Battle of Okinawa SSG Bobby GordonSLC 17C Class 001-18 SFC Randy BercherFebruary 1, 2018 Battle of Okinawa TheBattle of Okinawa, also known as Operation Iceberg, took place in April – Juneof 1945 on the island of Okinawa. Okinawa is a subtropical, heavily woodedupland island located 400 miles southwest of mainland Japan in the Ryukyu Archipelago.The Battle of Okinawa was the largest amphibious invasion campaign and lastmajor battle fought in the Pacific Campaign during World War II. Fightingforces from the American side included 287,000 U.S troops from the UnitedStates Pacific Fifth Fleet commanded by Admiral Chester W. Nimitz and the U.S.
TenthArmy and Marine Divisions commanded by GeneralSimon Bolivar Buckner. Fighting forces from the Japanese side were 130,000soldiers from the Imperial Japanese Thirty-Second Army commandedby General Mitsuru Ushijima. More peopledied during the battles that took place on the island of Okinawa than all thosekilled during the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Americans sufferedover 72,000 causalities, of which 19,000 were killed or missing. More than 107,000 Japanese and Okinawan troopswere killed or missing, and more than 100,000 Okinawan civilians perished duringthis devastating battle. By the time American troops landed on Okinawa,Allied and Soviet troops fighting on the European front had liberated much ofNazi-occupied Europe and were weeks away from forcing Germany’s unconditionalsurrender.
On the Pacific front,American forces were still painstakingly conquering Japan’s Home Islands aspart of the island hopping campaign. After obliterating Japanesetroops in the brutal Battle of Iwo Jima, they set their sights on the isolatedisland of Okinawa, their last stop before reaching mainland Japan. Okinawa’s 466 square milesof dense foliage, hills and trees made it the perfect location for the JapaneseHigh Command’s last stand to protect their motherland. American forces knew ifOkinawa fell, so would Japan. Americans forces knew that securing Okinawa’sairbases was critical to launching a successful Japanese invasion. TheUnited States assembled a great fleet including forty aircraft carriers, 18battle ships, 200 destroyers, and 180,000 men. The force all together consistedof over 1,300 US ships.
The Japanese were outnumbered by 60,000 men and did nothave 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. Nimitzdecided on the strategy to ‘soften’ up the beaches and then proceed to quicklyinvade and take over the airfields necessary for the victory of Okinawa and theinvasion of Japan. He would also use the fleet to cut sea lanes limitingJapan’s mobility of forces. The Japanese strategy on the other hand, was toconsolidate and fortify their position south of the Island and conserve as muchof their force as possible so that by the time the weakened Americans arrived,they would easily be defeated. General Ushijima made the decisionnot to meet the American troops at their landing. He knew that too many troopsand 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 ShuriDefense Line. The Japanese took full advantageof the rugged, extremely hilly Southern Okinawa terrain to organize defensive areas and strong points. The Japanese plannedto use the island as a form of defense.
Theyfortified slopes of hills and carved out an elaborate network ofintermingling caves and underground tunnels. On April 1, 1945, the Fifth Fleet launched the largest bombardment inmilitary hisotry to soften up the Japanese defenses in support of the troop’sinvasion landing. Operation Iceberg commenced with the objectives split between the Army and MarinesCorps divisions.
The Marines were ordered to take the northern three-quartersof the island, while the Army divisions would take the more strategicallysignificant southern quarter that held the island’s capital and the majority ofthe airfields. Soldiers and Brass were surprised that they were able toland ashore almost unopposed, unlike the beach landings that happened inNormandy on D-Day. There was minimal enemy resistance at the Motobu Peninsulafor the northbound Marines as they advanced inland to meet the Army in thesouth. During this period of sporadic enemy contact, U.S forces used this timeto attempt to ease the concerns of the Okinawan citizens who were indoctrinatedby the Japanese into the believing that the Americans would torture and murderthem if they were taken alive.
By nightfall the Americans had accomplished two majormission objectives by successfully securing the Kadena and Yontan airfieldsfrom Japanese control without any resistance. For thenext few day, encounters with enemy troops were here and there. As theAmericans advanced throughout the island with surprisingly ease, a realization emergedthat the main Japanese efforts had gone into deeply fortifying the southernportion of the island. On the morning of April6, the Army finally reached Kakazu Ridge, the outer defensive Shuri Line wherethey were met with overwhelming fire power and intense enemy contact.
Thereafter, enemy resistance became more violent and better organized. Thefirst line of defense work well for the Japanese, stopping thousands ofAmericans troops in their tracks, while inflicting heavy causalities. Aftereighteen days of exhausting fighting the Americans finally broke through theouter ring of the Shuri Line and took control of Kakaza Ridge.
Realizing thatAmericans troops had become more successful against the defensive tactics ofthe Shuri Line. General Ushijima grew tired of taking punishment and decided togo on the offensive by attack the advancing Americans. His decision to launch areckless counteroffensive proved to be a major tactical failure that resultedin 3,000 casualties and more ground gained by American troops. Thedefensive line on Hacksaw Ridge also utilized every natural and manmadeadvantage that it could, incorporating them into an ingenious defensivestrategy. HacksawRidge consisted of a horseshoe of hills with anchoring positions on Sugar LoafHill, Horseshoe Ridge, and Conical Hill. The Japanese had connected those threehills with hidden galleries and set up interlocking fields of fire by emplacingmachine guns nests and artillery pieces.
Due to the other two hills creating adeath trap for any troops advancing up the any of the other three hills. Ittook Marines a week of back-and-forth fighting to finally capture and fullyoccupying Sugar Loaf Hill on 18 May. By 22May, Marinessuccessful broke the main Shuri Line using intelligent preparation and utilizing clever offensive. Some of the tacticsincluded the use of high explosives, flamethrowers and pouring scalding hot oil down the elaborate tunnel system in orderto expel the Japanese from their hiding places. The defeat of the mainShuri Line forced General Ushijima to withdraw from his command post locatedunderneath the Shuri Castle and move his remaining 30,000 troops to thesouthern tip of Okinawa, where they were prepared to make their last stand. Withthe Japanese defense forces isolating themselves for their final defense on thesouthern tip of the island, the Marines made the final amphibious assault ofthe war by cutting behind the Japanese lines and clearing out the Japanesedefensive positions with grenades and flame throwers. During this push to thesouthern tip of the island, the Marines and soldiers did what they could totend to the Okinawan people.
On 1 June, the finalcontact for the Battle of Okinawa began. Japanese General Ushijima, facedwith dwindling supplies, equipment, and mounting casualties, ordered his troopsto defend and hold the line “to the death. By June 17, 1945 Americanforces penetrated and held all major positions along the JapaneseGushichan-Itoman defensive line. With organized Japanese resistancedisintegrating, us troops tries to coax petrified civilians and soldiers fromtheir caves. They don’t always succeed. Many choose to commit suicide, whileothers decide they’ll go down in a final Bandai attack. To encourage more Japanesetroops to surrender, General Buckner initiated propaganda warfare and droppedmillions of leaflets declaring the war all but lost for Japan.
General Buckner was killedin action on June 18, when asmall flat trajectory Japanese artillery projectile struck a coral rockoutcropping next to the general and fragments entered his chest. About 7,000 Japanese soldiers surrendered, but many chose deathby suicide as a last resort to avoid theultimate ‘shame of capture. ThoughGeneral Ushijima made his troops aware of his respect for the honor they hadgiven the Emperor by delaying the Americans Forces for nearly 3 months, it wasnot enough. On 22 June, when faced with the reality that further fighting wasfutile.
GeneralUshijima and his command team committed seppuku, ritual suicide,self-disembowelment followed by swift decapitation effectively ending theBattle of Okinawa. Winning the Battle of Okinawa putAllied forces within striking distance of Japan. What theAmericans realized is that the closer they’ve been getting to the Japanese homeislands, the bloodier the battles have been. The harder the Japanese have beendefending and no one had the stomach to attempt such a daring invasion. PresidentHarry S.
Truman chose to drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Japandidn’t give in immediately, so Truman ordered the bombing of Nagasaki on August9, 1945. Finally, Japan had had enough. Theterrible destruction of two atomic bombs persuades Japan to surrender on August15, 1945.marking the end of World War II. ReferencesSSgt Frame, R, Jr. (2011) Okinawa: The Final Great Battle of World War II; An Americantriumph through bloodshed, Volume 96, Issue 11, RetrievedJanuary 23, 2018 from https://www.
mca-marines.org/gazette/2012/11/okinawa-final-great-battle-world-war-ii Tsukiyama T,(2006) Battle of Okinawa; The Hawai’i Nisei Story Americans of Japanese Ancestry During WWII,Retrieved January23, 2018 from http://nisei.hawaii.edu/object/io_1149316185200.
html Hammel, E, (2006) Battle of Okinawa: Summary, Fact, Pictures andCasualties, Retrieved January 23, 2018 from http://www.historynet.com/battle-of-okinawa-operation-iceberg.htm History.com Staff, (2009), Battle of Okinawa, Retrieved January 23,2018 from http://www.history.
com/topics/world-war-ii/battle-of-okinawa Trueman C, N. (2015, May 19)”The Battle of Okinawa” Retrieved January 23,2018 from http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/world-war-two/the-pacific-war-1941-to-1945/the-battle-of-okinawa/