Battle of Okinawa SSG Bobby GordonSLC 17C Class 001-18 SFC Randy BercherFebruary 1, 2018Battle of Okinawa The Battle of Okinawa, also known as Operation Iceberg, took place in April – June of 1945 on the island of Okinawa. Okinawa is a subtropical, heavily wooded upland island located 400 miles southwest of mainland Japan in the Ryukyu Archipelago. The Battle of Okinawa was the largest amphibious invasion campaign and last major battle fought in the Pacific Campaign during World War II. Fighting forces from the American side included 287,000 U.S troops from the United States Pacific Fifth Fleet commanded by Admiral Chester W. Nimitz and the U.
S. Tenth Army and Marine Divisions commanded by General Simon Bolivar Buckner. Fighting forces from the Japanese side were 130,000 soldiers from the Imperial Japanese Thirty-Second Army commanded by General Mitsuru Ushijima. More people died during the battles that took place on the island of Okinawa than all those killed during the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Americans suffered over 72,000 causalities, of which 19,000 were killed or missing.
More than 107,000 Japanese and Okinawan troops were killed or missing, and more than 100,000 Okinawan civilians perished during this devastating battle. By the time American troops landed on Okinawa, Allied and Soviet troops fighting on the European front had liberated much of Nazi-occupied Europe and were weeks away from forcing Germany’s unconditional surrender. On the Pacific front, American forces were still painstakingly conquering Japan’s Home Islands as part of the island hopping campaign. After obliterating Japanese troops in the brutal Battle of Iwo Jima, they set their sights on the isolated island of Okinawa, their last stop before reaching mainland Japan. Okinawa’s 466 square miles of dense foliage, hills and trees made it the perfect location for the Japanese High Command’s last stand to protect their motherland. American forces knew if Okinawa fell, so would Japan.
Americans forces knew that securing Okinawa’s airbases was critical to launching a successful Japanese invasion. The United States assembled a great fleet including forty aircraft carriers, 18 battle ships, 200 destroyers, and 180,000 men. The force all together consisted of over 1,300 US ships. The Japanese were outnumbered by 60,000 men and did not have the massive fleet as they used to have prior to the Battle of Midway. Commander in Chief of the United States Pacific Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz decided on the strategy to ‘soften’ up the beaches and then proceed to quickly invade and take over the airfields necessary for the victory of Okinawa and the invasion of Japan. He would also use the fleet to cut sea lanes limiting Japan’s mobility of forces. The Japanese strategy on the other hand, was to consolidate and fortify their position south of the Island and conserve as much of their force as possible so that by the time the weakened Americans arrived, they would easily be defeated.
General Ushijima made the decision not to meet the American troops at their landing. He knew that too many troops and supplies would have perished had they meet the Americans at the coast. Instead he instructed his troops to set up a triangle of defensive positions known as the Shuri Defense Line. The Japanese took full advantage of the rugged, extremely hilly Southern Okinawa terrain to organize defensive areas and strong points. The Japanese planned to use the island as a form of defense. They fortified slopes of hills and carved out an elaborate network of intermingling caves and underground tunnels.
On April 1, 1945, the Fifth Fleet launched the largest bombardment in military hisotry to soften up the Japanese defenses in support of the troop’s invasion landing. Operation Iceberg commenced with the objectives split between the Army and Marines Corps divisions. The Marines were ordered to take the northern three-quarters of the island, while the Army divisions would take the more strategically significant southern quarter that held the island’s capital and the majority of the airfields. Soldiers and Brass were surprised that they were able to land ashore almost unopposed, unlike the beach landings that happened in Normandy on D-Day. There was minimal enemy resistance at the Motobu Peninsula for the northbound Marines as they advanced inland to meet the Army in the south. During this period of sporadic enemy contact, U.S forces used this time to attempt to ease the concerns of the Okinawan citizens who were indoctrinated by the Japanese into the believing that the Americans would torture and murder them if they were taken alive.
By nightfall the Americans had accomplished two major mission objectives by successfully securing the Kadena and Yontan airfields from Japanese control without any resistance. For the next few day, encounters with enemy troops were here and there. As the Americans advanced throughout the island with surprisingly ease, a realization emerged that the main Japanese efforts had gone into deeply fortifying the southern portion of the island. On the morning of April 6, the Army finally reached Kakazu Ridge, the outer defensive Shuri Line where they were met with overwhelming fire power and intense enemy contact. Thereafter, enemy resistance became more violent and better organized.
The first line of defense work well for the Japanese, stopping thousands of Americans troops in their tracks, while inflicting heavy causalities. After eighteen days of exhausting fighting the Americans finally broke through the outer ring of the Shuri Line and took control of Kakaza Ridge. Realizing that Americans troops had become more successful against the defensive tactics of the Shuri Line. General Ushijima grew tired of taking punishment and decided to go on the offensive by attack the advancing Americans. His decision to launch a reckless counteroffensive proved to be a major tactical failure that resulted in 3,000 casualties and more ground gained by American troops.
The defensive line on Hacksaw Ridge also utilized every natural and manmade advantage that it could, incorporating them into an ingenious defensive strategy. Hacksaw Ridge consisted of a horseshoe of hills with anchoring positions on Sugar Loaf Hill, Horseshoe Ridge, and Conical Hill. The Japanese had connected those three hills with hidden galleries and set up interlocking fields of fire by emplacing machine guns nests and artillery pieces. Due to the other two hills creating a death trap for any troops advancing up the any of the other three hills. It took Marines a week of back-and-forth fighting to finally capture and fully occupying Sugar Loaf Hill on 18 May.
By 22 May, Marines successful broke the main Shuri Line using intelligent preparation and utilizing clever offensive. Some of the tactics included the use of high explosives, flame throwers and pouring scalding hot oil down the elaborate tunnel system in order to expel the Japanese from their hiding places. The defeat of the main Shuri Line forced General Ushijima to withdraw from his command post located underneath the Shuri Castle and move his remaining 30,000 troops to the southern tip of Okinawa, where they were prepared to make their last stand.
With the Japanese defense forces isolating themselves for their final defense on the southern tip of the island, the Marines made the final amphibious assault of the war by cutting behind the Japanese lines and clearing out the Japanese defensive positions with grenades and flame throwers. During this push to the southern tip of the island, the Marines and soldiers did what they could to tend to the Okinawan people. On 1 June, the final contact for the Battle of Okinawa began. Japanese General Ushijima, faced with dwindling supplies, equipment, and mounting casualties, ordered his troops to defend and hold the line “to the death. By June 17, 1945 American forces penetrated and held all major positions along the Japanese Gushichan-Itoman defensive line. With organized Japanese resistance disintegrating, us troops tries to coax petrified civilians and soldiers from their caves.
They don’t always succeed. Many choose to commit suicide, while others decide they’ll go down in a final Bandai attack. To encourage more Japanese troops to surrender, General Buckner initiated propaganda warfare and dropped millions of leaflets declaring the war all but lost for Japan. General Buckner was killed in action on June 18, when a small flat trajectory Japanese artillery projectile struck a coral rock outcropping next to the general and fragments entered his chest. About 7,000 Japanese soldiers surrendered, but many chose death by suicide as a last resort to avoid the ultimate ‘shame of capture. Though General Ushijima made his troops aware of his respect for the honor they had given the Emperor by delaying the Americans Forces for nearly 3 months, it was not enough. On 22 June, when faced with the reality that further fighting was futile.
General Ushijima and his command team committed seppuku, ritual suicide, self-disembowelment followed by swift decapitation effectively ending the Battle of Okinawa. Winning the Battle of Okinawa put Allied forces within striking distance of Japan. What the Americans realized is that the closer they’ve been getting to the Japanese home islands, the bloodier the battles have been. The harder the Japanese have been defending and no one had the stomach to attempt such a daring invasion. President Harry S. Truman chose to drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.
Japan didn’t give in immediately, so Truman ordered the bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. Finally, Japan had had enough. The terrible destruction of two atomic bombs persuades Japan to surrender on August 15, 1945.marking the end of World War II.?ReferencesSSgt Frame, R, Jr. (2011) Okinawa: The Final Great Battle of World War II; An American triumph through bloodshed, Volume 96, Issue 11, Retrieved January 23, 2018 from https://www.
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