Battle Okinawa than all those killed during the atomic

Battle of Okinawa

SSG Bobby Gordon

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February 1, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Battle 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.

 

 

 

References

SSgt 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.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 January
23, 2018 from http://nisei.hawaii.edu/object/io_1149316185200.html

 

Hammel, E, (2006) Battle of Okinawa: Summary, Fact, Pictures and
Casualties, 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/