another from a tenancious enemy for whom the word “surrender” was the equivalent of “dishonor.” After the Americans, near the end of 1943, had seized the Gilbert Islands of Tarawa, Makin, and Apamama, the Marshall Islands were next in the crosshairs. The islands of Kwajalein, Majuro, and Eniwetok were taken, opening the sea lanes for further battles in the Marianas, where the defenders of Saipan, Tinian, and Guam waited to be slaughtered.

      In the waters around the Philippines, huge naval and aerial battles erupted, and the Japanese were soundly defeated. Still the Japanese refused to give up, and so the American juggernaut rolled on, unchecked, crushing opposition at tiny places with such unfamiliar names as Peleliu and Angaur in the Palau Islands. More islands would continue to fall like dominoes—Biak, Noemfoor, Morotai—each one bringing the Americans and their devastating Boeing B-29 Superfortress heavy bombers closer to Japan.

      Although islands such as Mindanao and Formosa were on the American hit list, they would be bypassed, their garrisons cut off and allowed to wither in favor of other, more strategic islands. On October 3, 1944, American commanders in the Pacific received orders to attack and seize Japanese-held territory in the 620-mile-long Ryukyu chain of islands that extend southward from Kyushu, Japan’s southernmost home island. The main island in the Ryukyus, located almost midpoint in the chain, is named Okinawa.

      A new operation was conceived to invade Okinawa. Its code name: Iceberg.

      In a top-level command conference on December 12, 1944, Japanese military leaders in Tokyo pondered the next move of their American opponents on the vast ocean highway leading to the home islands: Formosa or Okinawa? Japanese martial doctrine asserted “decisive battle” to defeat their enemy, both on land and at sea, and Okinawa seemed their best bet to inflict both as 1945 was about to dawn.

      For their part, the Allies coveted strategic Okinawa as the final staging point for the projected twofold invasion of the Japan homeland itself—Operation Downfall and its twin parts, Operations Olympic (the attack on Kyushu) and Coronet (the invasion of the main island of Honshu).

      Japanese Emperor Hirohito’s generals and admirals saw the coming island battle as their last chance to destroy the invading enemy before the home islands could be ground under the foe’s iron heel from the west. Thus, for both sides, Okinawa was to become the crucial battle of the entire war. It would also be the largest and costliest land battle of the Pacific campaign.

      Indeed, due to the later two American atomic bomb attacks that ended the war in sudden flashes, the fight for the island fortress was to be the last such ground combat between them.

      Okinawa is a rugged, mountainous island, a scant 350 nautical miles south of Japan’s sacred home islands. The Japanese landed on the island in 1609. When American Navy Commodore Matthew C. Perry landed there with his “black ships” in 1853 on his way to Japan, he called Okinawa “the very door of the Empire.” He recommended that the U.S. fleet establish a base there. Okinawa was annexed to Japan proper in 1879, and in 1945 it was included in the 47 Japanese administrative prefectures.

      The Japanese began to build up their defenses—artillery positions, bunkers, trenches, caves, tunnels, spider holes, and minefields—on the island in 1944. Imperial Lt. Gen. Mitsuru Ushijima—nicknamed the “Demon General”—was given command of the 877-square-mile “ocean island fortress” of Okinawa in August 1944. The island was defended by the 32nd Army, about 120,000 men strong. This initially encompassed the following units of the Imperial Japanese Army: the 9th, 24th, and 62nd Divisions, as well as the 44th Independent Brigade.

      However, the loss of the 9th Division to shore up defenses in the Philippines before the start of the Okinawa battle forced Ushijima to enlist many native home-guard units from Okinawa proper to bolster his ranks. In March 1945, American intelligence estimated 53,000-56,000 enemy troops stationed on the island shortly before the invasion, this number was upped to 65,000.

      In actuality, Ushijima had 77,000 Army troops at his command: 39,000 infantry combat troops and 38,000 “special troops” from artillery and other units. These included 20,000 Boeitai (drafted militia) native Okinawans, 15,000 nonuniformed laborers, 15,000 students in Iron and Blood Volunteer Units, and 600 more students in a nursing unit.

      Mitsuru Ushijima was one of Japan’s most experienced commanders. He was born on July 31, 1887, in Kagoshima City, Japan, and graduated from the Imperial Japanese Army Academy in 1908, and from the Army Staff College in 1916 during World War I.

      He took part in the Siberian Intervention and the Second Sino-Japanese War between the two world wars as well. A brigade and divisional commander between the world wars, Ushijima also was commandant of the elite Toyama Army Infantry School and in 1939 was promoted to the grade of lieutenant general.

      During the early part of World War II, Ushijima commanded troops in China and Burma. He again became a commandant—both of the NCO Academy and the Army Academy—during 1942-1944.

      Despite his rather gruff nickname, this Japanese commander was described as being a humane man who discouraged his senior officers from striking their subordinates and who disliked displays of anger because he considered it a base emotion. According to staff members, Ushijima was a calm and capable officer who evoked confidence among his soldiers.

      In contrast to Ushijima was his temperamental chief of staff, Army Lt. Gen. Isamu Cho, termed “Butcher” Cho by author David Bergamini. Cho served Japanese Prince Asaka in that same capacity during the brutal “Rape of Nanking” in China in 1937, during which thousands were slaughtered (See WWII Quarterly, Fall 2011).

      Isamu Cho was born on January 19, 1895, in Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan. He graduated from the Army Academy in 1916 and the Staff College in 1928. His early military service was in the radically politicized Kwantung Army in eastern China, and he also took part in several right-wing Army coups against civilian politicians in Japan.

      His later service included tours of duty in the puppet state of Manchukuo, on the frontier with the Soviet Union, on the island of Formosa, and in Indochina.

      During 1942-1944, Cho commanded the 10th Division. He was promoted to lieutenant general in 1944 before becoming chief of staff to Ushijima’s 32nd Army. In basic disagreement with his commander’s defensive shugettsu (bleeding) strategy, he felt that all-out aggressive action was the only way to defeat the Americans.

      A violent man who both smoked and drank too much, Cho was known for slapping subordinates. While ruthlessly seizing all civilian food supplies for his troops, Cho asserted, “The Army’s mission is to win, and it will not allow itself to be defeated by helping starving civilians.”

      Colonel Hiromichi Yahara was the talented operations officer of Ushijima’s 32nd Army. Born October 12, 1902, he joined the Army in 1923, teaching strategy at the Army War College. It was he who persuaded Ushijima to adopt the defensive jikyusen (war of attrition) strategy employed on Okinawa to bleed white the Americans, as opposed to General Cho’s preferred massed banzai charges. Yahara and Cho clashed often over tactics, but the general eventually relented and allowed Colonel Yahara to return to his former tactical doctrine of “retreat and defend.”

      After the war, Yahara’s U.S. Army interrogation officer noted, “Quiet and unassuming, yet possessed of a keen mind and a fine discernment, Colonel Yahara is, from all reports, an eminently capable officer, described by some POWs as ‘the brain’ of the 32nd Army.”

      In the spring of 1945, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, commander of Pacific Ocean Area Forces, had an immense arsenal at his disposal. Practically every plane, ship, submarine, soldier, and Marine in the Pacific was made available for Iceberg.

      Beneath Nimitz was the huge joint Army-Navy Central Pacific Task Forces headed by U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, commander of the Fifth Fleet. There were numerous subordinate commands, including Task Force 50, a naval covering force, and special groups that were also under Spruance’s personal command. Task Force 51, a joint expeditionary force, was under the operational control of Vice Admiral Richmond K. Turner, commander of Amphibious Forces Pacific Fleet. Task Force 57 included British warships. Air operations were under the command of Vice Admiral G.D. Murray, and Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood was in charge of American submarine forces.

      In March the vast Allied naval armada commanded by Spruance approached the fortified sea bastion of Okinawa to launch Operation Iceberg—a battle later aptly described as “The Steel Typhoon.”

      The American plan was based on experience gained from previous assaults of enemy-held islands. As the Army’s official history notes, “Iceberg brought together an aggregate of military power—men, guns, ships, and planes—that had accumulated during more than three years of total war.”

      United States Army Lt. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr., a veteran fighter since 1942, would lead the ground troops (Task Force 56). Buckner’s amphibious assault force consisted of seven combat divisions and their supporting units—about 183,000 men—thousands more than those who invaded Normandy on June 6, 1944.

      Buckner, the only son of famed Confederate Civil War General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Sr. (later governor of Kentucky), was born July 18, 1886, in Kentucky. After attending the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), the younger Buckner graduated in 1908 from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point as an infantry officer. He then saw two duty tours in the colonial Philippine Islands and trained aviators during World War I.

      Postwar, Buckner was again a training officer, at West Point, the General Service School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and the Army War College. He was a tough taskmaster. Noted one parent, “Buckner forgets that cadets are born, not quarried!”

      He first fought the Japanese as commander of the Alaska Defense Command during 1942-1943 at the battles of Dutch Harbor, Kiska, and Attu in the Aleutians. In July 1944, Buckner assumed command of the new American Tenth Army in Hawaii. It comprised both Army and U.S. Marine units preparing for the invasion of Taiwan, an operation later cancelled, with Okinawa substituted for it instead. Probably no one was better suited to lead the American ground forces at Okinawa than the fearless Buckner.

      The opening act of Iceberg was performed in late March by the 77th Infantry Division, which hit the nearby Kerama and Keise Islands off Okinawa’s southwest coast. Then it was time for the main event.

      On March 28, hell began to break loose along the western center of Okinawa. Bombers and fighters streaked over the invasion beaches and enemy airfields, bunkers, gun positions, barracks, warehouses, ammunition dumps, and other installations, unleashing a furious bombardment that kept up night and day for a week. Warships added their firepower to the effort, plastering predetermined targets. Minesweepers went in to clear the sea lanes, then underwater demolition teams came in to destroy any obstacles.

      Millions of propaganda leaflets were dropped on the defenders, urging them not to resist the invasion and to surrender at the earliest possible moment. Okinawan civilians were also advised to seek shelter.

      The 2nd Marine Division made a diversionary feint at the Minatoga coast, the southeast tip of Okinawa, in hopes of diverting Japanese attention away from the main landing beaches at Hagushi.

      At 6 am on L-Day (Landing Day), Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945, the intensity of the naval fire against the Hagushi beachhead picked up until the noise was one continuous roar. In the hundreds of landing craft were the assault waves of the 1st and 6th Marine Divisions and the 7th and 96th Infantry Divisions of the U.S. Army the 27th Infantry Division was detailed as the floating reserve.

      Mortar- and rocket-firing boats cruised close to shore, adding their ordnance to the din. A soldier in one of the landing craft waiting to go in said the noise “was like the world was coming to an end.”

      Any Japanese soldier braving a look at the armada assembled offshore would have seen over 1,000 ships, including 10 battleships, nine cruisers, 23 destroyers, and 177 gunboats he, too, would have thought the world was coming to an end.

      In the pre-invasion bombardment, 45,000 rounds of 5-inch or larger shells were fired, plus 33,000 rockets and 22,500 mortar shells. As the official history states, “This was the heaviest concentration of naval gunfire ever to support a landing of troops.”

      William Manchester, a rifleman in the 29th Marine Regiment, 6th Marine Division, and later a prize-winning author, captured the moment in his searing wartime memoir, Goodbye, Darkness: “Now we descended the ropes into the amphtracs, which, fully loaded, began forming up in waves. Yellow cordite smoke blew across our bows, battleship guns were flashing, rockets hitting the shore sounded c-r-r-rack, like a monstrous lash, and we were, as infantrymen always are at this point in a landing, utterly helpless. Then, fully aligned, the amphtracs headed for the beach, tossing and churning like steeds in a cavalry charge.”

      Spruance’s transport ships began landing Buckner’s Tenth Army on the Hagushi beaches at around 8:30 am, just as his enemy expected.

      As the troops came ashore, they were startled to find the smoking, shell-pocked beaches virtually undefended, in sharp contrast to previous amphibious assaults. Astonishingly, more than 60,000 U.S. troops were ashore by the end of the first day, with two key objectives—Yontan and Kadena airfields—both taken at the loss of but 28 killed and 27 wounded.

      Of the unopposed landing of April 1, 1945, famed American Scripps Howard newspaper chain columnist and war correspondent Ernie Pyle wrote, “We were at Okinawa an hour and a half after H-hour without being shot at, and hadn’t even gotten our feet wet!”

      This relatively easy start of the campaign was deceptive, however, and before it was over a torturous 82 days later, it would go down in history as the bloodiest battle involving American forces since Gettysburg in 1863.

      Over the course of 30 years, the author had occasion to interview late Maryland U.S. Senator Daniel B. Brewster many times about his war experiences on Guam and Okinawa. Commissioned in 1943, he retired as a colonel and died at age 83 on August 19, 2007. Following are some of his reflections on the ferocity of combat he encountered as a lieutenant on Okinawa:

      “We were in the LSTs very early in the morning” of April 1, 1945. “On the second day, we attacked, deployed in a battalion column…. My job was to lead the point platoon…. We were attacking up a ravine…. The whole hillside above the rice paddy blazed with fire from scores of cleverly concealed caves in the almost vertical cliffs.”

      Seven Marines were soon badly wounded. One platoon was pinned down, and another ran into heavy machine-gun fire. “As it gained the crest of a ridge,” he said, “a Marine who ran toward the cave with a grenade was killed before he could throw it. The entire machine-gun team was destroyed before it could fire a shot…. This was my covering base of fire.”

      He said that his group was “hopelessly pinned down in the center of the ravine…. Six Marines were killed trying to reestablish communications.” By now, Lieutenant Brewster had been wounded twice. “We were pinned down and cut off for most of the day…. My walkie-talkie was hit, and my runner was killed. I sent two more runners back, and both were killed…. I managed to swim and crawl through an irrigation ditch to make contact between the two groups….

      “The Japanese attacked both of our little units twice, but we fought them off with grenades and rifle fire. We could see them 20 feet away…. We’d shoot them at almost point-blank range, and throw grenades—and they’d throw the grenades back at us…. We were fighting for our lives! It was the worst day of my life! I thought I’d be killed…. When the day was over, I’d walked in with some 70 men—and 17 walked out. Everybody else was dead or wounded.

      “My wounds were this scar you see on my forehead, so my face was all covered with blood. Another bullet grazed my heel. That was April 2, 1945.

      “We thought we were better—and that the Marines were better than the Army—and that we were all better than the Japanese! This was part of our training, to think that our unit was the best.

      “We took only a handful of prisoners…. The Japanese just didn’t surrender.… Our men weren’t much of a mind to take prisoners, and they [the Japanese] took no prisoners at all…. It was a battle to the death…. I’d already seen so many people killed—including my own men—that I had no feeling whatsoever for the Japanese. We really didn’t consider them human beings. They were the enemy…. There was very close—often hand-to-hand—combat, particularly on Okinawa….”

      The new Japanese strategy was both simple and deadly: allow enemy forces to land, draw them ever inland, and only then annihilate their soldiers en masse. Thus, fierce, daily battles after the first week raged around the ancient royal Shuri Castle—Japanese headquarters—and at the capital city of Naha that changed hands under fire 14 times.

      More ferocious fighting took place on Kakazu Ridge, the Rocky Crags, and atop Sugar Loaf Hill, where, wrote William Manchester, life expectancy was “about seven seconds.”

      Time magazine reported, “There were 50 Marines on top of Sugar Loaf Hill. They had been ordered to hold the position all night, at any cost. By dawn, 46 of them had been killed or wounded. Then, into the foxhole where the remaining four huddled, the Japs dropped a white phosphorous shell, burning three men to death. The last survivor crawled to an aid station.”

      The Japanese deployed their men well on Okinawa, firmly embedded in successive lines of vast complexes of above-ground pillboxes and bunkers, plus in dug-in mountainous caves and deep underground shelters.

      Fanatical Japanese defenders—and many civilians who had been told by the Japanese that American GIs would rape and kill them and their children—either fought to their deaths or leaped over the edge of the island’s sheer cliffs to their doom, some clutching their children to them.

      Other civilians became tragic victims. Eighty-five frightened student nurses had taken shelter from the fighting in one of the numerous caves that dot the island. Marines approaching the area heard strange voices, sounding much like Japanese, coming from the cave. An interpreter with the Marines called for those in the cave to come out. When they didn’t, the Marines shot a stream of fire from a flamethrower into the cave’s mouth, killing all the nurses. To this day, the cave is a sacred place known as the “Cave of the Virgins.”

      As William Manchester later wrote, “My father [a wounded World War I Marine] had warned me that war is grisly beyond imagining. Now I believed him.”

      General Buckner landed his troops on the western side of the island’s narrow waist and advanced for the first five days almost without any enemy contact. Major contact with the Japanese was finally made on the 6th, as the Americans ran into the first enemy defense line along Kakazu Ridge.

      General Buckner’s own “blowtorch and corkscrew” frontal assault tactics finally prevailed over the dogged Japanese resistance. The former referred to flamethrowing U.S. Army Sherman tanks that fried the enemy defenders alive in their emplacements, while the latter referred to blasting them out of their pillboxes and caves with satchel charges full of explosives.

      Buckner rejected Marine pleas for a second, follow-up amphibious landing behind the enemy’s inland lines, choosing instead to slug it out inch by inch, yard by yard. For this, American General Douglas MacArthur accused rival theater commander Admiral Chester Nimitz of “sacrificing thousands of American soldiers,”one of many controversies still raging over the epic fight today.

      Meanwhile, offshore an equally fierce battle raged at sea and in the air again, just as the wily Japanese had planned.

      The Imperial Japanese Navy’s Combined Fleet launched 16 ships in Operation Ten-Go led by the world’s greatest battleship, the mammoth Yamato (“National Spirit”), on a grim suicide mission with just enough fuel to steam one way and attack the U.S. invasion force standing off Okinawa. Intercepted by U.S. aircraft carriers 210 miles north of Okinawa, however, the mighty Japanese battlewagon was sunk on April 6, 1945, in just under two hours by bombs and torpedoes. The other ships in the Japanese flotilla were lost as well.

      Overhead, from April 6-May 25, the Japanese Navy’s Special Attack Corps launched seven mighty waves of more than 1,500 kamikaze (Divine Wind) suicide planes to crash into and hopefully sink the 1,200 American warships off Okinawa. At least 1,100 of the suicide planes were lost in action. The “Divine Wind” reference harkened back to the 13th century, when a storm destroyed a Chinese invasion fleet bound for Japan.

      Japanese Rear Admiral Minoru Ota commanded 10,000 sailors of the Okinawa Naval Base Force’s Surface Escort Unit, and also local naval aviation units on Oroku Peninsula. His seven sea-raiding battalions—formed to man suicide boats to crash into U.S. warships—were mostly converted to naval infantry units fighting in the land battle instead.

      Ashore, Buckner’s next advance was launched on April 11 and smashed through the Shuri Castle line, broken on both enemy flanks, forcing the Japanese to fall back to their third and last defensive line on the island’s southern tip. Two tough Japanese banzai counterattacks, ordered by General Cho, were crushed by massive American ground fire on April 12 and again during May 3-5.

      On the morning of April 18, 1945, war correspondent Ernie Pyle was riding in a jeep with four others on Ie Shima, off the main island of Okinawa. Coming under enemy machine-gun fire, they leaped into a nearby ditch. Raising his head, Pyle was hit in the temple by a bullet and killed.

      Buried still wearing his helmet, the 44-year-old Pyle was later exhumed from his wartime grave and moved to Hawaii’s famous National Memorial Cemetery (the “Punchbowl”). A stone memorial stands on Ia Shima where he was killed: “At this spot, the 77th Infantry lost a buddy, Ernie Pyle, 18 April 1945.”

      President Harry S. Truman said of Pyle, “More than any other man, he became the spokesman of the ordinary American-in-arms doing so many extraordinary things.” Pyle was one of the few civilians during the war to be awarded the Purple Heart medal as well.

      On May 9 word came through that Germany had surrendered all the years of bloodletting in Europe were over. The news brought little comfort to the Americans half a world away on Okinawa, however. While they may have hoped the Japanese would follow suit and wave the white flag, experience had taught them that the Japanese rarely, if ever, surrendered.

      General Buckner launched his third and final push on June 18, 1945, the very day he was slain. On June 18, exactly one month shy of his 59th birthday, Buckner ventured far forward against advice to observe the 8th Marine Regiment of the 1st Marine Division in combat.

      Standing between two boulders, he turned to leave when a Japanese 47mm artillery shell exploded overhead. Author John Toland said, “A fragment shattered a mound of coral and, freakishly, one jagged piece of coral flew up and embedded itself in the general’s chest. He died 10 minutes later.”

      Succeeded briefly by Marine General Roy Geiger, Buckner was the highest ranking American killed in the Pacific Theater and in 1954 was posthumously promoted to full general by a special act of Congress.

      William Manchester recalled a horrific scene in a cemetery when he heard a shell screaming his way and ducked into the doorway of a tomb: “I wasn’t actually safe there, but I had more protection than Izzy Levy or Rip Thorne, who were cooking breakfast over hot boxes. The eight-incher beat the thousand-to-one odds. It landed in the exact center of the courtyard. Rip’s body absorbed most of the shock. It disintegrated, and his flesh, blood, brains, and intestines, encompassed me….

      “My back and left side were pierced by chunks of shrapnel and fragments of Rip’s bones. I also suffered brain injury. Apparently I rose, staggered out of the courtyard, and collapsed. For four hours I was left for dead.” A corpsman found Manchester and evacuated him to a hospital on Saipan.

      The fighting in the ancient graveyards led Geiger’s successor, the fiery U.S. Army General Joseph W. Stilwell, to comment, “The poor Okinawans have had even their ancestors blown to pieces!”

      It was just as bad for the Marines. Twenty-one-year-old Marine Lieutenant Daniel Brewster never forgot the fight for Okinawa. He recalled that in May, “I called over my platoon sergeant.… As I was talking to him, a mortar shell landed on his shoulder and blew his head off, and put fragments through both my legs, knocking me down. We dug in as fast as we could…. We were shelled all night long and we took several direct hits and heavy casualties….

      “The flamethrower tanks were the very best weapon we had, where the cannon barrel was used for napalm instead of the usual 75mm shell…. The tank would lead the way.

      “In the whole battle … I never took a prisoner. My unit never took a prisoner, and we killed hundreds of Japanese…. When we saw them, we would shoot them wounded or not, they would still throw grenades.”

      Brewster was standing with two others when “suddenly, there was a blinding explosion, and a shell went off between the two men. One was severely wounded, and the other was blown to pieces…. I felt something sting my face.”

      Brewster’s unit proceeded into the city of Naha. He said, “A day or so later, I rejoined the unit for the attack on Oruku Peninsula and the Admiral’s Cave where Ushijima and Ota had committed suicide. We took that hill, cave, and little peninsula in the same type of hand-to-hand fighting…. We were in the line day after day…. When [the Japanese] got out in the open, we slaughtered them.”

      One day, exhausted, Brewster was taking a nap in a hole when, suddenly, “I felt somebody stumble in on top of me. I pushed him up while he was stabbing me with a knife. My runner killed him.

      “The civilians took a terrible beating…. We would wait until anybody coming our way was literally on top of us before we’d open fire with everything we had, and in the morning, discover that we had slaughtered civilians…. Japanese soldiers herded civilians down in front of us…. Women and children, all dead—and mixed in with them were Japanese regulars.”

      Another U.S. infantryman noted, “There was some return fire from a few of the houses, but the others were probably occupied by civilians. We didn’t care. It was a terrible thing not to distinguish between the enemy and women and children.”

      When he received the American commander’s demand to surrender on June 17, 1945, General Ushijima answered, “As a Samurai, it is not consonant with my honor to entertain such a proposal,” a dignified rejection that was typical of the man.

      Five days later, the beaten Japanese commanders in their final headquarters cave—Hill 89 near Mabuni—could hear the approaching explosions of American hand grenades. The end had come. Before dawn, after drinking considerable amounts of alcohol, Generals Ushijima and Cho knelt together on a quilt, with Cho lowering his head. A captain standing by with a samurai sword brought it down on Cho’s exposed neck, but the blow didn’t cut deeply enough. Sergeant Kyushu Fujita grabbed the weapon and cut the general’s spinal column with a surer stroke. His final message asserted, “I depart without regret, shame, or obligations.”

      General Ushijima sliced open his own abdomen, and then his spinal cord was also severed by a sword stroke. Seven of his staff members shot themselves as well. Today, the former Japanese Navy underground headquarters is open to the public. Traces of mass suicide—hand grenade blast scars on the walls—are visible. The farewell message left by Ota on a wall also remains clearly visible.

      Before his demise, General Ushijima wisely refused to allow Colonel Yahara to kill himself: “If you die, there will be no one left who knows the truth about the Battle of Okinawa! Bear the temporary shame, but endure it! This is an order of your Army commander.”

      The colonel obeyed and escaped from the death cave disguised as an English teacher but was eventually captured. In 1973, Yahara published his firsthand account of the fighting, The Battle for Okinawa. He died on May 7, 1981, at age 78.

      Rather than surrender, other Japanese soldiers, knowing the chance of victory was nil, killed themselves with hand grenades rather than submit to the shame. As the official U.S. Army history said, “When cornered or injured, many of [the Japanese] would hold grenades against their stomachs and blow themselves to pieces—a kind of a poor man’s hari-kari. During the last days of the battle many bodies were found with the abdomen and right hand blown away—the telltale evidence of self-destruction.”

      The island finally fell to the Americans on June 22, 1945. The 82-day Battle of Okinawa resulted in the deaths of 110,000 Japanese soldiers, while the surprising number of 10,775 were captured. The U.S. Army, Navy, and Marines lost a total of 12,520 men killed, 38,916 wounded, and 33,096 noncombat injuries—including the highest rate of combat fatigue of any campaign in the war. The U.S. Navy suffered greater casualties in this one campaign than in any other battle of the war: 368 ships and landing craft damaged and 28 sunk, while 458 planes were lost to enemy action and another 310 were lost due to mechanical failure or operational accidents.

      Smashed between the meat grinder of two determined and ruthless foes, the native Okinawan population suffered somewhere between 42,000 and 150,000 dead from a pre-battle population of 450,000 (today the population is 1.4 million), making Okinawa the costliest battle in the Pacific for both combatants and civilians. Actual casualty, rape, and suicide figures are still debated.

      British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill called the fight for Okinawa “among the most intense and famous battles in military history.” The Army’s official history said, “The military value of Okinawa exceeded all hope. It was sufficiently large to mount great numbers of troops it provided numerous airfield sites close to the enemy’s homeland and it furnished fleet anchorage helping the Navy to keep in action at Japan’s doors. As soon as the fighting ended, American forces on Okinawa set themselves to preparing for the battles on the main islands of Japan, their thoughts sober as they remembered the bitter bloodshed behind and also envisioned an even more desperate struggle to come.”

      William Manchester was forever haunted by the wanton death and destruction visited upon the civilian population. He called it “the callousness with which we destroyed a people who had never harmed us.”

      As a gesture of goodwill, Okinawa was returned to Japan by the United States in 1972. By agreement with Japan, the United States still keeps a sizable military presence on the island—but not always to the civilian population’s liking.

      In 1995, the prefecture dedicated the Cornerstone of Peace Memorial at Mabuni, scene of the final fighting, to be inscribed with the names of those who died, 240,734, by 2008.

      This article by laine Taylor first appeared in the Warfare History Network on January 12, 2019.


      Armoured Aircraft Carriers in World War II

      The British Pacific Fleet was born in a maelstrom of political compromise.

      But expediency also played its part.

      The Royal Navy had repeatedly turned down pleas for support from US chief of naval operations Admiral Earnst King during 1942 and 1943. It argued that its few fleet carriers were already too thinly stretched across the Arctic, North Atlantic, Mediterranean and Indian Ocean theaters.

      But, with the Italian fleet surrendered and the remaining units of the German navy neutralised, Britain was forced to turn her attention towards her responsibilities in the Far East.

      The side-show that had been called Admiral Sommerville’s Eastern Fleet could no longer be justified, and increasing numbers of effective capital ships and carriers were now slowly being committed.

      As early as January 4, 1944, Admiral Sir Percy Noble, head of the British Admiralty Delegation in Washington, began advocating the deployment of a British Pacific Fleet.

      Noble went on to tell Admiral King the Royal Navy did not need its carriers for Operation Overlord, the invasion at Normandy. He also pointed out that the targets available in South Asia were barely worth the effort. He proposed the deployment of two armoured carriers supported by the heavily updated battlecruiser HMS Renown out of the Eastern Fleet to operate under US control in the Pacific.

      The idea met a frosty reception. It was rejected outright.

      Vice-Adrmiral Philip Vian, who would command the British Pacific Fleet's carriers, outlined the political wrangle in his autobiography, Action This Day:

      Vice-Admiral Philip Louis Vian

      Vice-Admiral Philip Louis Vian

      Difficulties soon arose. Mr Churchill noticed that the American Commander-in-Chief, Admiral Ernest King, was by no means enthusiastic over British participation. Admiral King felt that any of our forces available after the campaign in Europe had been provided for, would be best employed against Japanese oil supplies in the islands bordering the Indian Ocean. If they joined the Pacific war, they should operate in General MacArthur’s South-West Area.

      Admiral King’s attitude has sometimes been ascribed to anglo-phobia. This is not altogether true. Certainly the Admiral’s loyalty was given whole-heartedly to the Navy he served. It was a feeling which led him to look upon even the United States Army and Air Force as little better than doubtful allies. It was perhaps engendered in some degree by jealousy of the Royal Navy, which had for so long dominated the oceans of the world. Now, when the United States Navy had outstripped our own in size and importance, and was poised to deliver, unaided, decisive defeat on the Japanese Fleet, it was understandable that King should want no one else to share his laurels.

      Admiral King pushed hard for the British carriers to step up their attacks against South Asia and the Bay of Bengal in an attempt to divert Japanese aircraft out of the central Pacific. But he also quietly canvassed the idea of assigning a British fleet to the command of General MacArthur. MacArthur, however, was to prove no less obstinate than himself.

      But the concept of a British Pacific Fleet operating under USN command continued to grow. Even Winston Churchill, with his “Germany First” mantra, was forced to acknowledge this shift in the naval war.

      On September 28, 1944, Churchill would report to parliament:

      “The new phase of the war against Japan will command all our resources from the moment the German War is ended. We owe it to Australia and New Zealand to help them remove for ever the Japanese menace to their homelands, and as they have helped us on every front in the fight against Germany we will not be behindhand in giving them effective aid.
      “We have offered the fine modern British fleet and asked that it should be employed in the main operations against Japan. For a year past our modern battleships have been undergoing modification and tropicalisation to meet wartime changes in technical apparatus. The scale of our effort will be limited only by the available shipping.”


      Notable Casualties In The Battle Of Okinawa

      For Japan, the battle of Okinawa was the first time they encountered an enemy at home during World War II. Most Japanese, soldiers and natives alike, believed that the Allied forces took no prisoners. They lived with the thought of capture as certain death and by a code that honored death over defeat or humiliation.

      Because of this, the suicide rate for Japanese soldiers was extremely high. Outside of kamikaze pilots, many chose to take their own lives by ritual suicide called seppuku, which required they stab themselves with a sword through the gut, rather than surrender. Even Gen. Ushijima and his Chief of Staff, Gen. Cho committed suicide on June 22, 1945 — the last day of a war that they couldn't win.

      Interestingly, Allied Gen. Buckner himself died after being hit by shell splinters just four days earlier.

      The U.S. suffered another high-profile casualty: journalist Ernie Pyle. While he accompanied the 77th infantry division, Japanese machine gunners killed Pyle, a man whose war-time coverage made him a beloved correspondent.

      The Battle of Okinawa saw the deaths of up to 100,000 Japanese soldiers and 14,000 Allied casualties, with 65,000 more wounded. However, the civilians of Okinawa still bore the highest death toll of the battle with over 300,000 deaths.


      World War II Database


      ww2dbase On 25 Mar 1945, American forces landed on the islands of Kerama Retto, 15 miles west of Okinawa, Japan. On 31 Mar, the island of Kamiyama was occupied as the American naval vessels bombarded Okinawa relentlessly.

      ww2dbase Landing at Okinawa
      1 Apr-21 Jun 1945

      ww2dbase Operation Iceberg struck the island of Okinawa in the Ryukyu Islands on the date of the Easter holiday in 1945. Okinawa was a relatively large island, 60 miles long and eight miles wide it was the largest of the Ryukyu Archipelago situated between Taiwan and Japan. Immediately to its west was the small island of Ie Shima. Before the landing operation started, Allied bombers softened Okinawa of its defenses and morale, which resulted in the destruction of over 80% of the city of Naha and the sinking of over 65 boats. Admiral Richmond Turner, veteran commander of amphibious forces, delivered landing forces, with ships of the British Pacific Fleet among his vanguard. The amphibious vehicles landed the 96th and 7th Army Divisions on the left flank, and the 1st and 6th Marine Divisions were delivered on the right. Once on land, the combined forces of Chester Nimitz's Marines and Douglas MacArthur's soldiers, the first time their men fought side-by-side, were placed under the command of Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr. The landing was not resisted, much to the surprise of the landers. There were no coastal guns, no mortars, and no machine guns it was a scene very much unlike the previous landings elsewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Deep in the island, however, the 110,000-strong Japanese garrison led by Lieutenant General Mitsuru Ushijima, augmented by 20,000 volunteer Okinawan militiamen, awaited. The only reason they held back was because they were waiting under orders for the completion of Operation Ten'ichigo (see below).

      ww2dbase The Americans' immediate objectives were the Yontan and Kadena airfields, and they were very quickly taken. Yontan was so quickly taken that a Japanese pilot actually made a successful landing, got out of his fighter, and ordered loudly for a full tank of gas before he realized the men around his plane were Americans he was gunned down before he could reach for his pistol. The two airfields were declared secure by 20 Apr. In northern Okinawa, the Motobu Peninsula was entrenched by two battalions under the command of Takehiko Udo, who inflicted 1,304 casualties among the American invaders before letting his positions become overrun by Americans. Southern Okinawa proved to be much more difficult. Near the Machinato Line, 300,000 people, Japanese, American, and Okinawan civilians, concentrated in a small area. When Marine veteran and historian William Manchester arrived at the scene, he thought that it was "what Verdun and Passchendaele must have looked like", comparing the great battle scene to the grotesque trench warfare battlegrounds of WW1. The complex of Sugar Loaf Hill, Horseshoe Ridge, and Half Moon Hill was one of the most fiercely contested regions in the entire battle. With each hill covering the other two, the Japanese had connected the three hills with hidden galleries and set up interlocking fields of fire by machine gun and various types of artillery. At Half Moon Hill, veteran Eugene Sledge recalled:

      Everywhere lay Japanese corpses killed in the heavy fighting. Infantry equipment of every type, U.S. and Japanese, was scattered about. helmets, rifles, BARs, packs, cartridge belts, canteens, shoes, ammo boxes, shell cases, machine-gun ammo belts, all were strewn around us up to and all over Half Moon.

      ww2dbase A small distance in the east was Shuri Hill, which provided machine gun fire to the entire complex as well. It was a death trap for the American Marines who were given the task to assault it, but the Marines took on the task dutifully. Horrendous casualties were incurred on both sides, with at times entire assaults cut down to a handful of survivors. Sugar Loaf Hill had changed hands 14 times before it was finally taken by the Americans.

      ww2dbase At noon on 7 May, the Americans celebrated Victory in Europe Day with a "terrific, thundering artillery and naval gunfire barrage that went swishing, roaring, and rumbling toward the Japanese."

      ww2dbase Many front line fighters at Okinawa recalled a gross infestation of maggots, fueled by the dead bodies strewn around the battlegrounds. "If a [U.S.] Marine slipped and slid down the back slope of the muddy ridge," Sledge recalled, referring to a slop where many Japanese dead lay buried in shallow graves,

      he was apt to reach the bottom vomiting. I saw more than one man lose his footing and slip and slide all the way to the bottom only to stand up horror-stricken as he watched in disbelief while fat maggots tumbled out of his muddy dungaree pockets, cartridge belt, legging lacings, and the like.

      ww2dbase Throughout the entire Japanese campaign at Okinawa, Ushijima knew there was little chance of winning, especially after Operation Ten'ichigo failed. His only hope was to discourage the Americans with the kind of high casualty rate he had delivered against the invaders so that they would back away from invading the Japanese home islands.

      ww2dbase Following the retreat from Shuri, the Japanese defenders formed a final defensive line along the ridges between Kunishi Ridge, Yuza-Dake, and Yaeju-Dake, from west to east. The Japanese dug in to caves and gun emplacements on the hard coral surface, setting up excellent gun positions on high ground, covering the northern approaches that were open with rice paddies and grasslands. On 12 Jun, the 3rd Battalion of the 7th Marine Regiment of the US 1st Marine Division attacked Kunishi Ridge before dawn, capturing a portion of the hill but quickly became isolated as the Japanese fought from beneath them only under the cover of tanks could supplies be delivered to the mountain top and the wounded be evacuated. On 14 Jun, 1st Marine Regiment of the US 1st Marine Division and the men of the 1st Marine Battalion attacked Kunishi Ridge and Yuza-Dake, respectively. The hills were not secured for several days, with terrible losses on both sides.

      ww2dbase The island fell on 21 Jun. Some of the Japanese troops that survived past the American declaration of Okinawa being secure fought on ferociously. During "mop-up" operations, 8,975 Japanese were killed. During the fighting, General Buckner was killed by a ricocheting artillery shell while he toured the front lines, making him the highest ranking American to die during the war. Alongside Buckner, 7,613 Americans fell, and 31,807 were wounded in action. Non-combat American casualties reached 26,221, largely attributed to the heavy concentration of Japanese artillery at Okinawa and the fanatical fighting spirit of the Okinawan defenders. On the Japanese side, 107,539 dead were counted by the Americans, though the actual deaths were almost certainly higher as at least 20,000 were sealed in caves either by American action or Japanese suicide. Only 7,455 Japanese surrendered. Approximately 42,000 Okinawan civilians were killed during the battle.

      ww2dbase Operation Ten'ichigo (Ten-Go)
      6-7 Apr 1945

      ww2dbase The Operation Ten'ichigo, also known as Operation Ten-Go, was a massive coordinated naval suicide attack led by the battleship Yamato, under the command of Vice Admiral Seiichi Ito. The fleet reached Kabuto Jima on 28 Mar 1945, then sailed for Ube. Ito strongly objected this mission, claiming three major weaknesses with the planning. First, a total absence of air cover at this phase of war when American aircraft controlled air meant the ship would be detected right away secondly, a mission by ten ships would be overwhelmed by the sixty enemy ships before they could do any damage finally, Ito argued the daylight timing for the battle was terrible (he preferred a night-time engagement). Nevertheless, Ito was overruled by his superiors, and he accepted his duty as the task force's commander. He radioed an inspiring message to all of his men that noted "[t]he fate of the homeland rests on this operation."

      ww2dbase The operation's ultimate goal was to sail the ten ships into the American fleet and do as much damage with their guns as possible, especially with the massive 18-inch guns of the Yamato. If they were not able to do so, they were to beach themselves at various beaches of Okinawa and become shore batteries, and the sailors would then disembark to become infantry. Finally, if that failed, she then was to draw as much fire from American aircraft as possible so that the concurrent Operation Kikusui would confront less resistance from the air.

      ww2dbase Although this was meant to be a one-way cruise, contrary to popular belief the ships actually had enough fuel to make a return trip. This fact, however, was concealed from the officers and sailors, therefore the theory of the ships having only enough fuel for a single trip is commonly accepted.

      ww2dbase Japanese Navy veteran Kazuhiro Fukumoto recalled:

      On March 25 of Showa 20 [1945], we got an order from the headquarters of the combined fleet to prepare for attack. I totally believed the Yamato was unsinkable. I figured people could get struck by bullets and die, but it never crossed my mind that I might die because of the Yamato sinking. I also thought that the chances of being struck by a bullet were pretty slim, so I had a fairly carefree feeling. I didn't know the specifics of the mission, so I didn't feel particularly burdened.

      ww2dbase Battleship Yamato, light cruiser Yahagi, and eight destroyers left the ports at Ube on 6 Apr 1945 at 0600 and stopped for ten hours at Tokuyama to receive fuel and unload non-essentials. As the crew gathered the night before the attack for a final feast, Fukumoto realized the mission must be a desperate one as he witnessed officers showing atypical kindness to the crewmen, helping with cleanup and joined in conversation with them. Almost immediately out of port, they were spotted by American submarines and reconnaissance planes. When day broke on 7 Apr, American commander Marc Mitscher ordered his carriers to launch nearly 300 aircraft to attack the Japanese task force. Admiral Raymond Spruance ordered six battleships to sail behind the air attack in case any Japanese ships would get through the fighter screen. The Japanese detected the American aerial force at 1130, and the battle started at about 1220. Anti-aircraft guns were the Japanese's only air defense aside from the minuscule force of five land-based fighters that turned out to help, which was swiped aside within moments. American aircraft sank Yahagi immediately, and hit Yamato with bombs and torpedoes. Yamato was seriously damaged within 15 minutes of the battle, recalled Naoyoshi Ishida who served aboard the Yamato as an officer at the time.

      The machine guns were firing everywhere. It was like a net of bullets, so it wasn't so easy for the planes to bomb us. I wanted to throw a stone at them, they were so close. I could see the American pilots with my naked eyes. It's true what they say in books-that the American pilots were also very brave. They would come out of the clouds and fire at us. I was just dodging the bullets as they ricocheted off the metal. People were falling on the deck, hit by the shrapnel.

      ww2dbase Within and hour, three destroyers were sunk, but the Japanese fleet sailed on. After a painful slow listing to port, the Yamato finally capsized at 1420 on 7 Apr, two hours after receiving the first hit. A moment later, she exploded twice as the shells from the primary and secondary magazines fell off their shelves and detonated. The loss of the ship took the lives of 2,488 men only 279 survived. "I thought we wouldn't be able to win, but I didn't expect us to go down so easily", said Ishida. The price paid by the Americans for taking down the world's largest battleship was merely ten aircraft and twelve lives.

      ww2dbase "Bravery? Recklessness?" Asked Ensign Mitsuru Yoshida regarding the decision to launch this mission he was a radar officer who survived the sinking.

      ww2dbase Operation Kikusui
      6 Apr-22 Jun 1945

      ww2dbase Tokko ("special attack") aircraft caused much frustration and destruction for the Allies. Five American carriers were damaged (three had to return to the US for repairs) the British fared better as their carriers, the prime tokko target, were armored and not easily penetrated. The Okinawa campaign saw a concerted special attack mission, Operation Kikusui ("Floating Chrysanthemum"), calling for 860 naval and 605 army aircraft to strike the Allied forces between 6 Apr and 21 Jun. The warrior Kusunoki Masashige conducted a brave but futile defense in the Battle of Minatogawa in 1336, and in the final moment before defeat, he committed ritual suicide rather than allowing himself to become captured he had since become a legend in Japanese history, and his emblem, a floating chrysanthemum, became the inspiration for the 1945 defense of Japan. Operation Kikusui, launched in 10 waves between Apr and Jun 1945, involved about 800 Navy and 600 Army aircraft. Special attacks caused over 30 American vessels of various sizes sunk and 368 damaged, killing over 5,000 sailors with as many wounded during the campaign for Okinawa. It was the most substantial loss the US Navy had ever seen in the Pacific War, and it demoralized the sailors. However, there was only so much suicide aircraft could do. Like previous campaigns, successful tokko missions only allowed Japan to become victims of her own success as the number of pilots and aircraft dwindled.

      ww2dbase Conclusion of the Campaign

      ww2dbase The loss of the battleship Yamato, which bore Japan's mystical name, was so shameful that Prime Minister Kuniaki Koiso resigned on the same day as the ship's sinking.

      ww2dbase For its strategic location, the occupying American forces remained in Okinawa after the war. It remained under American control until 15 May 1972 when it was finally returned to Japan, though the American military bases there are active until this day.

      ww2dbase Sources:
      Rikihei Inoguchi and Tadashi Nakajima, The Divine Wind
      William Manchester, Goodbye, Darkness
      Yoshida Mitsuru, Requiem for Battleship Yamato
      Eugene Sledge, With the Old Breed
      Dan van der Vat, The Pacific Campaign
      Steven Zaloga, Kamikaze

      Last Major Update: Sep 2007

      Okinawa Campaign Interactive Map

      Okinawa Campaign Timeline

      23 Mar 1945 USS Yorktown (Essex-class) began softening-up strikes against Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands and continued through 28 Mar 1945.
      26 Mar 1945 A small scale special attack by aircraft was conducted by the Japanese off Okinawa, Japan, but a large scale tokko campaign was to come in the future.
      26 Mar 1945 USS New Mexico shelled Japanese positions on Okinawa, Japan.
      26 Mar 1945 USS Portland commenced destructive bombardment of Okinawa from the west, all in advance of the landings to take place one week later. Portland would continue this assignment for nearly a month.
      26 Mar 1945 USS Kimberly was struck by a special attack D3A aircraft 22 men were lost.
      27 Mar 1945 USS Ancon departed the Mariana Islands for the invasion of Okinawa with Transport Squadron 15.
      27 Mar 1945 USS Anzio and USS Tabberer arrived on station off Okinawa and remained for 52 days covering the landings there.
      30 Mar 1945 USS Yorktown (Essex-class) pounded Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands and its surrounding islets in softening-up strikes.
      30 Mar 1945 British warships including the battleship HMS King George V, under the command of Vice Admiral Sir Bernard Rawlings, and a carrier force led by HMS Illustrious, commanded by Rear Admiral Sir Philip Vian, participated in an attack on the Sakashima Islands, 180 miles south-west of Okinawa, Japan.
      31 Mar 1945 USS Yorktown (Essex-class) pounded Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands and its surrounding islets in softening-up strikes.
      1 Apr 1945 US Tenth Army invaded Okinawa, Japan. Japanese aircraft launched a massive counter-attack, damaging USS West Virginia, USS Tennessee, and HMS Indefatigable, among others.
      1 Apr 1945 USS Yorktown (Essex-class) began several days of direct support missions for the troops landing on Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands. About every three days, USS Yorktown (Essex-class) retired east for refueling, rearming, and re-provisioning.
      1 Apr 1945 USS Kimberly departed Okinawa, Japan.
      3 Apr 1945 USS Ancon was ordered to move further away from Okinawa, Japan due to dangers from Japanese aircraft.
      6 Apr 1945 Operation Kikusui No. 1 was launched off Okinawa, Japan, participated by about 230 Japanese Navy and 125 Japanese Army special attack and escorting aircraft.
      7 Apr 1945 Kosaku Ariga, commanding officer of battleship Yamato, went down with the ship as the battleship sank.
      7 Apr 1945 While enroute to attack the US fleets off Okinawa, Japan, battleship Yamato was attacked by US carrier aircraft resulting in her loss, along with several of her escorts.
      7 Apr 1945 Destroyer Yukikaze rescued survivors of battleship Yamato and destroyer Isokaze she suffered minor damage from American air attacks during the action (3 were killed, 15 were wounded).
      7 Apr 1945 When Yamato was discovered was steaming south, Air Group 9 from USS Yorktown (Essex-class) claimed several torpedo hits on Yamato herself just before the battleship exploded and sank. USS Yorktown (Essex-class)?s planes also had at least three 500-pound bombs hit light cruiser Yahagi before that ship also sank. Yorktown then resumed her strikes on Okinawa.
      8 Apr 1945 Two destroyers were damaged by Japanese special attack boats and aircraft off Okinawa, Japan.
      9 Apr 1945 The Japanese Navy scored a notable success against the Americans when a large Shinyo Motor Boat packed with explosives charged out of Naha harbour, Okinawa, Japan to ram the USS Charles J. Badger putting the destroyer out of the war with both engines utterly unserviceable. A landing-craft was sunk on the same night and, from the fringes of the destroyer screen, came a report of swimmers armed with hand-grenades, although whether these were, in fact, Fukuryu ("Crawling Dragons") suicide-frogmen still remained uncertain.
      11 Apr 1945 USS Missouri, USS Enterprise, USS Essex, and 6 destroyers were damaged by Japanese special attack aircraft off Okinawa, Japan.
      11 Apr 1945 USS Ancon set sail for Saipan, Mariana Islands.
      12 Apr 1945 Operation Kikusui No. 2 was launched off Okinawa, Japan, participated by about 125 Japanese Navy and 60 Japanese Army special attack and escorting aircraft. Destroyer USS Mannert L. Abele was sunk by a Japanese Ohka piloted bomb off Okinawa she was the first to be struck by an Ohka bomb and was the only to be sunk by one.
      14 Apr 1945 Japanese special attack aircraft damaged a battleship and two destroyers off Okinawa, Japan.
      15 Apr 1945 Operation Kikusui No. 3 was launched off Okinawa, Japan, participated by about 120 Japanese Navy and 45 Japanese Army special attack and escorting aircraft.
      16 Apr 1945 US Army troops landed on Ie Shima off Okinawa, Japan. Meanwhile, Japanese special attack aircraft sank a destroyer and damaged a number of other warships.
      19 Apr 1945 A major attack was launched against Japanese positions on Okinawa, Japan.
      21 Apr 1945 Americans declared Ie Shima, Japan secure.
      22 Apr 1945 Japanese special attack aircraft sank a minesweeper and damaged a number of other ships off Okinawa, Japan.
      27 Apr 1945 Operation Kikusui No. 4 was launched off Okinawa, Japan, participated by about 65 Japanese Navy and 50 Japanese Army special attack and escorting aircraft.
      28 Apr 1945 Japanese special attack aircraft damaged 5 destroyers, 2 hospital ships, and victory ship Bozeman Victory off Okinawa, Japan. None of the four G4M bombers carrying Ohka special attack aircraft hit their targets.
      3 May 1945 Operation Kikusui No. 5 was launched off Okinawa, Japan, participated by about 75 Japanese Navy and 50 Japanese Army special attack and escorting aircraft they sank one destroyer and damaged four other ships. On the same day, a special attack boat damaged a transport also off Okinawa.
      4 May 1945 Operation Iceberg II was commenced by the Allies to support the campaign on Okinawa, Japan. Meanwhile, Japanese special attack aircraft sank two destroyers and damaged a number of other warships off the island, including British carrier HMS Formidable and American minesweeper USS Shea (hit by 1 of 7 Ohka special attack aircraft launched on this day).
      4 May 1945 USS Luce was attacked by two Japanese special attack aircraft off Okinawa, Japan. The first was shot down near the port side of the ship, and the blast of the explosion caused power failures throughout the ship. The second aircraft crashed into the aft portion of the destroyer, knocking out the port engine, jamming the rudder, and flooding engineering spaces. The commanding officer gave the order to abandon ship at 0814 hours. Of the 312 on board, 126 were killed in the attack and the sinking.
      6 May 1945 USS South Dakota was damaged by a magazine explosion off Okinawa, Japan. Nearby, the British Royal Navy Aircraft Carrier HMS Formidable was hit by Kamikaze planes but her steel decking (most US Aircraft Carriers had wooden decking) saved her. Further south, the British Pacific Fleer shelled Japanese positions on the Sakishima Islands of the Ryukyu Islands, 550 miles south of Japan.
      8 May 1945 Every gun present at Okinawa, Japan, including naval guns, fired one round at noon at the Japanese in celebration of V-E Day.
      8 May 1945 USS Portland returned to her station off Okinawa for shore bombardments.
      9 May 1945 Japanese special attack aircraft damaged two destroyer escorts off Okinawa, Japan and two British carriers (Victorious and Formidable) off Taiwan. On land, the Americans still engaged in vicious close quarter fighting on Okinawa. The Japanese defenders resorted to turning themselves into human bombs, loading themselves with explosives to charge US positions prisoners were a rarity as the US Marines fired on anything that moved.
      10 May 1945 Operation Kikusui No. 6 was launched off Okinawa, Japan, participated by about 70 Japanese Navy and 80 Japanese Army special attack and escorting aircraft.
      11 May 1945 A Japanese Navy Ohka combat sortie by 4 G4M bombers off Okinawa, Japan heavily damaged American destroyer USS Hugh W. Hadley. On the island, US troops launched an offensive toward Naha.
      11 May 1945 USS New Mexico sank eight Shinyo special attack boats off Okinawa, Japan.
      12 May 1945 US Army troops landed on Torishima, Ryukyu Islands, Japan.
      12 May 1945 Japanese special attack aircraft damaged USS New Mexico off Okinawa, Japan 54 were killed, 119 were wounded.
      12 May 1945 USS Wichita was damaged by friendly fire off Okinawa, Japan.
      17 May 1945 In Japan, after a vicious 48-hour battle the Okinawan capital, Naha, was captured by the Americans.
      18 May 1945 Destroyer USS Longshaw, stuck on a reef, was sunk by Japanese shore battery at Okinawa, Japan.
      19 May 1945 US 77th Division withdrew near the Ishimmi Ridge at Okinawa, Japan after suffering heavy casualties.
      20 May 1945 American troops reached Shuri Castle, Okinawa, Japan.
      21 May 1945 Japanese traditional and special attacks damaged five Allied ships off Okinawa, Japan.
      22 May 1945 Torrential rain reduced mobility of US armoured forces on Okinawa, Japan and gave the Japanese defenders a temporary respite.
      24 May 1945 Operation Kikusui No. 7 was launched off Okinawa, Japan, participated by about 65 Japanese Navy and 100 Japanese Army special attack and escorting aircraft. On the island, seven Type 97 bombers attempted to crash-land at an American-controlled airfield to deliver suicide commandos during Operation Gi several aircraft were shot down, but those who successfully reached the airfield delivered 69 commandos who destroyed 9 aircraft and damaged 29 others and set the fuel dump aflame all commandos were killed or committed suicide.
      25 May 1945 Japanese special attack aircraft sank destroyer USS Bates and damaged several other ships off Okinawa, Japan. Part of these attacks included an Ohka combat sortie by 11 G4M bombers, most of which were turned back due to poor weather while the few that launched their Ohka weapons reported no hits.
      27 May 1945 Operation Kikusui No. 8 was launched off Okinawa, Japan, participated by about 60 Japanese Navy and 50 Japanese Army special attack and escorting aircraft together with manned torpedoes, these special attacks damaged 5 destroyers and 6 other ships in the area.
      27 May 1945 Corporal Yukio Araki died as a special attack pilot. His Ki-51 aircraft might be one of the two aircraft which crashed into destroyer USS Braine off Okinawa, Japan.
      28 May 1945 Japanese air offensive sank destroyer USS Drexler and damaged several other ships off Okinawa, Japan.
      28 May 1945 USS Yorktown (Essex-class) resumed air support missions over Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands.
      29 May 1945 US 10th Army captured Shuri Castle at Okinawa, Japan. Off the coast, Japanese special attack aircraft damaged 2 destroyers.
      30 May 1945 US P-47 aircraft from Ie Shima attacked Japanese shipping and the lighthouse at Amami Oshima, which was part of the Ryukyu Islands north of Okinawa, Japan.
      3 Jun 1945 Operation Kikusui No. 9 was launched off Okinawa, Japan, participated by about 20 Japanese Navy and 30 Japanese Army special attack and escorting aircraft.
      3 Jun 1945 USS Yorktown (Essex-class) struck airfields on the Japanese home islands.
      3 Jun 1945 USS Ancon departed Okinawa, Japan for the Philippine Islands.
      4 Jun 1945 USS Yorktown (Essex-class) returned to Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands for support missions before steaming off to evade a typhoon.
      6 Jun 1945 USS Yorktown (Essex-class) launched raids on Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands.
      7 Jun 1945 USS Yorktown (Essex-class) launched raids on Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands.
      8 Jun 1945 USS Yorktown (Essex-class) launched raids on airfields on Kyushu, Japan.
      9 Jun 1945 USS Yorktown (Essex-class) launched raids on Minami Daito Shima, Ryukyu Islands.
      10 Jun 1945 In the East China Sea about 40 miles northwest of Okinawa, Japan at 0815 hours, a Japanese D3A dive bomber dropped out of the clouds above destroyer USS William D. Porter. Making a sharp turn, the destroyer avoided impact and the plane hit the sea close by. Somehow the dive bomber ended up under Porter's keel and exploded, lifting the ship out of the water. She lost all power and the steam lines fractured. A number of fires broke out and after three hours it was realised that the ship could not be saved. The abandon ship order was given and the destroyer rolled over and sank. Fortune was with the ship though as no fatalities were recorded.
      10 Jun 1945 USS Yorktown (Essex-class) launched raids on Minami Daito Shima, Ryukyu Islands and began retiring toward Leyte, Philippines.
      12 Jun 1945 With Japanese troops hopelessly surrounded in the Oroku sector of Okinawa, Japan requested a ceasefire to allow them to commit suicide rather than surrender. Hundreds blew themselves up with grenades or jumped off cliffs.
      13 Jun 1945 Japanese Admiral Ota Minoru committed ritual suicide for failing to defend Okinawa, Japan.
      19 Jun 1945 US Army captured Okinawa, Japan.
      21 Jun 1945 Operation Kikusui No. 10 was launched off Okinawa, Japan, participated by about 30 Japanese Navy and 15 Japanese Army special attack and escorting aircraft.
      22 Jun 1945 The Americans secured Okinawa, Japan. Three months of savage fighting had cost the Japanese 129,700 military and 42,000 civilian dead. Just over 10,000 were taken prisoner. The Japanese had also lost 7,800 aircraft and six capital ships. The Americans had lost 12,520 dead, 36,600 wounded, 763 aircraft destroyed and 40 warships sunk.
      25 Jun 1945 US Marines landed on Kumejima, Okinawa, Japan.
      2 Jul 1945 Okinawa, Japan was declared secure.
      29 Jul 1945 A special attack Japanese biplane trainer aircraft crashed into destroyer USS Callaghan off Okinawa, Japan Callaghan was to be the last American warship to be sunk by special attack aircraft in the war.

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      Naval battle [ edit | edit source ]

      BPF was assigned the task of neutralising the Japanese airfields, which worked very well indeed, in the Sakishima Islands, which it did from March 26th until April 10th. On April 10th, its attention was shifted to airfields on northern Formosa. The force withdrew to San Pedro Bay on April 23rd. Although by then a commonplace event for the U.S. Navy, this was the longest time that a Royal Naval fleet of that size had been maintained at sea.

      From May 4th 1945, BPF returned to action, subduing the airfields as before, this time with naval bombardment as well as aircraft. A number of kamikaze attacks caused significant damage but only a brief interruption to the force's work. They finally withdrew to Guam and Manus Island on May 25th.

      Perhaps the most dramatic action of this campaign occurred far from Okinawa itself: the attempted kamikaze attack by a strike force of Japanese surface vessels led by the battleship Yamato. The Yamato and other vessels in Operation Ten-Go were intercepted shortly after leaving Japanese home waters. Under attack from more than 300 carrier aircraft, the world's largest battleship sank on April 7th 1945, long before she could reach Okinawa, where the ship would have created havoc for Allied forces.


      American Experience

      In December 1941 Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i, causing the U.S. to enter World War II. Over two years would pass until the Allies reached their great turning point in the Pacific War: the defeat of the Japanese at Guadalcanal in February 1943. The Japanese were placed on the defensive as the U.S. began taking strategic bases across the central and southwest Pacific. By the summer of 1944, the Americans were nearing Japan. The final year of the war would bring bloodshed and hardship to the U.S. soldiers, sailors and Marines who liberated territory closer and closer to Japan's home island, and take a tremendous toll on Japanese soldiers and civilians as well.

      U.S. Marines dig in on the beach at Saipan. Defense Dept. photo (Marine Corps.) June 1944. Library of Congress.

      June-July 1944: Saipan
      On June 15, 1944, American forces invaded the island of Saipan, part of the Mariana Islands in the Central Pacific. Securing Saipan was of critical importance to the U.S. its airfields would put the Army Air Force's new B-29 bombers within striking distance of the main Japanese islands. For the Japanese, keeping Saipan was crucial in stopping the American advance.

      In what became known as the Battle of the Philippine Sea, American and Japanese carriers fought a two-day sea and air battle off the coast of Saipan. It would go down as one of the biggest carrier battles of World War II. Japan lost three aircraft carriers and more than 300 planes. On Saipan, the Marines and army faced an enemy well dug-in and prepared to fight to the death. Of the 30,000 Japanese troops who defended Saipan, less than 1,000 remained alive when the battle ended July 9.

      However, it was the civilian casualties that stunned American troops. As the battle came to an end, large numbers of civilians committed suicide, terrified of being captured by American forces. Japanese government officials exploited the suicides at Saipan to their advantage, calling those who took their lives heroes and encouraging the entire Japanese population to follow suit if the time came. Death before surrender had been the national policy for Japan's servicemen now it became the national policy for civilians as well.

      October-December 1944: Leyte
      In October 1944, General Douglas MacArthur and his Sixth Army returned to the Phillipines by way of the island of Leyte. More than two and a half years had passed since MacArthur had reluctantly abandoned his troops in the Philippines, retreating to Australia, where he had vowed, "I shall return." After he waded ashore MacArthur delivered his famous "I have returned" speech. Offshore the U.S. Navy and the Imperial Navy waged the largest naval battle in the history of warfare. The Battle of Leyte Gulf destroyed the Japanese Navy as an effective fighting force. It was during this battle that U.S. sailors first witnessed the kamikaze attacks that would become commonplace five months later in the battle of Okinawa. As many as sixty-five thousand Japanese soldiers died defending Leyte. More than 15,000 Americans were killed or wounded.

      January-March 1945: Philippines Campaign
      In early January 1945, the biggest army the U.S. would commit to one battle in the Pacific invaded the main Filippino island of Luzon, defended by 287,000 Japanese. According to historian Donald Miller, this was "the largest army the Americans faced in the Pacific." When organized battle ended after two months, Manila was one of the most thoroughly devastated cities of World War II. The Japanese Navy had blown up Manila's harbor and destroyed the old city. MacArthur's Sixth Army suffered 38,000 individuals killed or wounded. Despite defeat, stalwart Japanese would continue to fight in the jungles and mountains of the Philippines until the very end of the war. Japan lost a total of 400,000 lives in the Philippines.

      February-March 1945: Iwo Jima
      On February 19, 1945, American forces invaded the tiny island of Iwo Jima to secure airstrips for American B-29 flyers. They encountered 21,000 well-entrenched Japanese defenders. It would take the Marines over a month of fighting over an inhospitable terrain to dig out and overtake the Japanese. When the battle ended on March 26, 1945, as many as 7,000 Americans were dead and 24,000 wounded. Almost 6,000 of those killed were U.S. Marines. Only 1,038 of the 21,000 Japanese defenders were captured alive. To the B-29 crewmen who would subsequently use Iwo Jima as a safe haven during their 3,000-mile bombing runs to Japan, gratitude to the Marines would be immeasurable.

      April-June 1945: Okinawa
      By April 1945, the war in Europe had ended with Allied victory, but the Pacific theater was yet to see its deadliest days. The final land battle of World War II took place a mere 350 miles from the main islands of Japan. The U.S. planned that Okinawa, once captured, would serve as a staging area for an invasion of the main islands.

      Okinawa saw 82 days of brutal warfare in horrific conditions at places like Kakazu Ridge, Sugar Loaf Hill and Kunishi Ridge. U.S. Marines and Army troops fought a bloody battle of attrition against an enemy concealed in intricate underground defense systems. When the island was finally secured, more than 12,000 U.S. soldiers and Navy personnel were dead or missing and more than 36,000 were wounded. Seventy thousand soldiers of the Japanese 32nd Army died on Okinawa, joined by as many as 100,000 to 150,000 civilians trapped in the crossfire.

      The War's Final Weeks
      The bloodbath at Okinawa was a major factor in President Harry Truman's decision-making about an invasion of the Japanese home islands. Would the Japanese never capitulate? How many more Americans would die before the war could end? The events of summer 1945 — including the use of two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- brought the war to a close before another land battle could take place.

      The Japanese surrender on August 14 spared the American soldiers who survived Okinawa — and hundreds of thousands of others — from having to invade Japan and face high odds of becoming casualties. It also spared untold numbers of Japanese soldiers and civilians.


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