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Battle of Okinawa: The Plan of Attack

Battle of Okinawa: The Plan of Attack


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Battle of Okinawa: The Plan of Attack.

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Battle of Okinawa


Battle of Okinawa: The Plan of Attack - History

Under a bright warm sun on the afternoon of 18 April, infantrymen of the 27th Division in their bivouac area north of Uchitomari inspected their weapons and struggled with their belts, harness, and bandoleers. At 1500 they began to stroll off toward Uchitomari in long, halting lines. At 1540 several men, without jackets or helmets, picked up a machine gun on O'Hara's Knob, north of Machinato Inlet, and sauntered over to the north edge of the inlet, where they set up the weapon. There was little stir or bustle. Small groups of soldiers moved here and there, settling down at various spots to look across the inlet and wait. 1

Such was the opening move in an action that was soon to swell into a heavy attack across the entire Corps front. This seemingly random movement was carefully planned. The 27th was going into position to launch a surprise penetration of the enemy's west flank as a preliminary to the attack of the whole XXIV Corps on 19 April. For more than a week the Corps had been making feverish preparations for this attack, in the hope that one powerful assault by three divisions abreast might smash through the Shuri defenses.

Plans and Preparations

American Plan of Attack

during the previous night its mission was to seize Kakazu Ridge, the western portion of the Urasoe-Mura Escarpment, and the. hilly country and coastal plain beyond to the Naha-Yonabaru highway. The 27th Division's delayed entrance was to allow for progressive massing of artillery fire from east to west along the line as the attack developed 2 (See Map No. 23.)

Perhaps the most striking element of the plan was its provision for a tremendous artillery preparation beginning 40 minutes before the assault groups moved out. Twenty-seven battalions of artillery, nine of them Marine, were to be prepared to mass fire on any section of the front. After 20 minutes of pounding the enemy's front lines, artillery would lift its fire and hit his rear areas for 10 minutes, in an effort to induce the Japanese to emerge from their underground positions then the shelling would shift back to the enemy's front lines for the 10 minutes remaining until H Hour. This procedure was to be repeated for the attack of the 27th Division. During the preparation, aircraft and naval guns were to pound the Japanese rear areas. Rockets and 1,000-pound bombs were to be directed against the headquarters installations in Shuri. A landing force, covered by planes and naval guns and embarked in transports, was to feint a landing on beaches along the southeastern coast of southern Okinawa.

General Hodge viewed the prospect with high hopes, mingled with grim appreciation of the difficulties ahead. "It is going to be really tough," he said two days before the attack "there are 65,000 to 70,000 fighting Japs holed up in the south end of the island, and I see no way to get them out except blast them out yard by yard." He saw no immediate possibility of large-scale maneuvers, but he did foresee opportunity for "small maneuver thrusts within the divisions," and possibly later within the Corps if the Americans broke through the Shuri fortified zone. 3

Terrain Features

STRATEGIC AREA OF SOUTHERN OKINAWA seen from an altitude of 7,500 feet.

American Preparations

There was virtually no change in the lines from 14 to 19 April. Patrols probed the enemy's defenses artillery, naval guns, and aircraft searched out and destroyed enemy mortars, artillery pieces, and installations. Ground and air observers studied the ground in front of XXIV Corps and pinpointed caves, trenches, supply points, and emplacements which were to be demolished during the artillery preparation on the 19th.

Behind the lines there was unceasing activity. General Hodge had remarked that the attack would be "90 percent logistics and 10 percent fighting" 5 the truth of this observation was borne out by the intensified activity along the beaches, the continuous bulldozing of the main supply routes, and the long lines of trucks and DUKW's laden with ammunition and supplies rolling toward the front night and day. Among the array of weapons poised for the attack were armored flame throwers, which were to be used for the first time on Okinawa in the attack of 19 April.

Fresh troops also were brought in. The 27th Division, previously in floating reserve, had landed at the Hagushi beaches on 9 April to serve as reinforcements


OUKI HILL-SKYLINE AREA on the east coast, which was attacked 19 April (photographed 10 July 1945).


MACHINATO INLET, seen shortly after the action of 19 April. Three Weasels on the road (left) were knocked out. In background (left) Buzz Bomb Bowl slopes up to Urasoe-Mura Escarpment.

Japanese Preparations

The Japanese were not idle. A 62d Division order on 14 April warned of the attack: "The enemy is now preparing to advance on all fronts. Our front lines will necessarily be subjected to fierce bombardments." Unit commanders were ordered to strengthen positions. Strong points were to be so distributed that the loss of one point would not mean the break-up of the whole line. Units were to "secure their weapons by placing them under cover or in a position of readiness, so that they will not be prematurely destroyed." The enemy evidently anticipated the necessity of withdrawing, however, for he ordered secret documents to be burned "as the situation becomes untenable." 7

During the lull before the attack, the enemy redoubled his attempts to teach his troops the proper defense against American tactics and weapons. The 44th Independent Mixed Brigade on 13 April issued a "battle lesson-urgent report" describing defenses against American flame-throwing tanks and "yellow phosphorus incendiary shells." The 22d Regiment on 15 April described American night defensive positions and how to infiltrate through them. The 32d Army emphasized the importance of careful selection of points from which to make close-quarters attacks on American tanks. 8

Admitting that American fire power was their main concern, the Japanese paid special attention to their underground defenses. Units were cautioned to build reserve positions into which troops could move quickly from caves under attack. Simple rules were issued on 15 April for protecting the health and morale of Japanese troops in caves undergoing severe bombardment:

Spiritual training within the cave must be intensified. . . . Useless work should be avoided whenever there is free time, get as much sleep as possible. . . . Have the men go outside the cave at night at least once or twice and perform deep breathing and physical

Preliminary Attack of the 27th Division, 18 April

Plan of Attack

General Griner's plan also took advantage of the fact that the Machinato area was not held in strength by the enemy but merely outposted. Accordingly, the 106th Infantry on the right (west) was to cross Machinato Inlet, advance

Mounting the Attack

The mounting of the attack furnished a ticklish engineering problem, which was complicated by the need for secrecy. Four bridges at Machinato Inlet were to be built during the night of 18-19 April-a footbridge for the assault troops to move across during the night, two Bailey bridges, totaling ninety feet, for supporting weapons, and a rubber ponton bridge strong enough to carry a 1 /2 -ton trucks loaded with supplies. Erecting these bridges in the dark would be difficult enough, but, to make matters worse, the 102d Engineer Combat Battalion, the division engineers, had had no experience with the Bailey bridge. The division had left the United States before the adoption of this type of structure and had fought on small islands where large spans were not required. Fortunately, an officer who had helped construct several Baileys in Tunisia, 1st Lt. Irving S. Golden, had recently joined the division. Under his direction the engineers spent several days building, tearing down, and rebuilding Bailey bridges in a division rear area.

Secrecy was vitally important, but very difficult to maintain because of the excellent enemy observation and the intense activity necessary for the attack. The appearance of stock piles of bridge equipment near Machinato Inlet would alert the Japanese to the plan of crossing the inlet in strength. Consequently the 202d Engineers assembled its equipment in rear areas in readiness for instant transportation. Pontons were inflated, and bridge sections were assembled to the maximum size that trucks could carry.

Another piece of deception was also executed cunningly. The route leading to the proposed ponton bridges was a shell-pocked, deeply rutted little jeep road

which ran by O'Hara's Knob and ended in a rice paddy 250 yards short of the objective, the northeast edge of the inlet. The road had to be made ready to carry the traffic of trucks loaded with bridge equipment, but attempts to improve it might arouse Japanese suspicions. During daylight hours in the period before the attack a bulldozer puttered about on this road, in plain view of the enemy. When an occasional jeep became bogged down, the bulldozer chugged over to extricate the vehicle, remaining to push dirt and rocks into the ruts. The operator alternately slept, tinkered with the engine, and expressed his annoyance with sweeping gestures when still another jeep became bogged down. But at night he worked feverishly. By 18 April the road had been extended and improved and reached almost to the edge of the inlet, although it would have been difficult for an observer to estimate just what had been done to the road and when.

As the time for the attack approached, the plans took final form. General Griner hoped for a break-through and insisted that "no matter what else happens, we must advance. We do not have time to wait for units on our flanks. If they cannot move, we will push forward anyway. I do not want to hear any unit commander calling me and telling me that he cannot advance because the unit on his flank cannot advance." 12 Maj. Gen. Archibald V. Arnold, Commanding General of the 7th Division, and Maj. Gen. James L. Bradley, commanding the 96th, also instructed their commanders to push their attacks "vigorously and rapidly," even though casualties became severe and logistical problems resulted. They believed that by this means an early success could be ensured and an extended and costly battle avoided. 13

Night Attack on the Escarpment

At 1607 on 18 April a lone smoke shell, like a tentative mistaken shot, landed 200 yards east of Machinato Inlet. A breeze wafted the smoke west toward the sea and spread a thin haze over the inlet. Assault troops who had assembled casually on the northeast side of the inlet during the afternoon now waited tensely. Within a few minutes other shells landed. Veiled by smoke, infantrymen sprinted along a pipeline to the western edge of the inlet. In a few minutes Company G, 106th Infantry, had crossed the inlet in this manner and had assembled under cover of the cliffs that border the inlet on the west.

Company G's mission was to clean out the enemy outposts in the Machinato village area in order that the bridge construction and the movement of troops across the inlet during the night might proceed without detection. Operating

by platoons, the company scaled the cliffs and maneuvered around the enemy outposts. By midnight, after a series of skirmishes, ambushes, and brief fire fights in the dark, the Japanese in the Machinato area had been cleaned out.

The 27th Division was now on the move. At 1930 trucks carrying Bailey bridge equipment began moving out of a coral pit in the village of Isa and rolling south to the inlet. The last truckload of Bailey equipment was followed at 2000 by the first full load of material for the footbridge. The ponton bridge was shuttled forward at 2030. Shortly after dark the bulldozer began to put the finishing touches on the approaches to the footbridge and ponton bridge to enable the trucks to drop their loads at the edge of the inlet. Working in the darkness, quietly and without interruption, the engineers completed the 128-yard footbridge: by midnight and both Bailey bridges by 0300, 19 April. Only the ponton bridge caused trouble the receding tide carried away the anchor line and some of the pontons, delaying completion of the bridge until noon of 29 April.

The 106th Infantry moved out shortly after midnight. Throughout the night a steady stream of men trudged across the footbridge. The enemy made no move to stop the crossing Company G had done its work well. Company F of the 106th passed through Company G's lines just before dawn and quietly advanced single file along Route r toward the road cut at the northwest end of Urasoe-Mura Escarpment. Since the cut was believed to be defended, a frontal assault up the highway would be costly, even during darkness. Near the base of the escarpment, one platoon of the company turned off the road to the right (west) and started climbing the brush-covered slope. Half an hour later the troops reached the top, still undetected by the enemy.

The platoon swung left (southeast) on the crest and silently moved down the ridge line of the escarpment toward the cut. It was now daylight. Near the cut they found Japanese soldiers sitting around fires, preparing their breakfast. The Americans immediately opened fire. Some of the enemy dropped others fled toward the cut, leaving their weapons behind. The enemy was now alerted. Soon mortar fire began dropping on the rest of Company F as it moved up the highway. The platoon on top of the escarpment began sweeping rapidly toward the cut. For thirty minutes there was a brisk fight as the Americans closed in on the enemy then, outflanked, the Japanese gave way and fled south from the cut.

The 206th began consolidating its hold on the northwest end of Urasoe Mura. By 0710 additional platoons were arriving on the crest near the cut and

The General Attack

As the morning mists cleared, the campaign's largest single air strike was delivered. By 0900 Yonabaru had been hit by 67 planes spreading napalm that burned everything above ground, Iwa had been devastated by a strike of 108 planes, and Shuri by a strike of 139. A total of 650 Navy and Marine planes bombed, rocketed, napalmed, and machine-gunned the enemy. Six battleships, six cruisers, and six destroyers of the Fifth Fleet added their fire power to that of the planes and artillery. These sledge-hammer blows fell on about 4,000 combat veterans of the Japanese 62d Division who were manning the positions. 14

The greatest concentration of artillery ever employed in the Pacific war sounded the prelude to the attack at dawn. Twenty-seven battalions of Corps and division artillery, 324 pieces in all, ranging from 105-mm. to 8-inch howitzer, fired the first rounds at 0600. This concentration represented an average of 75 artillery pieces to every mile of front, and actually it was even greater as the firing progressed in mass from east to west. The shells thundered against the enemy's front lines for twenty minutes, then shifted 500 yards to the rear while the infantry simulated a movement as if beginning the attack at 0630 the artillery shifted back to spray the enemy's front lines for the next ten minutes with time fire. In forty minutes American artillery placed 19,000 shells on the enemy's lines. Then, at 0640, the artillery lifted to enemy rear areas.

The assault platoons advanced, hopeful that the great mass of metal and explosive had destroyed the enemy or had left him so stunned that he would be helpless. They were soon disillusioned for the Japanese, deep in their caves, had scarcely been touched, and at the right moment they manned their battle stations. 15 Brig. Gen. Josef R. Sheetz, Commanding General, XXIV Corps Artillery, later said he doubted that as many as 190 Japanese, or 1 for every 100 shells, had been killed by the morning artillery preparation. 16

OPENING ACTION, 19 APRIL, was the crossing of Machinato Inlet on footbridge in the early morning. Supporting artillery included this 8-inch howitzer unit (below), one of the first used against the Japanese in the Pacific fighting.

The 7th Division Is Stopped on the East

The 7th Division faced the 11th Independent Infantry Battalion, which occupied a line extending from the east coast through the high ground immediately inland. The 7th was deployed with the 32d Infantry on the left and the 184th on the right. The plan of attack called for the 32d Infantry to seize Skyline Ridge, the eastern anchor of the Japanese line, and for the 184th to capture Hill 178 and the area westward to the division boundary, which lay just beyond a long coral spine later known as the Rocky Crags. The main effort was to be made by two battalions down the center, along the lip of high ground leading to Ouki Hill, an extension of Skyline Ridge, high on the eastern slope of Hill 178. Once this point was reached the 2d Battalion, 32d Infantry, was to turn downhill along Skyline Ridge to the left (east), and the 2d Battalion, 184th Infantry, was to turn right (west) uphill against the crest of Hill 178. 17

Two medium tanks and three armored flame throwers rumbled southward from the 7th Division's lines on the coastal flats, passed through Ouki, and quickly moved into position at the tip of Skyline Ridge. They poured shot and flame into the cluster of enemy-occupied tombs and emplacements at the lower extremity of the ridge. The long jets of orange flame probed all openings in the face of this part of Skyline, and dark, rolling masses of smoke billowed upward. This was a new spectacle for the waiting infantry, who watched fascinated. For the enemy who died in the searing flame inside their strong points, there was hardly time to become terror-stricken. This phase of the attack lasted fifteen minutes, and then, just after 0700, the infantry moved up. All the Japanese on the forward face of the tip had been killed by the flame, but there were others on the reverse side who denied any advance across the crest. The battle of the infantry quickly erupted and smoldered along the narrow knife-edge line of Skyline Ridge. American troops clung desperately to the forward slope through two Japanese counterattacks, in which the enemy crowded forward into his own mortar fire to hurl grenades and satchel charges.

Higher up along the slope leading to Ouki Hill, the assault troops advanced about 500 yards without a shot being fired at them. Then suddenly, as they moved into a belt of ground covered by pre-registered Japanese mortar and machine-gun fire, enemy weapons let loose and all forward movement stopped. Efforts to advance were unavailing throughout the day, and at 1620 the men pulled back to their former positions. The 3d Battalion was now compelled to

give up its slight hold on the lower end of Skyline Ridge, where it had suffered almost one hundred casualties, including thirteen killed, during the day.

On the division's right, the coral spine of the Rocky Crags, so named for the two dominating, jagged knobs, extended southward several hundred yards. It paralleled the direction of the American attack, pointing directly at the bold, white face of the Tanabaru Escarpment almost a mile away. For two days this ridge had been pounded by artillery. Company K of the 184th Infantry was directly in front of the northern point of the Crags. Patrols had not been molested. Observers had seen Japanese running about among the tombs on the slope but had not guessed that the coral outcropping was honeycombed with tunnels and caves stocked with weapons and alive with troops. Nor was it known that this area was an impact zone for artillery, mortar, and machine-gun fire from pre-registered enemy weapons. All this was discovered on the morning of 19 April. Company K advanced 200 yards. Then, at 0730, it entered the forbidden zone and was pinned to the ground by the enemy fire. The adjoining company on the left, raked by enfilading fire from the Crags, was also stopped. Shortly after noon, Company K pulled back from along the eastern slope of the northernmost of the crags. At the end of the day there had been no gain.

96th Division Attack Stalls

Meanwhile the 96th Division was attacking farther west, with the 382d Regiment on the left (east) and the 381st on the right (west). The 382d Infantry had the task of taking Tombstone Ridge and the Tanabaru Escarpment the 381st, that of seizing Nishibaru Ridge and the Urasoe-Mura Escarpment beyond. The 3d Battalion, 381st Infantry, on the division right at the saddle between Kakazu and Nishibaru Ridges, was a mile ahead of the division left. Facing the 96th in the Kaniku-Nishibaru sector, the 12th Independent Infantry Battalion, which had absorbed the depleted 14th Independent Infantry Battalion, defended the center. It had the 1st Light Machine Gun Battalion attached, and altogether numbered about 1,200 men. 18

On the left, the 2d Battalion of the 382d Infantry moved out at 0640 and began occupying the series of small hills to the front, only a few of which were held by the enemy. Sniper and mortar fire from the Rocky Crags on the left was a source of trouble and caused casualties. A few spots of resistance developed but were easily overcome. At one point a Japanese popped out of a small roadside cave and satchel-charged the lead tank of a column by a strange quirk the tank

toppled over against the hole and closed it. The road was now effectively blocked to the other tanks. A few scattered grenade fights took place but did not prevent a gain of 800 yards on the division's left.

Immediately to the right there was no opposition to the advance of the 1st Battalion until Company C on the left and Company A on the right started a pincer move against the northern tip of Tombstone Ridge, so named because of the large number of burial tombs on either side. About seventy-five feet high and half a mile long, it was the dominating terrain feature of the vicinity. As soon as the two companies moved forward the Japanese positions on the ridge broke their silence. Company C was stopped on the east side by machine-gun and mortar fire, Company A on the west side by grenades. Artillery and tank fire was brought on the position to neutralize it. At noon Company A charged up the west slope only to find that it could neither stay on top nor go down the other side. The company commander was killed on the crest. In the midst of this action a supporting tank was lost to a 47-mm. antitank gun. At the end of the day the 1st Battalion held only a precarious position across the northwest nose of the ridge and along a portion of the west slope. The crest was nowhere tenable and the east side was wholly in the hands of the Japanese. Though Tombstone Ridge was unimposing from a distance, it harbored a maze of mutually supporting underground positions that opened on either face and made it a formidable strong point.

Up ahead and to the west, Nishibaru Ridge was under attack. This ridge was separated by a depression and a ravine, upper Kakazu Gorge, from the southern end of Tombstone Ridge, to which it ran at right angles for a mile in a generally east-west direction. Nishibaru Ridge was an extension of Kakazu Ridge, separated from it by only a wide, shallow saddle, through which passed Route 5, the Ginowan-Shuri road. The stream which emptied into Machinato Inlet began in the hills northeast of Tanabaru and ran along the northern base of Nishibaru and Kakazu Ridges the entire way to the sea, forming at times, as in front of Kakazu, a gorge-like bed.

The 1st Battalion, 381st Infantry, moved from its position just north of Kaniku through the western part of the town and pressed forward into the open, despite machine-gun fire from southeast Kaniku. Company C on the left was only a short distance from Tombstone Ridge and had a difficult time because of enemy fire from this elevation paralleling its course. The company fell behind, and soon some of the men were pinned down in the open, unable to continue until dark. Huge spigot mortar shells began falling at 1045, adding their

BATTLE FOR TOMBSTONE RIDGE, like many others on Okinawa, did not permit much use of heavy armored weapons because of uneven terrain. Above an M-7 self-propelled 105-mm. howitzer, supporting 96th Division troops, fires at a Japanese position. Below, men of the 1st Battalion, 381st Infantry, bend low as they run through burning ruins of western Kaniku, 19 April.

tremendous explosions to the din. A part of the battalion reached the northern face of Nishibaru Ridge, but even this slight gain was lost when the battalion withdrew from the exposed position at the end of the day.

On the division's right, the 3d Battalion of the 381st Infantry waited for thirty-five minutes in its place along the southern bank of the gorge for the 1st Battalion, still not in sight the assault troops of the 3d Battalion then moved out, Company K on the left and Company I on the right. As soon as they passed over the lip of the gorge embankment, the troops from Company K drew knee mortar, machine-gun, and rifle fire from cave and tomb positions in Nishibaru Ridge. One squad rushed an enemy position, killing five Japanese and destroying a machine gun and two knee mortars. But immediately above it a second and then a third machine gun opened up, killing four and wounding two of the small group. Despite these difficulties two platoons managed by 0830 to advance over the crest of the ridge as far as the upper edge of the village of Nishibaru. Here all progress ended when showers of mortar shells and hand grenades formed a frontal barrier and enfilade machine-gun fire from both flanks was added. The survivors drew back over the crest and dug in on the forward slope, hoping that if they held out there help would come during the day. Company K had its third commanding officer in twenty-four hours the first had been killed, the second wounded.

On the right, the first three men of Company I who tried to cross the hump of ground in front of Nishibaru Ridge were one after the other killed. Machine-gun fire came from the western end of Nishibaru Ridge directly in front and from the nose of Kakazu Ridge across the road to the right front. Exposure for even a moment meant death or a wound. It was here that the 96th Division joined the 27th Division, the boundary running just west of the Ginowan-Shuri road at the saddle between Kakazu and Nishibaru Ridges. Lt. Col. D. A. Nolan, Jr., commanding officer of the 3d Battalion, 381st Infantry, realized the necessity for coordinated effort after the morning of death and failure. He crossed over to the adjoining unit, Company C, 105th Infantry, 27th Division, to discuss with Capt. John F. Mulhearn, its commanding officer, the possibility of a joint attack using five tanks which Colonel Nolan had available. But this proposal could not be acted upon because Captain Mulhearn was then preparing, as part of a battalion movement, to start his men around Kakazu to the right. It was now midafternoon, and, realizing that he could not hope to advance with the Kakazu area on his right front vacated, Colonel Nolan obtained authority from his regimental commander, Col. M. E. Halloran, to

DEATH OF A TANK, series of photos enlarged from a movie film of Okinawa fighting. Sherman tanks, supported by riflemen, are assaulting Japanese cave positions, and in the engagement a tank is overturned by a Japanese land mine. One of the crew is thrown clear by the blast. Infantrymen fight flame with fire extinguishers in an effort to rescue four tankmen trapped in the vehicle. Before rescue can be effected fire reaches ammunition in the tank, and the resulting explosion leaves only a battered metal hulk.

move his men back into the protection of the gorge. 19 Before this withdrawal began, one of the five tanks ventured through the saddle between Kakazu and Nishibaru Ridges and was immediately destroyed by a swarm of Japanese attacking with satchel charges from the nose of Nishibaru Ridge.

Company L came up from reserve to close the gap between the 1st and the 3d Battalions. This movement drew enemy fire, and on reaching the gorge the company dug in along the edge. From there it gave fire support for the withdrawal of the other companies in front. While it was thus engaged three spigot mortar shells fell on the company and buried several men. The number of 81-mm. mortar shells that fell on the 381st Infantry during the day in front of and on Nishibaru Ridge was estimated at 2,200. By 1700 the 3d Battalion had suffered eighty-five casualties, including sixteen killed. 20

Kakazu Ridge Is Bypassed

Meanwhile various maneuvers were taking place on the right in the 27th Division zone. Following the two battalions of the 106th Infantry that had crossed Machinato Inlet under cover of darkness and had established themselves before dawn on the western end of the Urasoe-Mura Escarpment, the 3d Battalion of the 106th left Kakazu West at 0600 it was crossing Machinato Inlet when the general attack got under way elsewhere. The battalion mounted the escarpment and took a position along the crest between the other two battalions. The Reconnaissance Troop was now on the extreme right of the escarpment.

The only other 27th Division unit on the front line ready to join in the initial assault was the 1st Battalion of the 105th Infantry. This battalion was deployed along Kakazu Gorge, with Kakazu Ridge, immediately in front, its initial objective. Company C was on the left, next to the Ginowan-Shuri road Companies B and A, in the order named, were to the west, the latter being initially in reserve. The attack of the 1st Battalion was planned to combine a frontal assault against the ridge with a sweeping tank attack around the east end of Kakazu Ridge. The two forces were to meet behind the ridge near the village of Kakazu and to join in a drive to the Urasoe-Mura Escarpment beyond.

The troops began moving up to the ravine on schedule at 0730, fifty minutes after the attack began on the east and in the center. At 0823 the leading elements were on the crest of a little fold of ground lying a short distance beyond the ravine, facing Kakazu Ridge 200 yards away across open ground. Now, as they started to move quickly down into the open swale, machine-gun and mortar fire from close

range struck them. At once there were casualties, and casualties kept mounting. Those in the open were pinned down those behind could not reach them. The tip of Kakazu and the western slope of the saddle were ablaze with enemy guns.

At 0830, just before the infantry left the protection of the little fold in front of Kakazu, tanks in groups of three and four in column formation began moving across Kakazu Gorge they then continued southward through the saddle between Kakazu and Nishibaru Ridges. Altogether about thirty tanks, self-propelled assault guns, and armored flame throwers moved out of the assembly area that morning for a power drive, against the Japanese positions, Company A of the 193d Tank Battalion making up the major part of the force. Three tanks were lost to mines and road hazards in crossing the gorge and the saddle. As the tanks moved down the road in column, a 47-mm. antitank gun, firing from a covered position to the left on the edge of Nishibaru Ridge, destroyed four tanks with sixteen shots, without receiving a single shot in return. The tank column hurried on south to look for a faint track leading into Kakazu that had shown on aerial photographs: the column missed it, lost another tank to antitank fire, and then in error took a second little-used trail farther south and began working over enemy positions encountered in the face of the escarpment and in the relatively flat country to the east of Kakazu. Discovering that they could not reach the village from this point, the tanks retraced their way to the main road, turned back, found the right trail, and were in Kakazu shortly after 1000. They moved around and through the village, spreading fire and destruction Kakazu was completely shot up and burned during the next three hours. Fourteen American tanks were destroyed in and around the village, many by mines and 47-mm. antitank guns, others by suicide close-attack units, and more by artillery and mortar fire. During the day six tanks in the Kakazu-Nishibaru area were destroyed by suicide attackers using 22-lb. satchel charges, which were usually thrown against the bottom plate. A majority of the tank crew members were still living after the tanks had been disabled, but many were killed by enemy squads that forced the turret lids open and threw in grenades. 21

At 1330, since it was now evident that infantry would not be able to reach them, the tanks received orders to return to their lines. Of the thirty tanks that had maneuvered around the left end of Kakazu Ridge in the morning, only eight returned in the afternoon. The loss of twenty-two tanks on 19 April in the Kakazu area was the greatest suffered by American armor on Okinawa in a single engagement. 22 The tanks had operated wholly without infantry support. Four of the twenty-two were armored flame throwers, and this was their first day in action. Some crew members of tanks destroyed by antitank gun fire dug pits under their tanks and remained hidden forty hours before they escaped, incredibly unmolested by the scores of Japanese within 100 yards.

The Japanese had guessed that a tank-infantry attack would try to penetrate their lines between Nishibaru Ridge and Kakazu Ridge, and they had prepared carefully for it. Their plan was based on separating the infantry from the tanks. The 272d Independent Infantry Battalion alone devised a fire net of four machine guns, two antiaircraft guns, three regimental guns, and the 81-mm. mortars of the 2d Mortar Battalion to cover the saddle between the two ridges. The machine guns were sited at close range. In addition, two special squads of ten men each were sent forward to the saddle for close combat against the infantry. One group was almost entirely wiped out the other had one noncommissioned officer wounded and three privates killed. The enemy defense also utilized the 47-mm. antitank guns of the 22d Independent Antitank Gun Battalion and close-quarters suicide assault squads. So thorough were these preparations that the Japanese boasted "Not an infantryman got through." (See Map No. 24.)

It was here in the Kakazu-Urasoe-Mura Escarpment area that the most extensive reorganization of Japanese units had taken place just before the American attack. The remnants of badly shattered battalions were combined into a composite unit of about 1,400 men that consisted largely of members of the 272d Independent Infantry Battalion but also included elements of the 13th, 15th, and 23d Battalions. The 21st Independent Infantry Battalion stood ready to support the 272d. The 2d Light Machine Gun Battalion added its fire power. 23

While the tanks were operating alone behind the enemy's lines, the 1st Battalion, 105th Infantry, was pinned to the ground in front of Kakazu Ridge. A 34-man platoon from Company A that moved out ahead of the main attack

was allowed to pass over Kakazu Ridge undisturbed only to walk into a trap. When the platoon reached the northern edge of Kakazu village, the trap was sprung. None of the men in the platoon returned during the day, but by separating into small groups and hiding in rubble and in tombs most of them escaped death. Six men returned to the American lines that night, seventeen made their way out the next day, and two more were rescued on 25 April. Eight had been killed and others badly wounded. 24

With the 1st Battalion of the 105th Infantry completely stopped, the 2d Battalion was ordered at 0907 to move up on the boundary at the extreme left and apply pressure along the Ginowan-Shuri road. In coming up to reconnoiter this ground, the battalion commander was hit four times when he jumped over a low stone wall into the open ground opposite the tip of Kakazu. When the 2d Battalion finally attacked at 1225 in an attempted movement around to the left, it was turned back at the east end of Kakazu Ridge. Simultaneously with the movement of the 2d Battalion, the 3d Battalion, which had relieved the 3d, 106th Infantry, in the morning, moved down from Kakazu West, bypassed Kakazu village, and by 1535 had two companies, L and I, on top the Urasoe Mura Escarpment, on the east side of the 106th Infantry. During the afternoon the weather had become increasingly unsettled, with high wind and some rain.

At 1530 Capt. Ernest A. Flemig, who had assumed command of the 2d Battalion, 105th Infantry, earlier in the day, asked to be allowed to move around the west end of Kakazu Ridge to join the 3d Battalion on the escarpment. This permission was given by Col. W. S. Winn, the regimental commander, at approximately 1600. The battalion moved off and by 1800 had taken up a position on the slope at the base of the escarpment below the 3d Battalion, 105th Infantry. At the same time, the 1st Battalion, 105th, was ordered in front of the village of Kakazu to become regimental reserve. "Front" as represented by the position actually taken by the 1st Battalion was southwest of the village in front of the escarpment. Thus by late afternoon the entire Kakazu Ridge front had been abandoned by the 105th Infantry. It was just before this shift of positions that Colonel Nolan made his suggestion for a joint attack. In front of Kakazu Ridge during the day, two battalions of the 105th Regiment had suffered 158 casualties: the 1st Battalion, 105, and the 2d Battalion, 53.

On the western end of the Urasoe-Mura Escarpment, the 2d Battalion of the 106th Infantry tried to work south after its successful night attack but it ran

WEST END OF URASOE-MURA ESCARPMENT, area of 27th Division attack (photographed 10 July 1945).

into a series of cave, tomb, and tunnel positions along the ridge to the west of Route 1 and was fought to a standstill. This was the beginning of what later became known as the Item Pocket battle. Elsewhere on the escarpment the 106th was, in general, stopped after its presence was discovered at daybreak. Elsewhere on the escarpment the 106th was also unsuccessful in advancing to the south, but it did extend its lines to the east to join the 3d Battalion, 105th.

The bridges across Machinato Inlet were subjected to Japanese artillery and mortar attack shortly after daybreak. Direct tank fire silenced a gun firing from a cave position in the face of the escarpment, but 320-mm. mortar shells then began dropping in the crossing area, known as "Buzz Bomb Bowl." An enemy artillery barrage on the crossing area began at 1530, and by 1600 one of the Bailey bridges and the ponton bridge were out, only the footbridge remaining. This was the beginning of a week-long struggle to keep bridges across the inlet.

The big attack of 19 April had failed. At no point had there been a breakthrough. Everywhere the Japanese had held and turned back the American attack. Even on the west, where the front lines had been advanced a considerable distance by the 27th Division, the area gained was mostly unoccupied low ground, and when the Japanese positions on the reverse slopes of the escarpment were encountered further gain was denied. Everywhere the advance made early in the morning represented only an area lying between the line of departure and the enemy's fortified positions. As a result of the day's fighting the XXIV Corps lost 720 dead, wounded, and missing.

Footnotes

1. The account of the operations of the 27th Division is based almost wholly on Capt. Edmund G. Love, The 27th Division on Okinawa (hereafter cited as Love, 27th Div History).

2. XXIV Corps FO No. 47, 16 Apr 45.

3. Ltr CG XXIV Corps to COMGENPOA, 17 Apr 45.

4. Appleman, XXIV Corps History, pp. 161-65. The authors reconnoitered this terrain by jeep and on foot at frequent intervals during and after the operation and studied the area from observation planes.

5. Interv 1st I & H Off with Gen Hodge, 12 Apr 45.

6. XXIV Corps Actn Rpt, p. 100.

7. Tenth Army Transl No. 65, 11 May 45, and No. 115, 31 May 45.

8. Tenth Army Transl No.111, 2 Jun 45, No. 163, 18 Jun 45, and No. 122, 2 Jun 45.

9. Tenth Army Transl No. 47, 7 May 45.

10. Love, 27th Div History, pp. 36-38.

11. Ibid., p. 42.

12. Ibid., p. 43.

13. 7th Div FO No. 32, 17 Apr 45 96th Div FO No. 17, 17 Apr 45.

14. XXIV Corps Arty Actn Report, Annex C, Ind 2: Daily Air Missions for XXIV Corps, 1 Apr to 21 Jun 45, p. 5 XXIV Corps G-3 Periodic Rpt, 19 Apr 45 381st Inf Jul, Msg No. 140, 19 Apr 45 Tenth Army PW Interrog Summary No. 2, 2 Aug 45: 62d Division, pp. 5-6.

15. XXIV Corps Actn Rpt, p. 37 Appleman, XXIV Corps History. pp. 151-52, 168.

16. Ibid., p. 179.

17. The account of 7th Division operations on Skyline Ridge is based on Gugeler, 7th Div History.

18. The account of 96th Div operations is based on Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div History, Pt. III.

19. 3d Bn, 381st Inf, Unit Jnl, Msg No. 20, 19 Apr 45.

20. Ibid., Msg No. 21, 19 Apr 45 381st Inf Jnl, Msg No. 90, 19 Apr 45.

21. The account of the tank action is based on Love, 27th Div History discussion and critique on the ground by 1st I & H Off and Co Comdrs, 1st Bn, 105th Inf, and personnel of Co A, 193d Tank Bn, and attached flame-thrower units, 5 Jul 45 interv XXIV Corps Hist Off with Col Walter A. Jensen, CO, 20th Armd Gp, and Maj Harley T. Kirby, S-2, 20th Armd GP, 4 Jul 45, recorded in Okinawa Diary, XXIV Corps, kept by Maj Roy E. Appleman, XXIV Corps Historical Officer, on file in Hist Div WDSS. Japanese sources for the action are the following: 7th Div PW Interrog Rpt, No. 48, 2 Jul 45 Tenth Army Transl No. 118, 1 Jun 45: 62d Division Battle Lesson Dispatch No. 19, 20 Apr 45 Transl No. 189, 28 Jun 45 Furuta Combat Intelligence Rpt No.11, 20 Apr 45 27th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 13, 22 Apr 45.

22. Interv XXIV Corps Hist Off with Gen Hodge, 6 Jul 45 713th Tank Bn Actn Rpt Ryukyus, entry 19 Apr 45.

23. Tenth Army PW Interrog Summary No. 2, 2 Aug 45: 62d Division, pp. 5-6 XXIV Corps PW Interrog Rpt No. 54, 6 May 45.

24. See Appleman, XXIV Corps History, p. 171 Love, 27th Div History, p. 185.


Battle of Okinawa: The Plan of Attack - History

Although by 20 May the American troops were still short of the line set by Tenth Army as the point of departure for a general offensive, there was no time to spare in launching this offensive. Admiral Turner was somewhat impatient because of the heavy naval losses, particularly in picket ships. On 4 May Brig. Gen. Elwyn Post, Tenth Army Chief of Staff, had declared that the situation was serious and that immediate action was imperative. 1 After the failure of the Japanese offensive, General Buckner felt that the moment was opportune because the enemy had used almost all his fresh reserves in the counterattack both his divisions were in the front lines and the 4th Independent Mixed Brigade also had been partly committed. 2 Accordingly, General Buckner on 9 May ordered a coordinated Tenth Army attack for the 11th.

With both corps now on the line, Tenth Army on 7 May assumed direct control of operations on the southern front for the first time. By 11 May the III Amphibious Corps in the north (consisting of the 6th Marine Division and Corps troops) had been relieved by the 27th Division and had moved into position on the right of the southern front. The Corps assumed control again of the 1st Marine Division, which had been attached to XXIV Corps since the latter part of April. The XXIV Corps' zone of action now extended eastward from the 1st Marine Division boundary to Yonabaru. From west to east, the 6th Marine Division, the 1st Marine Division, the 77th, and the 96th occupied successive positions on the line. The 7th Division was in XXIV Corps reserve, enjoying a period of rest and rehabilitation.

The plan of attack called for Tenth Army to renew the assault on the Shuri defenses with its two corps abreast, III Amphibious Corps on the right, XXIV Corps on the left. The initial scheme of maneuver was an envelopment of Shuri by the Marine divisions on the west and the Army divisions on the east, while a

strong holding attack was maintained in the center. 3 The Tenth Army staff believed that the Japanese positions were weaker on the right and that the fresh Marine divisions had a chance for a quick break-through on that flank. Moreover, the terrain was more favorable along the western coast. The wide flanking maneuver around Shuri that later developed was not projected in the original plans. General Buckner explained on 10 May that there would be nothing spectacular. He added:

It will be a continuation of the type of attack we have been employing to date. Where we cannot take strong points we will pinch them off and leave them for the reserves to reduce. We have ample firepower and we also have enough fresh troops so that we can always have one division resting. 4

The initial order for the attack provided for a 30-minute general preparation by the artillery just before the ground attack. This provision was revoked two days later in favor of pinpointing of targets. The new order stated that "the maximum practicable number of known enemy guns and strong points will be destroyed or neutralized" prior to the infantry assault. This change resulted, in all probability, from recognition of the failure of the mass preparation for the attack of 19 April. The elaborate system of Japanese underground positions across the entire front made it necessary to use precision fire, hitting each cave entrance. 5

In preparation for a renewed American attack the Japanese bolstered their Shuri defenses. Ready at last to commit almost all his reserves to action, General Ushijima ordered that "the Army will immediately move its main strength into the Shuri area." He established a central defense zone with his front lines running from a point north of Asato on the west coast, through Wana and the high ground near Ishimmi, to the east coast just north of Conical Hill. Aware of the entrance of the 6th Marine Division on the west, he shifted his forces

for an iron defense on both his flanks. General Ushijima ordered roads and bridges to be destroyed east of Naha. His continued fear of an attack behind Japanese lines by American parachute troops, however, restrained him from bringing all available forces up to the front. 6

The attack launched on 11 May, although coordinated initially along the entire front, soon broke down into a series of intense battles for particular points with the western, central, and eastern sectors presenting relatively distinct situations. At many places the American efforts were merely an intensification of assaults that had begun on previous days. For ten days of continuous fighting, from Sugar Loaf on the west coast to Conical Hill on the east, the Japanese, except for local and relatively minor retreats, held tenaciously to their long-prepared positions. Finally, on 21 May, after some of the bitterest action of the battle of Okinawa, the American forces were to seize the eastern slope of Conical Hill, close to the east coast, and thereby to make an opening in the enemy lines which permitted an attempt at envelopment.

The Attack in the West

On 8 May the 22d Marines, 6th Marine Division, relieved the 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, on the bluffs north of the Asa River. The enemy held positions south of the Asa, which was too deep to ford at the mouth and which had a bottom too soft to support any type of vehicle. The enemy-held ground rose gently to the horizon 2,000 yards away. To the west barren coral ridges formed a barrier to the sea to the south a long clay ridge dominated the road to Naha to the southeast a group of low grassy hills, set close together, commanded the ground between the Asa River basin and the Asato River corridor. On the east were the rough folds of Dakeshi Ridge, Wana Ridge, and Wana Draw, positions toward which the 1st Marine Division was driving. 7 (See Map No. 40.)

Maj. Gen. Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr., commander of the 6th Marine Division, had warned his troops that the battle in southern Okinawa would be different from anything they had previously encountered in the Pacific. In a training order read twice by every platoon leader to his men, he described the enemy's intelligent

6th Marine Division Advances in the West

The Drive Along the Coast

During the night of 10-11 May the 6th Marine Division engineers, working under fire, laid across the Asa a Bailey bridge which enabled tanks and other heavy weapons to support the attack. The marines advanced under almost continual artillery fire delivered from the western face of Shuri Heights, where the enemy had excellent observation of the coastal area. Japanese infantry opposition was well coordinated with this fire. A company commander of the 1st Battalion, 22d Marines, led a squad up to the summit of a strongly defended hill 800 yards south of Asa, but all his troops were killed or wounded in the assault except the flame-thrower man. A concentration from the main battery of a fire support ship broke loose great blocks of coral from the top of the hill and rolled them down the face, but without much damage to Japanese positions. An infantry charge by Company C, closely supported by tanks, finally won the hill. Although Company C was now reduced to eighty men, the marines clung to the hill in the face of counterattacks.

On the regimental right (west) the 3d Battalion seized a cliff on the coast north of the town of Amike by a tank-infantry-flame-thrower assault late in

WEST FLANK ZONE, where the 22d Marines, 6th Division, crossed Asa River toward Naha. (Photo taken 5 May 1945).

SUGAR LOAF AND HORSESHOE HILLS, photographed after the battle had moved on into Machisi and almost to Naha. Between Sugar Loaf and the hillock in foreground, where Marine attack centered, 10 knocked-out American armored vehicles can be seen.

the afternoon. This advance placed the Marines on the northern outskirts of Amike overlooking the devastated city of Naha, capital of the Ryukyus. Had this city, the largest in the islands, been the objective of Tenth Army the 6th Marine Division would have held an excellent position from which to capture it. Since Naha was not their objective, however, the marines who reached the north bank of the Asato near its mouth simply consolidated their position during the next two weeks, sending patrols into Naha, while the marines to the east continued to press in on the flank of Shuri.

Progress of the other troops of the 22d Marines during 12 and 13 May was slow. The 1st and 2d Battalions were now moving into the rough ground a mile east of Amike-ground which the Japanese had been ordered to hold as a key point in the defense of Shuri. This area was occupied by the 15th Independent Mixed Regiment, 44th Independent Mixed Brigade, supported by the 7th Independent Antitank Battalion, a Navy mortar company, and an independent battalion of approximately 700 men formed from a Sea Raiding Base Battalion. These forces were well supplied with light mortars machine guns, and light arms. As the battle developed, reinforcements streamed in from the rest of the 44th Brigade. 9

Closing In on Sugar Loaf, 12-13 May

The first encounter of the Marines with the Japanese guarding Sugar Loaf came on 12 May, almost inadvertently. Company G, 22d Marines, advanced southeast with eleven tanks toward the Asato River. Heading directly toward Sugar Loaf, which was known to be a strong point, the infantry and tanks met increasing rifle fire but pushed ahead. When the Marines reached Sugar Loaf, a number of Japanese soldiers fled from their positions. It was not clear whether this action was a ruse or resulted from panic at the sudden arrival of the Americans. Four men on the crest of Sugar Loaf and the company commander frantically radioed battalion for reinforcements. Because of his many casualties, the commander was ordered to withdraw. As the Americans withdrew, the enemy opened up with heavy fire. Three tanks were quickly knocked out. Slowly the troops pulled back, suffering more casualties in the process. By evening Company G's total strength was down to seventy-five.

The 6th Marine Division now planned an attack in force on the Sugar Loaf area. The hills there were so small that they did not show up on the

standard military map with its 10-meter contour interval. Sugar Loaf and the other hills supporting it were formed in such a way, however, as to offer exceptionally advantageous positions to the enemy. The crest, running generally east-west, curved back slightly at each end, affording the Japanese weapons on the reverse slope excellent protection from American flanking fire as well as from frontal attack. Supporting Sugar Loaf on its right rear was Crescent Hill, also known as Half Moon Hill on its left rear was the Horseshoe, a long curved ridge harboring many mortar positions. These three hills supported one another, and any attack on Sugar Loaf would bring fire from the others. The Japanese here had excellent fields of fire to the northwest, obstructed only slightly by several tiny humps of ground which had their own reverse-slope defenses. Japanese on Shuri Heights commanded most of the ground. 10

On the morning of 13 May the 3d Battalion, 29th Marines, entered the battle east of the 22d Marines. The day was spent in slow costly moves in an effort to seize the high ground overlooking the upper reaches of the Asato. The Marines made advances of several hundred yards on the division left, but resistance steadily increased. By the evening of 13 May the 6th Marine Division had committed the 29th Regiment for a renewed attack. Supporting aircraft made many sorties during 13 May against artillery positions, buildings, and storage areas, using rockets and hundreds of 100- and 500-Pound bombs. One battleship, four cruisers, and three destroyers also supported the attack. This heavy fire power was available to the ground troops throughout the attacks.

The enemy's skillful use of his remaining artillery greatly handicapped the Marine advance from the Asa to the Asato. Artillery of the 44th Brigade consisted of eight 100-mm. howitzers and four mountain guns, and these were supplemented from time to time by artillery and heavy mortars of adjacent units. Having excellent observation, the Japanese used their weapons singly or in pairs with great precision against marines and tanks. On one occasion a shell landed squarely amid several men at an observation point the commander of the 1st Battalion, 22d Marines, 3 radio men, and 2 tank officers were killed, and 3 company commanders were wounded.

"Banzai Attack" on Sugar Loaf, 14-15 May


Map No. 41: Sugar Loaf Hill


Map No. 42: Sugar Loaf Hill

Sugar Loaf, and from this ground to launch an assault against Sugar Loaf. (See Map No. 41.) The marines were able to seize the forward slopes of the protecting hills north of Sugar Loaf, but intense fire met them whenever they tried to move around or over these hills. Of fifty men who made an attempt to advance, only ten returned, and most of the morning was spent in evacuating casualties on amtracks. Nevertheless, the marines launched a successful attack on Queen Hill which protected Sugar Loaf to the north. The first attack on Sugar Loaf stalled under heavy fire. One platoon, consolidated from the remnants of two platoons, made another attempt at dusk. By 2000 the platoon leader was dead and most of the platoon had been killed or wounded as a result of intense mortar fire, but the survivors clung to the slope. The executive officer of the 2d Battalion then rallied the available members of Company G, 22d Marines, numbering twenty, and twenty-six marines from supply elements for an attempt to reinforce the survivors. He and his men moved across the little valley and advanced up the slopes of Sugar Loaf. About forty feet up the hill they set up two machine guns with fire teams to support each. Twenty replacements arrived from the shore party with two officers who had never seen combat. Grenades and knee mortar shells were falling among the troops so heavily that the executive officer moved his force to the crest of the hill. "The only way," he declared, "we can take the top of this hill is to make a Jap banzai charge ourselves."

The small Marine force on Sugar Loaf was now so close to the reverse slope that the enemy could not effectively throw grenades, but the mortar shelling increased. The executive officer, crouching in his foxhole, was killed instantly when a fragment hit him in the neck. One of the platoon leaders on the hill was also killed, and another was wounded as he was bringing up reinforcements. Four or five men grouped together for a moment froze as a shell dropped among them.

Mortar fire and infiltration steadily cut down the small force, until at dawn on 15 May the position on Sugar Loaf was held by only one officer and nineteen exhausted men. Daylight made the situation even more precarious, for now the enemy entrenched on the Horseshoe and on Crescent Hill could put accurate fire on the Americans. Orders arrived from Battalion at 2000 stating that relief was on the way. The marines had already given some ground the enemy was now massing fire on the crest and Japanese infantrymen were creeping up the hill from their caves on the reverse slope. The relief was exceptionally difficult because of the heavy fire. A platoon of Company D, 29th Marines, attempting to

reach the crest, quickly discovered that an effective relief would require an attack against the Japanese who were trying to retake the crest of the hill. The platoon leader, 1st Lt. George Murphy, ordered an assault with fixed bayonets. The marines reached the top and immediately became involved in a grenade battle with the enemy. Their supply of 350 grenades was soon exhausted. Lieutenant Murphy asked his company commander, Capt. Howard L. Mabie, for permission to withdraw, but Captain Mabie ordered him to hold the hill at all costs. By now the whole forward slope of Sugar Loaf was alive with gray eddies of smoke from mortar blasts, and Murphy ordered a withdrawal on his own initiative. Covering the men as they pulled back down the slope, Murphy was killed by a fragment when he paused to help a wounded marine.

Captain Mabie advanced his company to protect the survivors as they withdrew. He at the same time notified Colonel Woodhouse: "Request permission to withdraw. Irish George Murphy has been hit. Has 11 men left in platoon of original 60."

Two minutes later Colonel Woodhouse replied: "You must hold."

In five minutes the answer came from Mabie: "Platoon has withdrawn. Position was untenable. Could not evacuate wounded. Believe Japs now hold ridge."

By now the Japanese were shelling the area around Sugar Loaf and were attacking the left sector of the 6th Marine Division in at least battalion strength. By midmorning the enemy effort had spread over a 900-yard front. As a result of the bitter fighting for Sugar Loaf and in front of Crescent Hill the entire left sector of the division was weak. The 2d Battalion gave up the ground immediately north of Sugar Loaf, but the enemy did not press through with his advantage. By 1315 his attack had lost momentum. Later in the day the 2d Battalion, 22d Marines, was withdrawn from the action it had suffered 400 casualties during the preceding three days.

Attacks on Sugar Loaf Continue, 16-17 May

dislodged by mortar or artillery fire tanks were unable to creep around the west slope of Sugar Loaf because of antitank fire from several directions and infantrymen accompanying the tanks were helpless under that fire. The integration of the Japanese position was fully evident marines on Sugar Loaf could not advance over the crest because of fire from adjacent hills marines fighting for those hills were held up by fire from Sugar Loaf. Maneuver was impossible. After savage close-in fighting around the crest of Sugar Loaf, the marines withdrew to their positions of the previous night.

The veterans of the 6th Marine Division who fought in this action later called 16 May their bitterest day of fighting during the Okinawa campaign. Two regiments had attacked with all their available strength and had failed. Intelligence officers reported that the Sugar Loaf defenses had been greatly strengthened in the previous twenty-four hours. Marine casualties continued to be heavy.

The plan for 17 May called for a flanking attack on Sugar Loaf from the east. The 1st and 3d Battalions, 29th Marines, were to assault Crescent Hill, then to hold there and support the 2d Battalion, 29th Marines, in an attempt to seize Sugar Loaf. A heavy bombardment by 16-inch guns, howitzers, and planes carrying 1,000-pound bombs preceded the attack. At 0830 elements of the 1st and 3d Battalions attacked the western end of Crescent Hill. Tank-infantry teams supported by artillery destroyed many fortified positions. As this advance uncovered the east side of Sugar Loaf, Company E of the 2d Battalion began a flanking attack around the left of that key terrain feature.

While the attack on Crescent Hill was still going on, elements of the 2d Battalion moved toward Sugar Loaf. The first effort was a wide movement attempting to employ the railroad cut, but this proved unsuccessful because of fire received from the left. An attempt at a close flanking movement failed because of the precipitous slopes. Then, using the northeast slopes of the hill, two platoons of Company E gained the top. On reaching the crest the attacking force was struck by a heavy enemy charge which drove them back off the hilltop. A platoon of Company F also tried to advance along the ridge toward the west, but the leader was killed and the platoon withdrew under heavy mortar fire. Three times more Company E drove to the hilltop. Twice they were thrown back after hand-to-hand fighting. The third time the marines beat off the Japanese, but in doing so they exhausted their ammunition. The company was forced to withdraw, relinquishing the position for which 160 marines had been killed or wounded during the day.

Capture of Sugar Loaf, 18-19 May

Throughout the four seemingly fruitless days of battle for the Sugar Loaf area the tedious work of destroying Japanese positions had been proceeding everywhere in the area. Progress in this work steadily reduced the amount of fire which the Japanese could place on Sugar Loaf. On 18 May a skillful, coordinated attack by Company D, 29th Marines, took advantage of the progress of the past days and succeeded in reducing Sugar Loaf. (See Map No. 43.)

Captain Mabie, commanding Company D, maneuvered his company onto the edge of the low ground north of Sugar Loaf on the morning of the 18th. Artillery and mortars placed a heavy preparation on the objectives. Immediately afterward three tanks moved around the eastern slope of Sugar Loaf and fired into the reverse slope as the Japanese swarmed out of their caves to repel an expected attack. The tanks retired, shooting down two satchel teams that dashed out of caves. Then Captain Mabie opened up with a rocket barrage trucks carrying rocket racks came over a saddle, loosed their missiles, and raced away to escape artillery fire. Field pieces opened up again as the troops moved forward.

One platoon climbed the vest nose, peeling off fire teams to keep a continuous line from the base of the hill. Another platoon drove directly up the northeastern slope. The two parties reached the summit at about the same time, then moved on to destroy positions on the reverse slope. The position was secure by 0946. A few minutes later Captain Mabie received word to "send up the PX supplies." The rest of Company D soon followed to the crest. By noon the wounded had been evacuated and a line firmly established. Meanwhile Company F seized part of the Horseshoe, thereby decreasing fire from that point and enabling positions to be consolidated on the north slopes of Crescent Hill.

That night 60-mm. mortars of three companies on and behind Sugar Loaf shot up flares every two minutes to illuminate the area. At 2300 the marines heard yelling and jabbering southwest of Sugar Loaf, and enemy mortar fire increased. At 0230 the full force of a Japanese attack hit the marines on Horseshoe. Enemy troops along the road cut west of Sugar Loaf set up a machine gun that could enfilade the Marine lines. Marine machine gunners knocked out this gun, but the Japanese manned others. Two platoons pulled back to the forward (north) slope of Sugar Loaf, and fire teams, using their own reverse-slope tactics, killed thirty-three Japanese as small groups attempted to reoccupy the hill. The counterattack was stopped by dawn.

On the next day, 19 May, the 4th Marines relieved the exhausted 29th Marines. During the 10-day period up to and including the capture of Sugar

Loaf the 6th Marine Division had lost 2,662 killed or wounded there were also 1,289 cases of combat fatigue. In the 22d and 29th Marines three battalion commanders and eleven company commanders had been killed or wounded. On 20 May the 4th Marines gained more of the Horseshoe but were still unable to reach the crest of Crescent Hill. An attack by an enemy force estimated as of battalion strength was repulsed by the combined fire of six artillery battalions and infantry weapons. Although forced to commit part of its regimental reserve, the 4th Marines broke up the attack and inflicted on the enemy more than 200 casualties.

On 21 May the 4th Marines continued the attack toward the Asato River line. Troops advanced 250 yards into the Horseshoe but were unable to complete the seizure of Crescent Hill because of intense enemy artillery and mortar fire. Much of this fire came from Shuri Heights. The next moves of the 6th Marine Division would depend on the outcome of the fierce struggle for those heights that was still being waged by the 1st Marine Division.

Attack of the 1st Marine Division on Shuri Heights

While the 6th Marine Division was advancing slowly toward the Asato River from 11 to 20 May, the 1st Marine Division was making vigorous efforts to seize Shuri Heights. The key Japanese positions in this area were built into Dakeshi Ridge, Wana Ridge, Wana Draw, and the towns of Dakeshi and Wana, all protecting Shuri on the northwest. Although other ground around Shuri was higher and even more precipitous, the term "Shuri Heights" was used by III Amphibious Corps to denote the Japanese positions in this area which afforded a view of almost the entire Marine front. (See Map No. 40.)

The ridges, draws, and ruins of Shuri Heights gave the enemy a perfect combination for his type of defensive warfare. Dakeshi Ridge, which the marines had reached by 10 May, had typical reverse-slope defenses supported by many positions in the town of Dakeshi. The Japanese had exploited this situation as fully as they had capitalized on the relationship of the town and ridge of Kakazu and on that of the town of Maeda and Urasoe-Mura Escarpment. Another ridge, Wana, lay directly south of the town of Dakeshi. West of these positions steep declivities of from 50 to 100 yards protected the Japanese against a flank attack from their left. South of Wana Ridge was Wana Draw, which began as a narrow, rocky defile just north of Shuri and widened out broadly to the west, giving its defenders a full view of the ground below. 11

Capture of Dakeshi Ridge, 10-13 May

In the Tenth Army attack of 11 May the part played by the 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, represented an intensification of the attack on Dakeshi Ridge begun on the previous day. The regimental attack of 20 May had been abortive. The enemy had put intense mortar and machine-gun fire on the attacking marines from his positions on and behind the long ridge. By nightfall the 7th Marines had been forced back to its original lines. 13

The plan for 11 May was designed to take advantage of the natural formation of Dakeshi Ridge, which was shaped roughly like a horseshoe, with the prongs extending north along the boundaries of the 7th regimental sector. The bowl between the ends of the ridge was impassable because of enemy fire the routes of attack were along the extensions of the ridge. The 2d Battalion attacked the western end of the ridge on the regimental right, while the 1st Battalion attacked on the left. Both battalions had to move over rough ground.

Using tank-infantry teams, the 1st Battalion slowly pushed up the eastern slope of Dakeshi under heavy enemy fire and reached the ridge line during the afternoon. The 2d Battalion also managed to reach the crest of the ridge in its sector but immediately came under intense fire from Wana Ridge directly to the south. It was impossible to continue the attack a marine could hardly raise his head without receiving fire. Evacuating casualties was extremely difficult. When one marine was set on fire by a Japanese flame thrower, several of his comrades tried to cross open ground to put out the flames, but each one was

wounded in the attempt. The Americans were forced back a short distance but held most of their gains. The attacking company had lost its commander and every squad leader in the two assault platoons.

The 7th Marines extended its hold on Dakeshi during is May. The fighting in the 1st Battalion sector revolved around a pinnacle on the east end of Dakeshi Ridge. As usual, the enemy occupied the reverse slope in such favorable positions that flank or frontal assault attacks were virtually impossible. There was room enough only for a platoon to maneuver. Well supplied with grenades, four marines tried to occupy the pinnacle by stealth, but the attempt failed. After a 60-mm. mortar concentration, twelve marines assaulted the position only to find the enemy waiting unscathed they pulled back under a hand-grenade barrage. Then demolitions men put 400 pounds of charges below the position. The blasting was an exciting spectacle to watch but ineffective.

There was still another trick in the Marine repertory, and this one worked. The platoon secured a medium tank and two flame-thrower tanks and directed them through the saddle on the right (west) of the pinnacle to a point where they could operate against the reverse slope. While the tank put 75-mm. shells and machine-gun fire into the enemy positions, the flame thrower sprayed fire over the whole slope. Immediately afterward the infantry assaulted the pinnacle and won it without much difficulty.

By nightfall the 7th Marines held firmly most of Dakeshi Ridge. Shortly before midnight the Japanese made a counterattack against the 2d Battalion on the ridge. This was the third counterattack against this regiment in as many nights. The Americans killed about forty of a force estimated as of company strength, including two Japanese officers with excellent maps of the area. Tank-infantry teams secured the rest of Dakeshi Ridge on the 13th.

A savage fight developed on 13 May when the 2d Battalion tried to move through the town of Dakeshi in preparation for an assault on Wana Ridge. Dakeshi was a network of tunnels, shafts, and caves--ideal for a large defending force. Snipers were among ruins, behind walls, and in cisterns and wells. The forward platoon was caught in the open by mortar and automatic fire from the front and both flanks. The radio broke down. Tanks and artillery supported the men and tried to screen them with smoke, but the Japanese crawled forward through the smoke and grenaded the platoon. One marine, wounded so badly that he begged to be shot, was being helped by two comrades when a grenade exploded among them, killing all three. The platoon pulled back after thirty-two of its original forty-nine had been killed or wounded.

DAKESHI RIDGE was attacked by these tank-infantry teams of the 7th Marines, 1st Division, in attempting to reach the eastern slope. Below, 7th Marine troops closing in on a Japanese-held cave in the Dakeshi Ridge hug the ground as an enemy mortar shell burst on crest. Cave is in the depression to right of shell burst.

The 1st Marines Advances on the Right

While the 7th Marines fought for Dakeshi Ridge during 10-13 May, the 1st Marines moved south along the rolling ground below Shuri Heights. After capturing Hill 60 on 9 May, the 1st Marines found its zone of action sloping downward and exposed to enemy observation and fire from Shuri Heights and from Hill 55, which was just below Wana Draw. Immediately before the regiment lay the low basin drained by the Asa River. On the marines' right the railroad from Naha ran along an embankment.

When the 1st Marines attempted to push past the western nose of Dakeshi Ridge on 10 and 11 May, fire from Shuri Heights was so severe that the advance stalled. Consequently the attack was reoriented, and the marines, giving Dakeshi Ridge a wide berth, advanced west of the railroad. Here the 1st Marines made good progress in coordination with the 6th Marine Division. The farther the troops advanced on the right, however, the greater was the difficulty in supplying the forward elements all routes of approach were under fire. Japanese artillery shelled the area between Dakeshi Ridge and the railroad. On 15 May it was necessary to use air drops, but these were only partially successful because some of the parachutes drifted into areas under enemy fire.

The attack of the 1st Marines on 13 May was coordinated with the moves of the 7th Marines on Dakeshi Ridge. Artillery, naval guns, mortars, and 37-mm. guns pounded the areas in front of the marines. By noon the 3d Battalion was near Hill 55. This hill, forming part of the south wall of Wana Draw, presented to the marines a steep incline. Its defenses were well integrated with those of Wana Ridge and Draw. One company, supported by tanks, assaulted Hill 55 during the afternoon but was hit by heavy fire from the heights. Japanese machine guns, mortars, and 20-MM. automatic guns forced the company to withdraw under a smoke screen.

The plan for 14 May was an attack on Wana Ridge in coordination with the 7th Marines. Wana Ridge formed the northern wall of Wana Draw. The ridge, a long coral spine running out of the northern part of Shuri, was lined on both sides with fortified tombs, many of which looked out on the low ground

Fight for Wana Draw

The 5th Marine Regiment relieved the 1st Marines during the evening of 14 May. The plan now was to attack Wana Draw and the neighboring heights with all available weapons. Four self-propelled guns and twelve tanks for direct fire arrived on 16 May. The tanks, working in relays and escorted by infantry fire teams, moved into the low ground at the mouth of Wana Draw and began firing into the high ground. The enemy responded almost immediately with 47-mm. antitank fire, destroying two tanks he also dropped in mortar shells to kill the accompanying infantry. The marines pulled back with their casualties. Observers, however, had spotted two of the Japanese antitank gun positions and main batteries of the Colorado destroyed both of them later in the afternoon.

The tanks and M-7's (self-propelled guns) continued to press up into Wana Draw. On the 17th the 2d Battalion attempted to storm Hill 55, but the attack was premature. Japanese machine guns and mortars in Wana Ridge stopped the infantry, and 47-mm. guns knocked out two tanks. The marines were able to hold only the west slope of the hill. On the next day tanks and self-propelled guns fired more than 7,000 rounds of 75 mm. and 105 mm. into the Japanese positions. Engineers with demolitions and flame throwers destroyed enemy weapons on the lower slopes of Wana Ridge. 14

Naval guns, field artillery, tanks, and M-7's pounded Shuri Heights and Hill 55 as the marines moved to the crest of the hill on the morning of 20 May. The infantry destroyed some Japanese on the crest after a brief hand-to-hand encounter. Tank-infantry teams moved up into Wana Draw and with point-blank fire killed many Japanese dug in on the reverse slope of Hill 55. Seizure of this position made possible some further advances on the ground below Hill 55. Marines overran many spider traps manned by Japanese soldiers equipped with satchel charges. By 21 May the 1st Marine Division was attacking Shuri Ridge, the high barrier which was the last natural feature protecting Shuri Castle on the west.

Deadlock at Wana Ridge, 16-21 May

Despite the advances of the 5th Marines in the Wana Draw and Hill 55 area and the firm grip of the 7th Marines on Dakeshi Ridge, the Japanese continued to hold Wana Ridge. Their positions on this ridge overlooked both regimental sectors. On the 16th the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, sent patrols to probe around the west nose of Wana Ridge. When infantrymen moved up behind the patrol, the Japanese launched a series of counterattacks which drove the marines back to the northern base of Wana Ridge.

After relieving the 1st Battalion on the morning of 17 May, the 3d Battalion attacked up Wana Ridge on three successive days each time it was forced to fall back to its positions on the southern edge of Dakeshi town. The attackers were usually able to reach the top, but were subjected immediately to intense mortar and automatic fire from front and both flanks, making the crest untenable. On 19 May the 7th Marines was replaced by the 1st Marines. The 7th, which had lost more than 1,000 killed, wounded, and missing since 10 May, was later awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for its participation in the battle for Shuri Heights.

By the time the 1st Marines took over, progress in the Wana Draw-Hill 55 area was beginning to make itself felt in the Wana Ridge fighting. Tanks, M-7's, and artillery had been pounding the northern wall of Wana Draw, which was the reverse slope of Wana Ridge. Nevertheless, Japanese artillery and lighter weapons that were "zeroed in" on Wana Ridge from Shuri town still controlled the craggy ridge line. Some Japanese positions were built into the sheer, 200-foot walls of the upper part of Wana Draw and were almost unassailable.

The 1st Marines opened a two-pronged assault on Wana Ridge on the morning of 10 May. The 3d Battalion was to attack southeast up Wana Ridge, while the 2d Battalion was to advance against 100 Meter Hill, the eastern extension of the ridge. Supported by tanks, self-propelled guns, and 37-mm. guns, the 2d Battalion advanced rapidly to the base of 100 Meter Hill. Three forward platoons were stopped on the slope by fire from Wana Ridge and from the south, but another company passed through them and continued the attack. By dusk the 2d Battalion held part of the ridge but not 100 Meter Hill. In heavy close-range fighting the 3d Battalion gained only 200 yards on the west slope.

The attack continued on 21 May, but progress was even slower than on the day before. Like so many previous attempts on Okinawa, the attack faltered as troops were forced to make the most strenuous efforts to destroy particular

REVERSE SLOPE OF WANA RIDGE as it appeared from slope of Wana Draw. High, treeless point on right side of photo is 100 Meter Hill. Below appear remains of a Japanese 47-mm. antitank gun and a crewman burned by flame-throwing tank.

positions with shell fire, grenades, and demolitions. The 2d Battalion poured napalm into Wana Draw and then ignited it this drove some of the enemy into the open, where they were exposed to mortar fire. Bazookas, rifle grenades, and hundreds of white phosphorus and fragmentation grenades were used against the caves on the reverse slope of Wana. Japanese mortar and sniper fire was intense, forcing the marines to take cover in native tombs and coral formations. The 3d Battalion advanced seventy-five yards through the broken ground on Wana Ridge, but then had to pull back to previous positions for the night. The 2d Battalion had been stopped short in another attempt to take 100 Meter Hill.

Shortly after midnight of 21 May an enemy force of about 200 troops tried to drive the 1st Marines off the forward slope of Wana Ridge. After climbing the steep reverse slope by means of ropes, picks, and ladders, the Japanese surged through a small cut on the ridge and charged the Marine positions. Company C, holding a thin line between the 2d and 3d Battalions, used automatic and rifle fire, but the most effective weapon at such short range was the grenade. The marines threw them until their arms ached at the same time, mortarmen put heavy concentrations on the reverse slope of Wana. The Japanese attack was checked. Company C lost 4 killed and 26 wounded in the attack, but counted 140 dead Japanese in its sector in the morning.

The Attack in the Center

In the 77th Division's sector the Tenth Army's attack of 11 May marked a resumption of the snail-like frontal advance on Shuri. The division's two regiments, fighting on opposite sides of a long open valley southeast of Route 5, had to coordinate more closely with neighboring divisions than with each other. The progress of the 305th on the 77th's right (west) was dependent largely on the advance of the 1st Marine Division on Dakeshi Ridge the 306th, on the division left, worked closely with the 96th Division along high ground west and southwest of Kochi Ridge. (See Map No. 40.) Enemy forces facing the 77th consisted of two battalions of the 32d Regiment, 24th Division, supported by elements of four independent battalions, including a Shuri guard unit. 15

The sector of the 305th Infantry was a jumble of ground extending south from Hill 187 toward Shuri. In contrast to the bold terrain features east and

northwest of Shuri, this area was a rough plateau pitted with innumerable knolls, ravines, and draws. By the middle of May the ground was even more broken by shell holes, trenches, and gaping cave mouths. Hardly a living plant was visible. The 305th pressed on, although every advance of a few yards uncovered more positions to be destroyed. The attack took a steady toll of Americans by 15 May the 305th was fighting at about one-fourth strength. 16

Ordinarily on Okinawa the Americans attacked in the morning, dug in on the new position late in the afternoon, and held a tight perimeter defense during the night. On a few occasions, however, the 77th Division made night attacks. Such an attack was made on 17 May by the 307th Infantry, which had relieved the 306th on the division left on 15 May in an attempt to capture Ishimmi Ridge, lying west of the town of Ishimmi. This attack, which developed into a desperate effort to hold a position surrounded by the enemy, was typical of the ordeal that many infantrymen had to go through on Okinawa to register even minor gains.

Through the Japanese Lines to Ishimmi Ridge

Shortly before dark of 16 May 1st Lt. Theodore S. Bell, commanding Company E, 307th Infantry, took his platoon leaders up to the 2d Battalion observation post atop a coral pinnacle, pointed out Ishimmi Ridge, dimly visible in the dusk, 1,200 yards to the south, and announced that Company E had been ordered to make a surprise night attack on the ridge. In the few minutes remaining before dark the officers studied the lay of the land. A heavy machine gun section from Company H and a reinforced rifle platoon from Company C were attached to Company E for the attack. The members of the reinforced company, many of them replacements without previous combat experience, were ordered to load and lock their weapons and to fix bayonets. 17

Company E moved out in the dark at 0300, 17 May. Going down through the west part of the valley, the troops at 0400 reached the line of departure, where they were joined by the platoon from Company C. Fifteen minutes later the reinforced company was silently picking its way along low ground. Several gaunt trees on Ishimmi Ridge, showing dimly in the light of the frequent flares, served as guide points. Although Japanese controlled the ground, the Americans were not detected. Troops froze in their tracks whenever flares exploded overhead.

The sound of battle--rifle and automatic fire and the whir of artillery shells--was always around them.

The company reached Ishimmi Ridge just before dawn and began taking up positions along a 125-yard sector of the flat crest. Digging in was difficult because of the coral and rock formation. The crest of Ishimmi was hardly ten yards wide at the center but flared out on either end. The 3d Platoon moved to the left, the 2d Platoon formed the center, the platoon from Company C took the right flank, and the 1st Platoon protected the rear. Lieutenant Bell established his command post in a pocket twenty yards north of the narrow part of the ridge.

By dawn the men were in position but the enemy was still unaware of their presence. A Japanese officer and his aide, talking and laughing as they emerged from a tunnel, were killed before they noticed the Americans. The 2d Platoon found a dozen sleeping Japanese in one trench and dispatched them with bayonets and rifle fire. By 0530, however, the enemy was fully alerted. Japanese troops began to pour out of tunnels in a ridge south of Ishimmi and tried to cross the intervening valley. American machine-gun fire cut them down. Soon enemy artillery, mortar, machine-gun, and rifle fire was sweeping the bare crest, forcing the troops to lie flat in their shallow holes. The Japanese were firing from all directions, including the rear, and were delivering mortar fire even from tunnel openings along the lower slopes of Ishimmi Ridge itself.

The First Day

The Japanese quickly spotted Company E's automatic weapons. One heavy machine gun was blown to pieces as its crew was setting it on the tripod the other heavy was destroyed before it had fired one box of ammunition. Almost all the members of the crews were killed. Both light machine guns had been knocked out by 0700, one being completely buried. All but one of the light mortars were out of action by 1000. Lieutenant Bell's communications with Battalion were also a target. Of five radios brought along by his company and by the artillery forward observer, one was smashed by mortar shells, another was set on fire, and two had their aerials shot off. Only one remained intact.

As the American fire power was reduced, the Japanese tried to close in to destroy the beleaguered force. The 3d Platoon, occupying an exposed position on the eastern part of the ridge, repulsed three bayonet charges on its left. The Americans suffered many casualties from grenades. Japanese in the ridge south of Ishimmi took a heavy toll of the 2d Platoon, occupying the center. Two knee mortars, firing in unison 100 yards off either flank, systematically swept the

ISHIMMI RIDGE, extending from right foreground almost to spinner of airplane from which this picture was taken, rises out of flat ground northeast of Shuri. Immediately behind the ridge is the village of Ishimmi and the draw before Okinawa's ancient capital. From these positions the enemy could pour mortar fire into the small group of the 307th Infantry, 77th Division, on the hill.

American positions from one end to another. The dead lay in pools of blood where they fell, or were pushed from the holes to make room for the living. An aid man, although wounded himself, continued his work until his supplies were exhausted.

During the day the 307th Infantry could not reinforce the company over the fire-swept approaches, but supported the force with artillery and self-propelled guns. Cannon company weapons put direct fire on Japanese trying to storm the hill. Many American shells landed so close to the encircled troops that the men were showered with rock. The one remaining radio enabled Lieutenant Bell to pinpoint targets for support fire. Mortars and heavy machine guns also helped to break up enemy charges.

The combined fire piled up the Japanese on the slopes of Ishimmi, but their attacks continued. By midday the 2d and 3d Platoons were at half strength and the rest of the company also had suffered heavily. Realizing that he could not possibly hold his extended positions during the night, Lieutenant Bell ordered the 2d and 3d Platoons late in the afternoon to pull into the command post and form a perimeter around it. Withdrawal was difficult, for the 2d Platoon had six badly mangled men in its sector. These were placed on ponchos and dragged out sled-fashion. One casualty was killed by machine-gun fire on the way out.

During the night a rescue force tried to get through to Company E, but the Japanese ambushed it and the survivors turned back. The Americans on Ishimmi Ridge, bombarded during the night by artillery, mortars, and "buzz bombs," repelled several attempts at infiltration. Flares kept the area well lighted and enabled Company E to see the approaching Japanese. Sleep was impossible. The tired, tense men hunched in their foxholes and waited for the dawn.

The Second Day

The moans of wounded men, many of whom were in pitiful condition from lack of water and of medical aid, added to the strain. All canteens had been emptied the previous night. Nevertheless, battle discipline remained excellent. The worst problem concerned the replacements, who were courageous but inexperienced. Thrust suddenly into a desperate situation, some of them failed at crucial moments. One man saw two Japanese attacking a sergeant thirty feet away, but his finger froze on the trigger. Another shouted wildly for a comrade to shoot some Japanese while his own rifle lay in his hands. Another saw an enemy soldier a few yards from his hole, pulled the trigger, and discovered that he had forgotten to reload. By the end of the ordeal, however, the replacements who survived were battle-hardened veterans.

During the afternoon the 307th attempted to reinforce the small group. Elements of Company C tried to cross the open ground north of Ishimmi Ridge. Only the commander and five men reached Company E. The men scrambled safely into foxholes, but the commander, shot through the head while racing toward the command post, fell dead on the parapet of the command post foxhole. Spirits rose considerably when word came later in the afternoon that a litter-bearing unit of eighty men would try to get through in the evening.

Enemy fire slackened after dark, and the first of the litter bearers arrived at about 2200. They immediately started back carrying casualties. Walking wounded accompanied them. The litter bearers moved swiftly and managed to avoid being seen in the light of flares. Through splendid discipline and good luck eighteen men were carried out in two and a half hours, and others walked out. The litter teams had brought some water and ammunition and the troops drank for the first time since the day before. The second sleepless night on the ridge passed.

The Third Day

A message arrived during the morning that Company E would be relieved that evening. By noon the radio had become so weak that further communication with the company was impossible. The day wore slowly on. By 2100 there was still no sign of the relief. Shortly afterward, however, rifle fire intensified to the rear, a sign of activity there. At 2200 Company L, 3d Battalion, 306th Infantry, arrived. The relief was carried out in pitch darkness each member of Company E left as soon as a replacement reached his position. As the haggard survivors were about to descend the ridge at 0300, a bursting shell hit two of the newcomers one of them had to be evacuated on a poncho. Carrying its own wounded, Company E followed a white tape to the rear and arrived safely.

Of the 204 officers and men of the reinforced company that had made the night attack on Ishimmi, 156 had been killed or wounded. There were 28 privates, 1 noncommissioned officer, and 2 officers left of the original 129 members of Company E. The platoon sent in relief by Company C had gone out with 58 effectives and returned with 13. Of the 17 men in the heavy weapons section only 4 came back. Company E had spearheaded a several-hundred-yard advance toward Shuri, however, and with the help of supporting weapons had killed hundreds of Japanese around Ishimmi.

During the battle to hold Ishimmi Ridge, the 305th Infantry had continued its attack along Route 5. The enemy held tenaciously to his positions in the finger ridges running west from the highway. Fierce fire fights flared up, often holding up the advance for a substantial time. The network of small hills and ridges afforded the Japanese almost complete interlocking fire many positions were covered by five or six others. Even though the 305th utilized all its supporting arms, including medium tanks, self-propelled howitzers, antitank guns, and armored flame throwers, it was almost impossible to keep all the supporting strong points neutralized at the same time. The 306th Infantry relieved the 305th on 21 May, as the troops were reaching the northern outskirts of Shuri. 18

The Reduction of Chocolate Drop Hill

a bare, brown hump of earth with a slightly peaked crest, rising abruptly from a flat expanse of ground, did indeed resemble a chocolate drop resting on a slightly tilted saucer. 19

Several circumstances made the "Drop" an almost impregnable position. Movement across the saucer was extremely difficult. Except for low scrub growth in a few spots there was no cover on the surrounding ground. The west part of the saucer, near Route 5, was low and marshy--unsuited for tanks and other heavy weapons. Near Chocolate Drop was one of the largest mine fields on Okinawa. This area was covered by fire from Flattop Hill on the east, from Ishimmi Ridge on the southwest, and from other heights the entire way around the circle except to the north where the Americans were advancing. The Japanese also had the usual reverse-slope defenses on Chocolate Drop and on Wart Hill, a knob 500 yards east of Chocolate Drop on the long ridge running southwest between Flattop and Chocolate Drop.

At 0700 on 11 May, immediately after the 31-minute artillery preparation, the infantry moved out. The 3d Battalion, 306th Infantry, was to make the main effort on the left (east) of the 77th Division sector. The troops had advanced a little more than 200 yards when they were stopped by a hail of artillery and mortar fire. Fields of crossed machine-gun fire, converging just north of Chocolate Drop, also barred the way. By 0900 one company was engaged in close-in fighting near the north base of the hill. Other troops tried to advance on the left but were stopped by enemy entrenched around the base of Wart Hill. 20

Tanks, self-propelled guns, artillery, mortars, and other infantry heavy weapons supported the attack, but no weapon seemed capable of reaching the Japanese dug in on the reverse slope of the Drop. Japanese weapons on Flattop took a heavy toll. One platoon, exposed to Flattop, sustained eleven casualties in the first few minutes of its attack. Japanese 4.7-mm. antitank guns raised havoc with tanks attempting to cross the open ground. Two tanks were destroyed and six others damaged by this fire. Another tank threw a track and was later destroyed by a Japanese satchel charge. After sustaining fifty-three casualties during the day, the battalion was withdrawn to the previous night's positions.

CHOCOLATE DROP HILL under attack 13 May from the west by tanks and armored flame thrower. Tanks which moved through the draw (below) between the "Drop" and Flattop were knocked out by fire from reverse slopes of these hills.

On the following day, 12 May, the 306th held its position and aided the advance of friendly forces on both flanks. The 2d Battalion, 306th, supported by a platoon of tanks, anchored the right flank of the 96th Division. The 1st Battalion, 306th, supported the advance of the 305th Infantry. This regiment was having extremely hard going in the broken ground west of Route 5. Japanese here held positions in large, well-protected caves. One such cave had two Japanese 2 1/2-ton trucks parked end-to-end inside it.

The plan for 13 May was a combined attack on Flattop Hill and Chocolate Drop. After a short but intense artillery preparation, the 306th renewed its attack on the Drop. The 2d Battalion led the assault, moving down the high ground on the northeast. The leading company reached the hill in thirteen minutes, only to stall at its northern base under intense artillery and mortar fire. An effort to swing left into the area between Chocolate Drop and Flattop was stopped quickly: there the troops were more exposed than ever. The infantry managed to secure part of the slope of Chocolate Drop but was soon forced back to the base of the hill. At 1400 the enemy scored twenty hits with 150-mm. artillery in the area just north of Chocolate Drop. Supported by all available artillery pieces, tanks, and self-propelled guns, the battalion made a third attempt to seize the hill. The troops, however, could not gain a tenable position, and they withdrew 300 yards to a fold of ground north of the hill. Two American medium tanks, one of them equipped with a 105-mm. howitzer, were destroyed during the day.

Some troops managed to dig in at the base of Wart Hill and to hold their position despite withdrawal of the forces on Chocolate Drop. Japanese who occupied trenches on the other side of Wart attacked this small group during the night. The fight was so fierce that the Americans were driven out of their holes. In the dark they did not dare to shoot for fear of hitting comrades. With grenades, bayonets, and entrenching tools, the men stormed back to their holes, now occupied by a dozen Japanese, and quickly regained their position.

By 14 May the 306th Infantry was so depleted in strength that the remaining riflemen were grouped into one battalion. Led by five tanks, this composite battalion attempted to advance beyond Wart Hill. As soon as the assault platoon reached the slope of Wart, a holocaust of fire from the front and both flanks hit the troops. In a few minutes the platoon was cut down to half strength, and the platoon leader, a platoon sergeant, and a squad leader were all casualties. Enemy antitank fire hit six tanks soon after they appeared on the crest. The line of dead infantrymen at one place near Chocolate Drop looked to one

observer like a skirmish line that had lain down to rest. Further efforts to take Chocolate Drop and the high ground to the east were fruitless. On the next morning the 306th Infantry, which had suffered 471 casualties since 6 May, was replaced by the 307th.

The 307th Infantry attacked through the 306th at 0900 on 15 May. The scheme of maneuver was a simultaneous assault on Flattop on the left (east) and on Chocolate Drop on the right. The troops moved slowly toward their objectives under heavy fire from rifles, machine guns, and mortars. Simultaneously elements of the 96th Division were making progress in their sector east of the 77th, and this aided the 77th's advance. By noon the 3d Battalion was at the north base of the Drop and was working up the north slopes of Flattop. The 2d Battalion moved around to the right of the 3d Battalion and advanced about 500 yards before being held up by intense mortar and machine-gun fire. But the Americans were still unable to capitalize on their advances. To move through the saddle between Chocolate Drop and Flattop was to invite fire from the reverse slope of the Drop as well as from the entire system of defenses to the south. Several more tanks were disabled before the advance ended.

For the first time, however, the assault elements of the 77th Division were able to hold their positions directly north of Chocolate Drop and just below the crest on the north slope of Flattop. During the night the enemy tried to break the 307th's hold on the immediate approaches to Chocolate Drop. From huge caves on the reverse slope of the hill, groups of Japanese armed with knee mortars attacked the Americans twice during the dark. These attacks were warded off. During the night, however, the Japanese discovered in a ditch just east of Chocolate Drop, five men who had been cut off after the assault company withdrew from the hill on the previous evening they killed two of the group and wounded one.

The 307th continued the attack on 16 May, but this was another day of frustration. One platoon of the 3d Battalion reached the crest of Flattop then enemy mortar and machine-gun fire forced the troops back. Four times more during the day the 3d Battalion reached and attempted to hold the crest, but each time the troops fell back to the north slope. The 2d Battalion continued to probe around the sides of Chocolate Drop in an effort to reach the enemy on top and on the reverse slope. One platoon was forced off Chocolate Drop late in the afternoon, but other infantrymen were able to hold positions gained during the day on the saddle east of the hill.

Slowly the 77th Division forces between Flattop and Route 5 were reducing

enemy positions bearing on the area in front of the 307th Infantry. By 17 May this progress began to show in the advances of the foot troops around Chocolate Drop. Covered by company heavy weapons out on both flanks, infantrymen worked around both sides of the hill to the huge caves on the reverse slope. Inside were 4 antitank guns, 1 field piece, 4 machine guns, 4 heavy mortars, and a American 60-mm. mortars. By nightfall the caves had been partially sealed off. During the night an enemy force launched a counterattack against the American positions around the hill but was repulsed with the loss of twenty-five Japanese killed.

During the next two days the 3d Battalion consolidated and expanded its positions around Chocolate Drop. Reducing the tiny hill continued to be ticklish work because enemy positions to the south still overlooked the area. The fighting was still so confused that three wounded Americans lay south of Chocolate Drop for two days before relief arrived. By that time two had died and the third was so delirious that he thought he was still fighting Japanese and had to be forcibly subdued. By 20 May the caves were completely sealed off. The enemy made a final attempt to retake Chocolate Drop, attacking in company strength, but was repelled with the loss of half his force. On the same day the 3d Battalion, using tanks, flame throwers, and demolition teams, finally secured the crest of Flattop.

Some days later Tokyo Radio broadcast a message in English to the American troops on Okinawa:

Sugar Loaf Hill . . . Chocolate Drop . . . Strawberry Hill. Gee, those places sound wonderful! You can just see the candy houses with the white picket fences around them and the candy canes hanging from the trees, their red and white stripes glistening in the sun. But the only thing red about those places is the blood of Americans. Yes, sir, those are the names of hills in southern Okinawa where the fighting's so close that you get down to bayonets and sometimes your bare fists. Artillery and naval gunfire are all right when the enemy is far off but they don't do you any good when he's right in the same foxhole with you. I guess it's natural to idealize the worst places with pretty names to make them seem less awful. Why Sugar Loaf has changed hands so often it looks like Dante's Inferno. Yes, sir, Sugar Loaf Hill . . . Chocolate Drop . ./ . Strawberry Hill. They sound good, don't they? Only those who've been there know what they're really like. 21

Flattop and Dick Hills

the 96th and 77th for ten days. These positions were built into Flattop and into the Dick Hills, east of Flattop. The Dick Hills and Flattop were so close to one another that their reduction depended on close coordination of troops of the 96th and 77th across the divisional boundary. A captured Japanese map showed these hills to be on the perimeter of the inner core of the Shuri defenses.

The Japanese had a miscellaneous collection of troops in the Flattop-Dick Hills area. Although heavily reduced during the past weeks, the 22d Regiment, 24th Division, was still ably commanded and capable of effective defense in the scores of available positions in the Flattop area. Supporting the 32d Regiment were troops of the 24th Transport Regiment, the 29th Independent Battalion, and the 27th Tank Regiment. The remaining six tanks of the 27th were dug in behind Flattop and used as stationary pillboxes. Engineers from the tank regiment had mined roads and other approaches and had constructed bell-shaped foxholes from which satchel charges could be thrown against American tanks. The Japanese had salvaged a number of 7.7-mm. machine guns from destroyed tanks to round out their defenses. 22

The Dick Hill mass consisted of four heights, known officially as Dick Baker, Dick Able, Dick Right, and Dick Left. The highest and most heavily fortified of these was Dick Right (ordinarily called Dick Hill), which was a companion hill mass to Flattop and lay just southeast of it. Dick Baker was close to Zebra and just west of the narrow road running southwest from Onaga along the southeast slope of Zebra. Dick Able was southeast of Dick Baker. Dick Left, another well-fortified and strongly defended height, was the southern elevation of the ridge running south from Dick Right. (See Map No. 44. )

During the night of 10-11 May a fight raged on the crest of Zebra Hill as the Japanese tried to oust the Americans from positions occupied on the previous day. Not until 0730 was the enemy forced off the hill, leaving 122 of his number dead. During the 11th, the 382d Infantry, 96th Division, commanded by Col. M. L. Dill, consolidated its positions on Zebra. Operating on the reverse slope of the hill was difficult since Japanese positions in the Dick Hills area commanded that slope. An attempt to move over open ground to Dick Baker, undertaken later in the day, proved abortive because of accurate enemy fire. One assault platoon lost all its noncommissioned officers and a private first class was in command at the end of the day. 23

DICK HILLS AND FLATTOP, photographed 23 May 1945, two days after reduction of these positions. Enemy was still dropping harassing fire on farther slopes, with battle moving closer to Shuri. American foxholes, some covered by shelter halves, can be seen in profusion on the hillsides.

The 382d attacked again on 11 May, with the 1st Battalion on the right (west) and the 3d Battalion on the left. Block and tackle were used to haul 37-mm. antitank guns up to the top of Zebra for direct fire into Japanese positions on heights to the south. Artillery fire and the 37-mm. fire enabled the attack of the 3d Battalion to get off to a good start toward Baker Hill. While the tank-infantry teams of the 1st Battalion cleared out the reverse slope of Zebra, the 3d Battalion advanced slowly between Zebra and Item Hills. The 1st Battalion attacked toward Dick Baker but was surprised by fire from its rear. Despite the efforts of the two battalions, some Japanese on the reverse slope of Zebra had survived. Nevertheless, assault troops of the 1st Battalion reached Dick Baker and dug in on the crest under a heavy smoke screen. Heavy fire soon forced them to withdraw.

In the afternoon Company A attacked up the east slope of Dick Baker. The troops were halfway to the top when most of them were pinned down by heavy fire from the south. Lt. Woodrow W. Anderson and three soldiers continued the assault. Anderson covered two huge caves on the east face of Dick Baker by fire while Pfc. Amador G. Duran made a dash between them to the crest. Anderson and the two other men joined him. Suddenly a terrific mortar barrage descended on the hill. Anderson and Duran were killed instantly when a shell landed squarely in their foxhole the two survivors ran down the north-west slope to friendly territory. No further progress was made during the day. The regiment's only success of the day was the 3d Battalion's capture of Baker Hill, 600 yards south of Zebra.

The effort of 13 May was closely coordinated with the advance on the right made by the 306th Infantry, 77th Division. The 1st Battalion, 382d Infantry, pushed off shortly after 1100. The plan was for Company A, leading, to attack Dick Baker while Company B swung out to the left toward Dick Able. For a time everything went smoothly. Both companies reached the crests of their objectives, meeting little fire, and they promptly began blowing up caves and pillboxes. But Japanese gunners were waiting. Suddenly a storm of explosives hit the forces on Dick Able. Over 200 rounds of 90-mm. mortar fire, together with 150-mm. artillery rounds and knee mortar shells, fell on the small, exposed crest. The commander of Company B and all but one or two of the fourteen men with him were killed. Company A was able to hold its position on Dick Baker. (See Map No. 45.)

The Japanese reinforced their positions in the Dick Hills area during the night of 13-14 May. On the next morning enemy fire was so strong that tanks

had to be used to transport supplies to the forward troops. It was a risky procedure to leave a foxhole on Dick Baker even to receive supplies from tanks at the base of the hill. In the afternoon, after coordinating with the 306th Infantry on his right, Colonel Dill launched an attack on Dick Able and Dick Right. Supported by Company A on Dick Baker, Company B managed to reach the crest of Able without difficulty. The heavy pounding of support weapons during the morning had evidently knocked out many of the mortars covering this position. A platoon of Company C then attacked Dick Right from the north. Five infantrymen advanced halfway up the slope, but the first three were killed by rifle fire. The enemy also opened up on the platoon with mortars, and the Americans were forced to withdraw.

The 3d Battalion also attacked Dick Right, advancing from the Baker Hill area toward the east fingers of Dick. Company K managed to reach the military crest on the north slopes of the fingers. As Company L, supported by a platoon of tanks, started up a draw leading to Dick Right, a barrage of mortar shells descended on it. Some of the rounds hit the tanks and had the same effect on the accompanying foot troops as air bursts. All but two of the twenty-three men in the leading platoon were killed or wounded. Despite the continuing mortar fire, the company commander rallied his remaining men and led them to the military crest on Dick Right, where they tied in on the right of Company K. In obtaining this precarious hold on Dick, the 3d Battalion had lost six killed and forty-seven wounded.

During the night heavy rain fell, adding to the difficulties the troops already were having with the steep terrain. Before the rain the soft earth had made climbing much like scaling a sand dune now the hillsides were slick with wet clay. During the morning the 3d Battalion, 382d, was able to consolidate its position. It was still difficult, however, to move from the military crest to the topographical crest of Dick Hill one platoon made seven attempts to seize and hold positions on the skyline but each time was forced back just below the crest. Troops were able only to extend their hold westward along the north slope of the long ridge. These attacks brought the 382d Infantry into close conjunction with the fighting around Flattop on the west, toward which the left elements of the 77th had been driving for several days. (See Map No. 46)

Seen from the north, Flattop resembled what its name implied--a long, tabletop ridge, dropping abruptly to narrow saddles at both ends. It stood on the right flank of the rugged hill masses extending southeast to Conical Hill and constituting the eastern defenses of Shuri. Flattop dominated the Kochi Valley

for 1,300 yards to the north, including Chocolate Drop on the northwest. Just to the east, on the other side of a saddle deepened by a road cut, was Dick Hill, objective of the 96th Division. Flattop had a fairly steep reverse slope with the usual profusion of enemy defenses. 24

Flattop was one objective of the 306th Infantry, 77th Division, when that regiment moved out in the Tenth Army attack of 11 May. Chocolate Drop was the other objective. Flattop commanded both Chocolate Drop and the west slopes of Dick Hill, and only after Flattop was taken could the others be entirely reduced. On it May elements of the 3d Battalion started to work slowly along the extended swell of ground north of Flattop. On the 12th, tank-infantry teams tried to reach Flattop but failed. Japanese fire power prevented the troops from coming within range of the height. Similar efforts on the 13th and 14th were frustrated, but each day artillery and other support weapons heavily pounded the hill. The 307th relieved the 306th Infantry on the morning of 15 May.

Throughout the rainy night of 14-15 May, artillery pounded Flattop and the neighboring hills. The 3d Battalion, 307th Infantry, attacked at 0900 in the morning. Troops moved up the slippery face of Flattop with grenades, satchel charges, and portable flame throwers. Tanks put direct fire on the crest and face of the hill. The troops spent the afternoon in a grenade battle with the enemy and dug in for the night just below the crest. On the next day a platoon reached the top of the hill, but shortly afterward a heavy mortar concentration from enemy positions on Tom Hill, 1,000 yards to the south, forced the Americans off the crest. Meanwhile, support tanks had quickly knocked out the six enemy tanks dug in around Flattop. A member of the Japanese 27th Tank Regiment, amazed by the accuracy of American tank fire, described it as "100 shots-100 bulls eyes." The destruction of these tanks with their 37-mm. guns scarcely affected the Flattop fighting. The real trouble was with mines and 47-mm. anti-tank fire, which together knocked out three American tanks during the day.

On the 17th another bitter struggle raged on Flattop. The struggle swayed back and forth across the narrow crest of the hill. Company K, the assaulting unit, had been reduced to fourteen infantrymen by the end of the day finally it was forced back off the top. Tanks tried to go through the road cut between Flattop and Dick Hill, but two of them were disabled by mines, leaving the cut blocked. The road cut was later blown along its entire length by seven tons of bangalore torpedoes to remove the mines. The infantry continued its close-in

fighting with the enemy on 18 May while more tanks tried to move through the cut. A 47-mm. antitank gun destroyed one of the first tanks to emerge from the cut, but it was knocked out in turn by an American 105-mm. self-propelled gun. Other tanks of the 77th and 96th Divisions came up in support.

Now for the first time the Americans could place direct fire on the reverse slopes of Flattop and Dick Hill. This was to prove decisive. Tanks and assault guns put destructive fires on Japanese positions throughout the next day, 19 May. Bayonet charges by the enemy from southwest of Flattop were dispersed by artillery and mortar fire. On 20 May the final American attack started with a saturation shower of grenades. A chain of men extending from the base of Flattop passed hand grenades to the troops lined up along the crest, who threw the missiles as fast as they could pull out the pins. Having seized the advantage, the infantry moved down the reverse slope blasting caves with satchel charges and flame throwers. Tanks along the road cut accounted for many of the Japanese. BY 1545 Flattop had fallen. More than 250 enemy bodies lay on the crest and reverse slope of the hill.

In the zone of the 382d Infantry, 96th Division, the bitter struggle for Dick Hill continued from 15 to 20 May. All attempts to move over the crest of the hill were met by grazing machine-gun fire from Oboe Hill to the left (east) and from Flattop to the right. The 2d Battalion relieved the 1st Battalion on the morning of the 16th. During the previous night the American lines had been pushed back down the south slope of Dick Hill thus a part of the work had to be done over again. There seemed to be no decrease in Japanese resistance, and the battle raged into the night. Efforts to hold the crest of Dick Hill on the west exposed the men to fire from Flattop. The 382d made little more progress on the 17th.

The seizure of the road cut between Flattop and Dick Hill on 18 May was the turning point in the Dick Hill fighting as it had also been in the struggle for Flattop. On 19 and 20 May the hold of the 382d on the reverse slope of Dick Hill was steadily enlarged. Despite continuing heavy antitank fire from enemy positions to the south, tank-infantry teams methodically destroyed Japanese strong points in the immediate Dick Hills area. On one occasion an armored flame thrower flushed fifty Japanese out of a cave all fifty were cut down as they fled. Pockets remained to be cleaned out as late as 21 May. By that time, however, the 382d was involved in another grinding effort to take Oboe Hill on the regimental left. 25

ADVANCE AROUND DICK HILLS AND FLATTOP was difficult. Above appear troops of the 382d Infantry, 77th Division, on Dick Baker supporting advance to Dick Right. Below, Flattop is seen receiving American tank fire.

Colonel Nist, XXIV Corps G-2, summed up the action along the Shuri front during the first week following the attack of 11 May in these words:

During the past week's action, as our troops continued to fight their way into the enemy's main defenses, the Japanese demonstrated a complete willingness to suffer annihilation rather than to sacrifice ground. There was no variation in this pattern during the period. 26

Opening the East Coast Corridor

Conical--the Million Dollar Hill

A mile northeast of Conical Peak on the coastal flat was the enemy's projected Yonabaru airstrip, grass-covered and barely distinguishable. Unaha lay west of the airstrip, and behind that village the ground rose steeply to Hill 178. This high ground formed the northern edge of a U-shaped bowl the open end of which faced the bay. A chain of hills known from north to south as Tare, William, Easy, Charlie, and King shaped the base of the U, while Conical itself was the southern arm. The enclosed area was flat and sometimes swampy, except for Gaja Ridge, which rose by the village of Yonagusuku (or Gala) near the middle of the southern arm.

A valley running behind Fox, Charlie, King, and Conical Hills, the entire way down to the Naha-Yonabaru road, separated the Conical Hill sector from the inner ring of Shuri defenses. The Oboe Hill mass, guarding Shuri's eastern flank, lay a mile northwest of the peak of Conical, across the valley. 28

About 1,000 Japanese, heavily armed with mortars and organic 75-mm artillery, occupied positions on Conical Hill itself. Defense of the sector was entrusted to Col. Hotishi Kanayama's 89th Regiment of the 24th Division, reinforced by the 27th Independent Battalion, one of a number of harbor construction battalions which had changed their designation to "Sea Raiding Battalions." Also attached were one company of the 3d Independent Machine Gun Battalion and the 23d Antitank Company. A captured Japanese map dated 8 May placed two battalions of the 44th Independent Mixed Brigade as guarding the ground between the peak of Conical and Yonabaru, but it appears that these units were moved to the Dakeshi sector soon afterward. Their place was taken by the converted airdrome-maintenance squadron from the Naha airfield and also by the 29th Independent Battalion. 29

The Attack That Failed

running almost due south to a cut separating it from a U-shaped hill called King. Fox Hill lay to the west of Easy, its southern tip ending in a steep little rise west of Charlie known as Fox Pinnacle.

The big attack on 11 May started auspiciously. After a thorough mortar preparation Company B took Easy Hill without too much difficulty and then moved through the cut between Easy and Charlie to flank Fox from the southeast and gain positions on its crest. Company C, after jockeying for favorable jumping-off positions, managed to establish itself on top of Charlie Hill, though not at its summit. The Americans then began the first of a long series of grenade duels with Japanese dug into the reverse slope twenty or thirty yards away. Two days later Company B attacked the summit of Charlie from Fox, but it was stopped by withering fire from King Hill and from enemy positions close to those of Company C on Charlie. Machine-gun fire from Conical Hill and mortar fire from the reverse slopes of Love were added as four Americans moved over the skyline and attacked Charlie's reverse slope. Company B was forced to withdraw.

Some progress was made on 14 May. Company B attacked Charlie Hill again, securing a foothold on its northern end, and Company C extended its positions down Charlie's southern nose. Every man, however, in the platoon of Company A which attacked down the west side of Charlie was killed or injured. Another platoon from the same company tried unsuccessfully to take Fox Pinnacle. On the same day Company L, 3d Battalion, which on 13 May had taken up positions to seal the draw between Charlie and King Hills and thus close a gap between the 1st and 2d Battalions, attacked King and gained the entire crest.

Although the reverse slopes of Charlie and King had not been reduced, an attack on Love Hill, a low, bare ridge running generally east and west, was launched on 16 May as part of a plan which was intended to clean out Charlie and put Company L on the western end of King to supply a base of fire. From Love Hill, fire could reach the reverse slope positions on the southwest side of Conical Hill and support the 382d Infantry's attack on Oboe. Because of the inherent strength of Love's defenses the attack did not succeed nor was progress made on Charlie's southern slopes against the large number of caves, swarming with Japanese. Tanks helped a platoon of Company C to reach Love Hill but ran out of ammunition and withdrew. A murderous barrage, from an estimated fifty machine guns firing from Love itself and from Conical and Oboe Hills and the reverse slopes of King and Charlie, then hit the platoon. Six men, all of them


CONICAL HILL and the adjoining enemy positions to the north and west


EAST COAST FLATLANDS, over which the 184th Infantry, 7th Division, advanced to Yonabaru after of the east slope of Conical Hill.

wounded, made their way back to the American lines that night twenty were left on the objective.

Before dawn on 20 May five more survivors, who had spent the intervening four days behind enemy lines, returned. One of them, Sgt. Donald B. Williams, had hidden in a cave to tend a wounded comrade. Enemy soldiers had fired a bazooka into the cave, and Williams had killed a Japanese who had tried to enter. Williams returned only after his comrade's condition was hopeless and he himself was growing weak for want of food and water. The other four men, Sgt. R. D. Turner, Pvt. William Schweneger, Pvt. Keith Cochran, and Pvt. Kenneth Boynton, the first two of whom were wounded, had stayed in a tomb near the foot of Love Hill. Their attempts to escape at night were thwarted by machine-gun and mortar fire trained on the tomb's entrance. On the second night four Okinawans--an old man, two old women, and a 10-year-old girl-had moved into the tomb with them, and one of the women went out and filled two of their canteens with water. On the fourth day a heavy American air strike hit the hill, and an American machine gun poured lead at a 3-inch opening in the tomb from a distance of 100 yards. The four members of Company C made their escape that night when loud singing and women's voices indicated that the Japanese near by were having a party.

On 19 May Company E established itself on the western end of King Hill but was driven off by fire from Charlie and Love Hills and the reverse slope of King. Since the 96th Division had taken over this sector, more than 300 had been killed or wounded in trying to move down this series of hills. Constant attack and the use of tanks and demolitions had been unavailing, and the strain was beginning to tell on the troops. On 20 May an air strike was run against the reverse slopes of Charlie, toward the American lines, but, although the planes dropped their 500-pound bombs accurately from an altitude of only a few yards, the Charlie pocket continued to withstand assault. It was still alive with Japanese, and supporting fire from Love Hill was deadly. Charlie pocket was not to be finally eliminated or Love Hill taken until 30 May, after nineteen days of bitter struggle.

The Hole in the Dike

Conical's northern spur, which ran down to Tobaru and Amaru, and Company G had made an extensive reconnaissance and destroyed many enemy positions up the draw on the west side of this spur. When General Hodge read the 96th Division's report that evening, he immediately telephoned its commander, General Bradley, and directed that the frontal assault on Conical Hill from the north be pushed. "We'll have the key to the Shuri line if he can make it," General Hodge told his associates. 30

At 1100 on the 13th General Buckner arrived at the observation post of Colonel May, who had decided that the time was ripe for the assault on Conical Hill. Company F had spent the morning clearing Yonagusuku (Gaja) of Japanese who had infiltrated during the night two platoons of tanks from Company B, 763d Tank Battalion, working with Company E, had pounded enemy positions in Conical's northern slopes all morning but Company G, attacking strong points west of Conical's northern spur, was prevented from climbing to the crest by fire from Charlie Hill in its rear and from Conical itself. Colonel May ordered Lt. Col. Lee Morris, 2d Battalion commander, to attack Conical frontally with Companies E and F and to have tanks move with the infantry up the hill.

Two platoons of Company F on the left drove toward Conical's northeast spur and reached a series of boulders halfway up with surprising ease. The two platoon sergeants, T/Sgt. Guy J. Dale and T/Sgt. Dennis O. Duniphan, held a hasty consultation and decided to move up to the crest without waiting for orders from the company commander, 1st Lt. Owen R. O'Neill. By 1300 the men had reached the northeast crest of the ridge.

Japanese reaction was intense. Knee-mortar fire fell on the two platoons as they dug in, and at 1525 a counterattack of at least company strength struck frontally and on Company F's exposed left flank. Sergeant Duniphan stood up and emptied a BAR into enemy soldiers ten feet away, then grabbed a rifle and continued to fire at the attackers. Lieutenant O'Neill sent a runner down the hill to order 1st Lt. Richard W. Frothinger, leader of the 2d Platoon, to come up immediately. Lieutenant Frothinger led his platoon up the hill in a headlong dash through hostile machine-gun fire. An American artillery spotting plane flying over Conical watched the fight and called for fire. Suddenly an overwhelming concentration of artillery air bursts and 4.2-inch mortar fire splattered the area just beyond the crest. The fire was perfectly timed, and the Japanese were repulsed.

South to Sugar Hill

In what Colonel May called "the greatest display of courage of any group of men I have ever seen," two platoons of Company G, 383d Infantry, on 15 May moved up the northwest spur of Conical Hill from King Hill through extremely thick mortar fire. They dug in not far below Conical Peak. An earlier attempt by the company's reserve platoon to establish physical contact with the rest of the company from Conical's north spur around the base of the peak itself had been stymied when the six men engaged in the maneuver were all hit and tumbled seventy-five feet to the bottom of the peak.

Tanks worked over Japanese positions on Conical's eastern slopes and advanced as far south as the outskirts of Yonabaru on 16 May, and Company F secured slightly better positions, preparatory to a main attack down the east side of Conical Hill. On the following day the 3d Battalion, 381st Infantry, relieved Companies E and F of the 383d, placing all three regiments of the 96th Division in the line. If the fresh battalion succeeded in clearing the eastern slopes of Conical Hill, the 7th Division could be called from reserve to sweep down the coast and flank the Shuri line. (See Map No. 48.)

Sugar Hill, at the southern end of the 800-yard hogback that extended south from Conical's peak, was the objective of the 38rst Infantry. On the eastern face of the hogback a number of finger ridges ran down into the Yonabaru coastal flats. Reducing the Japanese emplacements which covered the finger ridges from the west would be difficult, for the crest of the hogback would continue to be untenable because of fire from Love, Mike, and other hills to the west. It would be necessary to deny the crest to the enemy and to guard every inch of the military crest as soon as it was captured, to ward off Japanese attempts to establish positions on the skyline.

Second Lieutenant Leonard K. Warner, a Hawaiian, on 18 May led a platoon of Company K, 381st Infantry, down to the third finger ridge. On the way Lieutenant Warner had dashed up the second finger with two satchel charges and crossed the crest of the hogback to throw them into a heavy machine gun emplacement. On the third finger the platoon was receiving heavy fire from its rear, chiefly from emplacements between the first and second fingers, when Lieutenant Warner's company commander called him and asked whether he could move on to Sugar Hill.

"Hell yes," said Warner. "The way the Japs are shooting me in the back they'll chase me all the way down there." 31

Fire from Cutaway Hill, a peak shaped like an eyetooth and located on the hogback two-thirds of the way between Sugar Hill and Conical's peak, added to the platoon's troubles, and it had to withdraw under smoke. An outpost line on the first finger was held during the night. During the day, tanks working from the flats had had a difficult time and in the end had been forced to withdraw by heavy fire from Chinen Peninsula.

Lt. Col. Daniel A. Nolan, commander of the 3d Battalion, 381st Infantry, on 19 May sent fifteen men with demolitions to attack the enemy emplacements between the first and second fingers. After they failed in an attempt to climb the precipitous slope during the day, 2d Lt. Donald Walsh led the men after dark to the northernmost of the machine-gun positions. They killed its occupants and discovered that it commanded the Japanese defensive system on the reverse slopes of the Conical hogback. The enemy counterattacked persistently but unsuccessfully all night. On the next day the battalion engaged in fierce fighting southward to within 200 yards of Cutaway Hill, and Company L consolidated for the night between the second and third fingers. That night Company K secured the area between the peak of Conical Hill and the second finger, and fought bitter grenade battles with Japanese twenty yards away on the other side of the ridge line. On the 21st the company used 1,100 grenades in hanging on to its position.

On 21 May, while Company L was heavily engaging the enemy on Cutaway Hill and on the hogback to the north of it, Companies I and F attacked across the heavily serrated ground on the east side of the hogback toward Sugar Hill. The men paused at each ridge to set up a base of fire and pound the reverse slopes of the next fold with hundreds of mortar shells, then moved on with tanks to

flush the Japanese from their caves and pillboxes. The company's 60-mm. mortars and heavy machine guns, giving heavy and effective support, were advanced from ridge to ridge just behind the troops. Artillery fire pounded the reverse slopes of Sugar Hill and broke up a strong attempt to reinforce this position by small groups of enemy advancing from the southwest across open ground. Company F, on the right, had to send its men by individual rushes across the open fields below Cutaway Hill to the north slopes of Sugar. This company consolidated its lines on Sugar Hill, but plunging fire from Cutaway was to plague the men for a week. Company I captured the eastern part of Sugar without much difficulty, and Company G came up to strengthen the line against the anticipated counterattack. Company F took the brunt of the attack that night and killed fifty Japanese. The day's gain had cost the 381st Infantry 56 casualties, but the regiment had disposed of 403 Japanese. 32

All of Conical Hill's eastern slopes were now in American hands, and the 7th Division could proceed down the corridor by Buckner Bay without molestation from its right flank. The western side of Conical and the reverse slope of Cutaway remained firmly in the hands of the Japanese.

The month of May saw major changes in the chain of command, involving a transfer of additional responsibility to Tenth Army. On 17 May Admiral Turner was replaced as Commander Task Force 51 by Admiral Harry W. Hill, who was to control the air defenses of Okinawa and the naval forces in the area. The Commanding General of Tenth Army now reported directly to Admiral Spruance. General Buckner was given command of all forces ashore, direct responsibility for the defense and development of captured positions in the Ryukyus area, and, to assist in this mission, operational command of Task Force 51. On 27 May Admiral Spruance was relieved as Commander Fifth Fleet by Admiral William F. Halsey, who commanded the Ryukyus operation until 27 June, when, with the formation of the Ryukyus Force, Tenth Army came directly under CINCPOA. 33

Footnotes

1. Notes on Tenth Army staff meeting, 4 May 45, in Okinawa Diary kept by Stevens and Burns, entry 4 May 45.

2. Tenth Army G-3 JnI, outgoing Msg No. 7, 3 May 45 Opns Ord 7-45, 5 May 45 XXIV Corps FO No. 50, 9 May 45 interv 1st I & H Off with Gen Buckner, to May 45.

3. Tenth Army Opns Ord 8-45, 7 May 45 interv 1st I & H Off with Brig Gen Walter A. Dumas, ACofS, G-3, Tenth Army, 9 Jul 45. There is still some question as to the precise scheme of maneuver. The Tenth Army operation plan overlay, which according to the text of the plan was to show the scheme of maneuver more precisely than the order itself, indicated a very close envelopment of Shuri by the two divisions immediately north of the Japanese headquarters city. The XXIV Corps field order indicated pressure across the line by both its divisions rather than major effort near the center of the Army line. Despite the scheme of maneuver outlined on the Tenth Army overlay, it seems that the actual plan was for uniform pressure across the line which would crack the Japanese defenses at some point and be immediately exploited wherever the particular break might come.

4. Interv 1st I & H Off with Gen Buckner, 10 May 45.

5. Change No. 1, to Tenth Army Opns Ord 8-45, 9 May 45 interv XXIV Corps Hist Off with Brig Gen Josef R. Sheetz, CG XXIV Corps Arty, 23 Jun 45.

6. Tenth Army Transl No. 294, 10 Jul 45: 32d Army Ord No. A to, 11 May 45 Transl No. 176, 21 Jun 45, 32d Army Ord No. A 23, 14 May 45 Transl No. 300, 10 Jul 45: 32d Army Ord No. A 19, 12 May 45 Interrog Shimada.

7. The account of operations of the 6th Marine Division is taken from Carleton, 6th Mar Div History, Ch. II, supplemented and corrected by III Amph Corps G-3 Periodic Rpts for the period and 6th Mar Div Actn Rpt, a detailed and well-balanced narrative.

8. 6th Mar Div Tng Ord No. 23-45, 6 May 45, cited in Carleton, 6th Mar Div History, Ch. II, pp. 5-7.

9. Tenth Army PW Interrog Summary No. 4, 1 Aug 45: 44th Independent Mixed Brigade, p. 4.

10. Personal obsn of Lt Col John Stevens, Tenth Army historian, and Maj Roy Appleman, XXIV Corps historian.

11. Personal Obsn of Lt Col John Stevens, Tenth Army historian.

12. Tenth Army Transl No. 176, 21 Jun 45: 32d Army Ord No. A 23, 14 May 45 PW Interrog Summary No. 2, 2 Aug 45: 62d Division 96th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 55, 26 May 45.

13. The account of operations of the 1st Marine Division is based on Stockman, 1st Mar. Div History, and III Amph Corps G-3 Periodic Rpts for the period.

14. Some confusion had arisen as to the location of the town of Wana because the standard target map showed it on the southwest slopes of Warta Ridge. Study of the ground by historians indicated that the town actually may have been located southeast of Dakeshi and northeast of Wana Ridge.

15. 77th Div G2 Periodic Rpt No. 48, 13 May 45 Appleman, XXIV Corps History, p.338.

16. Appleman, XXIV Corps History, p.353 XXIV Corps G-3 Periodic Rpt No. 45, 15 May 45.

17. The account of the night attack of Company E, 307th Infantry, is based entirely on the signed statement of 2d Lt Robert F. Meiser, commanding 2d Platoon, Company E. This statement is recorded in Leach, 77th Div History Okinawa, Vol. II, Ch. III, pp. 67-81.

18. 77th Div G3 Periodic Rpts Nos. 54-57, 18-21 May 45 Leach, 77th Div History Okinawa, Vol. II, Ch. III, pp. 85-86.

19. Personal Obsn of 1st I & H Off. The precise location of Chocolate Drop Hill is not clear. While XXIV Corps and 77th Division records place it in Target Area 8073P of the 1:25,000 map of Okinawa, observation of the ground and study of photographs indicate that the hill is located from 200 to 300 yards northeast of that point.

20. The account of the capture of Chocolate Drop is taken from Leach, 77th Div History Okinawa, Vol. II, Ch. III, pp. 48-87 Appleman, XXIV Corps History, pp. 341-51 77th Div Actn Rpt Okinawa 306th Inf Actn Rpt 307th Inf Actn Rpt 706th Tk Bn Actn Rpt.

21. Appleman, XXIV Corps History, p. 347.

22. 96th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 47, 15 May 45 Appleman, XXIV Corps History, pp. 369-70.

23. The account of operations of the 96th Divisions at Dick Hills is based on Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div History, Pt. IV, pp. 25-31, 58-62, 64-67, 72-74.

24. The account of operations of the 77th Division at Flattop Hill is based on Appleman, XXIV Corps History, pp. 366-77, and Leach, 77th Div History Okinawa, Vol. II.

25. Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div History, Pt. IV, PP. 78-81, 95-97, 103-06, 110-11, 719-21.

26. XXIV Corps G-2 Weekly Summary No. 10, 13-19 May 45.

27. Interv 1st I & H Off with Gen Buckner, 15 Jun 45: 96th Div FO No. 21, 10 May 45 Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div History, Pt. IV, pp. 13, 14.

28. Appleman, XXIV Corps History, pp. 385-87 Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div History, Pt. IV, pp. 7-10.

29. The account of operations of the 96th Division at Conical Hill is taken from Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div History, Pt. IV 96th Div Actn Rpt, Ch. VII G-2 Periodic Rpts for the period.

30. Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div History, Pt. IV, p. 49.

31. Ibid., p. 101.

32. Casualty figures from 381st Inf Jul, Msg No. 65, 21 May 45.

33. Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 7-III-21.


Today in military history: Winston Churchill becomes prime minister as Germany invades

Posted On April 21, 2021 10:04:19

On May 10, 1940, Nazi Germany invaded Western Europe while Winston Churchill became prime minister of Great Britain.

Marking the beginning of Hitler’s Western offensive, German bombers struck Allied airfields in Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, and France while paratroopers rained from the sky at critical junctures. Ground forces invaded along two main routes, a northern route that was expected by the defending armies, and a southern thrust through the Ardennes forest that was not.

The Allies did not know about the southern attack and rushed most of their defenders to the north. The southern thrust quickly broke their backs. Luxembourg fell on the first day while Belgium and the Netherlands surrendered before the end of May. France would survive until June.

The war in Europe would continue for five more brutal years.

England knew the continent was doomed and accelerated their preparations for defending the isles. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, known for his policy of appeasement, was replaced by Winston Churchill, a man known for his bulldog temperament and military vision.

Churchill would go on to serve as Conservative Prime Minister twice, from 1940 to 1945 and from 1951 to 1955. A war veteran himself, he was active in both administrative and diplomatic functions during World War II, as well as giving rousing speeches that are credited with stimulating British morale during the hardship of war.

He would live until Jan. 24, 1965, dying at the age of ninety and receiving the first State Funeral given to a commoner since the Duke of Wellington’s death more than a century before.

“It has been a grand journey — well worth making once,” he recorded in January 1965 shortly before his death, possibly his last recorded statement.

Featured Image: “The Roaring Lion” photograph by Yousuf Karsh depicting Winston Churchill on Dec. 30, 1941.

Articles

Kamikazes at the Battle of Okinawa

On May 6, 1945, a twin-engine kamikaze plane&rsquos bomb exploded beside the destroyer Luce, part of the radar picket ship screen surrounding Okinawa, and ripped her starboard side &ldquolike a sardine can.&rdquo Flames shot 200 feet high. A minute later, a kamikaze fighter slammed into Luce&rsquos 5-inch stern port guns, and their magazine erupted in a fireball. Luce went down five minutes later with 149 men lost. In the water, sharks hit men &ldquoleft and right, just tearing them up,&rdquo said radioman Tom Matisak, who saw them rip into the ship&rsquos barber. &ldquoIt was an awful, bloody mess as they chopped him up and pulled him under.&rdquo

For three months in 1945, this was an all-too-common occurrence in the seas off Okinawa, where 10 mass kamikaze attacks, each with hundreds of suicide planes, struck the U.S. Fifth Fleet. The attacks did not alter the course of the Pacific war, but the death toll of more than 4,900 Navy crewmen increased the misgivings of some members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff about invading Japan.

As American forces edged closer to mainland Japan in 1944 and 1945, Japanese leaders adopted desperate measures to thwart the looming disaster. One was the mass kamikaze attack.The loss of Saipan, Tinian, and Guam in the Mariana Islands and the better part of Japan&rsquos air force during the summer of 1944 forced many senior officials to realize that the war was lost. B-29s now menaced mainland Japan&rsquos major cities and ports from new Mariana bases. American submarines were shutting down the oil and rubber pipeline from Southeast Asia. Peleliu was about to fall, and the Philippines would be next.

A negotiated peace being Japan&rsquos best hope, Japanese military leaders embraced attritional warfare as a means of forcing the Allies to drop their demand for unconditional surrender.

Its ideological underpinnings were gyukosai and Bushido. Gyokusai was an ancient term meaning &ldquosmashing the jewel&rdquo &mdash perishing by suicide or in battle rather than suffering the ignominy of capture. A vestige of the samurai warrior code, Bushido was characterized by a studied indifference to death. The new strategy was first applied in September 1944 during the defense of the Palua Islands stronghold of Peleliu. Rather than launch a banzai attack at the beach, the usual Japanese tactic, Colonel Kunio Nakagawa&rsquos troops awaited the invaders inside the caves, tunnels, and fortifications that they had carved into the jagged coral ridges. They patiently waited for U.S. Marines to enter prepared &ldquokill zones&rdquo where they could be raked by gunfire from multiple positions.

The Japanese achieved their goal at Peleliu: during the battle&rsquos first two weeks, the American casualty rate surpassed anything seen in the Pacific war. The new strategy became the template for the defenses of Iwo Jima and Okinawa in 1945. Japan&rsquos air forces officially embraced the strategy on October 19, 1944, when Admiral Takijiro Ohnishi, commander of the First Air Fleet, met with the 201 st Air Group&rsquos senior pilots at Mabalacat Airfield in the Philippines. He told them Japan&rsquos salvation no longer depended on civilian and military leaders, but on its young pilots and their &ldquobody-hitting spirit.&rdquo When Ohnishi finished speaking, &ldquoin a frenzy of emotion and joy&rdquo all of the pilots volunteered for the first Special Attack Unit.

Never before or since has there been a phenomenon quite like the Japanese suicide pilot &mdash the kamikaze, named for the &ldquodivine wind&rdquo typhoon that destroyed an invasion fleet under Kublai Khan in 1281 before it reached Japan. General Torashiro Kawabe claimed that the kamikaze did not regard himself as suicidal. &ldquoHe looked upon himself as a human bomb which would destroy a certain part of the enemy fleet &hellip [and] died happy in the conviction that his death was a step toward the final victory.&rdquo It was a coldly logical decision considering that there were fewer skilled pilots, and they were flying outdated planes that were being routinely shot down.

The Japanese simply armed their warplanes with 500-pound bombs and crashed them into American ships. &ldquoIf one is bound to die, what is more natural than the desire to die effectively, at maximum cost to the enemy?&rdquo wrote Captain Rikihei Inoguchi, the First Air Fleet&rsquos senior staff officer. The &ldquofight to the death&rdquo strategy&rsquos objectives were embodied in the slogan of the Thirty-Second Army that defended Okinawa: &ldquoOne plane for one warship/One boat for one ship/One man for ten of the enemy or one tank.&rdquo The kamikaze pilots wore white headbands emblazoned with the Rising Sun and good-luck &ldquothousand-stitch&rdquo wrappers made by 1,000 civilians who had each sewn a stitch with red thread it supposedly made them bullet-proof. Before climbing into their cockpits, the pilots lifted their sake cups in a final toast to the emperor and sang, &ldquoIf we are born proud sons of the Yamato race, let us die/Let us die with triumph, fighting in the sky.&rdquo

The suicide attacks began October 25, 1944, during the U.S. invasion of the Philippines. A kamikaze squadron commander sent off his 18 pilots with the exhortation, &ldquoPut forth everything you have. All of you, come back dead.&rdquo They sank the carrier escort St. Lo, killing 113 crewmen, and damaged the carrier escort Santee. Six pilots returned after failing to find targets. Days later, kamikazes crashed and badly damaged the aircraft carriers Franklin and Belleau Wood.

It was just the beginning.

Between October 1944 and March 1945, suicide attacks killed more than 2,200 Americans and sank 22 vessels. At Iwo Jima on February 21, fifty kamikazes from the 601st Air Group sank the carrier escort Bismarck Sea and badly damaged the carrier Saratoga. The kamikazes&rsquo acme was during the 10 large-scale attacks, or &ldquokikusuis&rdquo &mdashmeaning &ldquochrysanthemums floating on water&rdquo &mdash launched against the picket ships surrounding Okinawa. During Kikusui No. 1 on April 6 &mdash five days after L-Day on Okinawa &mdash the onslaught by 355 kamikazes and 344 escort fighters began at 3 p.m. and lasted five hours. &ldquoDear parents,&rdquo wrote Flying Petty Officer 1/c Isao Matsuo on the eve of the mission, &ldquoplease congratulate me. I have been given a splendid opportunity to die. This is my last day.&rdquo Twenty-two kamikazes penetrated the combat air patrol shield on April 6, sinking six ships and damaging 18 others. Three hundred fifty U.S. crewmen died.

The clash between death-seeking Japanese flyers and American sailors and pilots determined to live produced gruesome casualties. John Warren Jones Jr., on the destroyer Hyman when she was crashed, saw two men stagger from the inferno with their naked bodies covered with third-degree burns. Two shipmates had their heads blown open. One had &ldquoa big piece of plane through his chest and sticking out both sides.&rdquo By April 1945, though, it was apparent that many kamikaze pilots, perhaps because of fuel shortages that limited their training, possessed meager flying skills and could be easily shot down. As defeat loomed larger by the week, volunteers for kamikaze duty dried up resentful conscripts increasingly filled the ranks. They often flew to their deaths drunk and bitter. One pilot, after takeoff, strafed his own command post.

The Japanese fell short of their goal of &ldquoone plane one ship,&rdquo but sank 36 American warships, and damaged 368 other vessels at Okinawa. The Navy&rsquos losses were the highest of the Pacific war: 4,907 sailors and officers killed, and 4,824 wounded. Japan lost an estimated 1,600 suicide and conventional planes at Okinawa. The 9/11 hijackers excepted, the kamikaze disappeared after the advent of unmanned missiles, and in the absence of a samurai tradition like that of World War II Japan.


Okinawa, Battle of

Okinawa, Battle of (1945).Landing day for Okinawa, the final land battle of the Pacific War, was Easter Sunday, 1 April 1945. The Landing force was the new Tenth Army under Army Lt. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner. He commanded two corps, XXIV Corps, with five army divisions, and III Amphibious Corps, with three Marine divisions, all told some 182,000 troops. In overall charge was Vice Adm. Raymond A. Spruance, commander of the Fifth Fleet.

Okinawa, sixty miles long and from two to twenty𠄎ight miles wide, is the largest and most important of the Ryukyu Islands. The 500,000 Okinawans were not then considered to be Japanese.

Japanese Lt. Gen. Mitsuru Ushijima commanded the Thirty‐second Army, strength of 77,000 troops, who with naval forces and some 20,000 Okinawan conscripts provided about 100,000 defenders. Ushijima planned a defense in depth, with his main strength in the heavily populated south, and three major defense lines following east‐west ridgelines.

Buckner landed his two corps, each with two divisions in the assault, across surprisingly undefended beaches near Hagushi village on the western side of the narrow waist of the island. The III Corps on the left and XXIV Corps on the right crossed the island almost without enemy contact. The Marines then turned northward and the army headed south. On 6 April, XXIV Corps ran into the outer rings of Ushijima's first major defense line running along Kakazu ridge.

Ushijima's plan was to delay his counterattack until much of the supporting U.S. invasion fleet of some 1,200 ships was crippled by massive combined sea and air action, including suicide kamikaze tactics. The first major kamikaze attack came on 6 April. Joining the air action, the giant 18‐inch‐gun battleship Yamato sortied from the home islands, but was destroyed by U.S. Navy aircraft. Ashore, Ushijima's companion counterattack, not launched until 12 April, was easily absorbed by XXIV Corps. Meanwhile, III Corps had overrun most of central and northern Okinawa. Buckner, to overcome Ushijima's stiffening resistance, began shifting the III Corps to the south.

Ushijima's second major counterattack, timed to coincide with the fifth kamikaze attack, went off piecemeal on 3 May and accomplished nothing.

Buckner went forward with a two𠄌orps attack on 11 May. Ushijima's second line, which passed through Shuri, was broken on both of his flanks. He elected to fall back to his third and final line on the southern tip of Okinawa.

Buckner launched his final large‐scale attack on 18 June. The general was killed by a Japanese shell while watching the action from a forward observation post. Command of Tenth Army passed to Marine Maj. Gen. Roy S. Geiger of III Corps, who declared the island “secured” on 21 June. That same day, Ushijima committed ceremonial suicide. The last of the ten major air attacks came on 22 April. Next day, Gen. Joseph Stilwell arrived and took command.


The Battle plan of Okinawa

The Battle of Okinawa lasted for around 82 days and both the US and Japanese government lost a lot of human lives and machinery. The Japanese defended their Islands with all they had. This is why the battle took longer than expected. The Allied forces tried to use a Blitzkrieg kind of attack to grab the islands as fast as possible. Nonetheless, the Japanese people defended and stopped the Blitzkrieg on Okinawa. To give an indication of the magnitude of the Allied forces over 450 warships and 1000 fighter aircrafts took part in the battle. The smaller islands such as Kerama and Keise Shima were secured pretty fast but the main landing on Okinawa Island on April the first 1945 took much longer. This operation was called the L-Day since it was Easter Sunday and April Fools day.

The Allied forces quickly swept across the northern part and central part of Okinawa with some heavy resistance in the mountains around the Motobu Peninsula. One of the most severe battles fought was at the “The Pinnacle” just southwest of Arakachi, the US lost around 1.500 soldiers. Nonetheless, the greatest battle of Okiniwa was fought on the Kiyan Peninsula, which nowadays is known as the greatest place of slaughter on Okinawa. Around 4.000 Japanese soldiers including the famous admiral Minoru Ota committed suicide to prevent captivity by the Allied forces. The monsoon storms and dense jungles led to a hard fight for the invaders. The battle of Okinawa continued until the 21st of June 1945, although some Japanese soldiers continued to fight guerrilla style warfare. Many of the commanders committed suicide by Seppuku in their commanding office at the end of the battle of Okinawa. The official surrender ceremony was held on 7 September near the military airfield Kadena. The battle of Okinawa was the bloodiest battle of the Pacific with great losses on both sides. The civilian losses, suicides and atrocities of the Japanese people and US soldiers were immense and are a grief part of history nowadays.

Remember the battle

After the battle of Okinawa the Island was totally destroyed, it is estimated that 90% of all the buildings were leveled with the ground. The cultural, natural and tropical treasures were vanquished of the earth in just a few months. The US kept control over the islands until 1972 and created an army navel/airbase on the island. They also helped with the rebuilding of the island but were never fully accepted by the Japanese, since they were always seen as invaders of the great Japan.


United States Objectives in the Pacific Theater

At that point the U.S. had two main objectives as far as the Far East was concerned: eliminate the rest of Japan’s merchant fleet and a direct attack on the Japanese industrial complex. Okinawa is an island on the southern end of Japan, it is around 60 miles (96 kilometers) long and 2 (3 kilometers) to 18 miles (29 kilometers) wide. It’s strategic importance for both sides was very important. The island had 4 airfields that the U.S. desperately wanted to control. A problem for the U.S. forces however was that they couldn’t get a lot of intelligence about Okinawa.


Battle of Okinawa Before April 1, 1945

On October 10, 1944, Okinawa gained a dubious shorthand for disaster — the numerals 10-10. Waves of bombers pummeled the nearly-defenseless island, causing untold wreckage on land over 80% of Naha was destroyed and more than 65 boats were sunk. Japanese anti-aircraft technology was not up to the nimble American planes.

Shortly before the battle, the Japanese warship the Yamato was sunk by American air power on her trip to Okinawa. Widespread rumors that the ship was only given enough fuel for a one-way trip are false Feifer debunks this (references).

The Japanese had a plan to beach the Yamato on Okinawa's shore and use it as a land battery. Not that it would have done them much good on land.


The Battle of Okinawa

The Battle of Okinawa was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific War in WWII and the bloodiest.

Called Okinawa Shima, the island was strategic to the U.S. war effort since it sported two airfields and was only 325 miles south of the Japanese home island of Kyushu. At that range, even medium range bombers could hit the home islands and cut off supply lines to the resource-hungry Empire. It was to be the staging area for the expected invasion of mainland Japan

It was a big island comparatively, sixty miles long and eight miles wide.

Admiral Chester W. Nimitz’s Central Pacific Island hopping drive and General Douglas MacArthur’s Southwest Pacific thrust converged on the torn rag shaped island.

In late March 1945, 1457 Allied vessels ferrying 182112 Army GIs and Marines assembled off Okinawa. Four divisions of the U.S. 10 th Army (7 th , 27 th , 77 th , and 96 th ) and two divisions of Marines (1 st and 6 th ) prepared to hit the beach. The 2 nd Marines was held in reserve.

Every man would be needed. Lt. General Mitsuru Ushijima’s 32 nd Army, 110,000 strong, patiently waited in hidden bunkers and fortified ridges for the Americans to land. His strategy was similar to Gen. Tadamichi Kuribayashi on Iwo Jima. That is, avoid massive banzai charges and a stop-them-in-the-water tactics. Instead, lure the attackers ashore unmolested, and just when they think it’s going to be a walk-through, hit them with kou no kaze (“steel wind”) where they cannot receive naval and air support.

The General knew the war was lost, but he wanted to give the home islands time to prepare for eventual invasion, so he intended to inflict as many casualties on the enemy as possible. Simultaneously, an all out kamikaze attack on the fleet would bring the fighting directly to the Navy’s door and cut off the supply chain to the GIs and Marines.

On Easter Sunday, April 1 st , the Americans stormed ashore. They hit the island simultaneously from the west side at a narrow point just north of the capital city of Naha (see map). They expected fierce fighting and were surprised when they encountered no opposition. By day’s end 75,000 troops had established a beachhead nine miles wide and three miles deep.

Once a beachhead was established, the plan was for the GIs of the 96 th and 7 th to wheel south and the two Marine divisions head north. The greatest April Fool’s joke was about to be played.

A ridge that rises to 1500 feet in the wild, mountainous north bisects the island. The southern portion contains most of the civilian population. It was there General Ushijima massed most of his forces.

The Japanese considered Okinawa part of their home islands and had a presence on the island for years. Most of their forces were located in the southern third of the island. Of central importance to defense of the island were three east-west ridges crossing the southern part if the island. These ridges formed natural defensive barriers to the American forces. Every gully, every ravine, every crossroads was triangulated by artillery, mortar and machine gun fire.

As the Army units moved south, artillery and mortars they couldn’t see hammered them. The guns were located in an elaborate network of cave connected by tunnels. An artillery piece would be rolled out on railroad tracks, bang away, and when the GIs thought they knew where the shelling was coming from, it would back into the cave out of sight. Mortar and machine gun fire came from heavily camouflaged positions. American artillery combined with naval guns inundated the Japanese positions, but they were mostly ineffectual. Casualties began to mount.

Meanwhile, in the north, the Marines were having only slightly better luck. Less heavily defended than in the south, the entrenched Japanese nevertheless battled furiously for every foot of advance by the attackers.

The fight degenerated into a dirty, gritty, primal, sometimes hand-to-hand combat, from cave to cave, pillbox to pillbox while staving off fierce counter attacks. Ammo and supplies began to run low. When they had run out of grenades or bullets, Marines and GIs would crawl to the bodies of their dead to retrieve whatever ammo they could find.

The incessant shelling from both sides, combined with torrential rains that commenced in May, turned the terrain into muck, sucking at boots, stalling even four-wheel drive vehicles. The constant rain disguised the Japanese positions even more. Bodies of fallen Marines and GIs had to be left where they lay, since retrieving them only exposed more men to Japanese guns. Decaying forms of Japanese, Marines and GIs, teeming with maggots slowly rotted in the muck. Every crater was half full of water and many held a dead Marine or soldier. They lay where they had been killed, still clutching their weapons. Swarms of flies crawled over their bodies.

For almost three months, Army and Marines bravely fought the tenacious Japanese. When the last shot had been fired, more men had fallen than at any other Pacific battleground. It was the greatest air-naval-land battle in history.

More than 100,000 Japanese died. A large number of civilians, perhaps as many as 25,000, also perished. It’s estimated tens of thousands were wounded. The U.S. Army suffered 4,600 KIA and 18,000 wounded. The Marines lost 3200 KIA and 13,700 wounded. The Navy, who fought off attack after attack of kamikazes, lost 5,000 KIA and 4,900 wounded.

The large toll of casualties shocked military strategists back in Washington. What would happen when American forces stepped on Japanese home soil? General MacArthur estimated that U.S. forces would suffer about one million casualties in an assault on the home island.

Ironically, the horrendous price the GIs and Marines paid for Okinawa swept aside opposition in high government and military levels for the use of the atomic bomb to end the war. Okinawa was the last land battle in the Pacific theatre.


Compulsory Mass Suicide, the Battle of Okinawa, and Japan's Textbook Controversy

For more than three decades, historical memory controversies have been fought over Japanese school textbook content in both the domestic and international arenas. In these controversies, Japanese textbook contents, which are subject to Ministry of Education examination and revision of content and language prior to approval for use in the public schools, repeatedly sparked denunciations by Chinese and Korean authorities and citizens with respect to such issues as the Nanjing Massacre, the comfort women, and coerced labor. In 2007, the most intense controversy has pitted the Ministry of Education against the residents and government of the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa. The issue exploded in March 2007 with the announcement that all references to military coercion in the compulsory mass suicides (s hudan jiketsu ) of Okinawan residents during the Battle of Okinawa were to be eliminated. The announcement triggered a wave of anger across Okinawan society leading to the mass demonstration in Ginowan City of 110,000 Okinawans addressed by the top leadership of the Prefecture. It was the largest demonstration since the 1972 reversion of Okinawa, exceeding even the response to the 1995 rape of a twelve-year old Okinawan girl by three US GIs.

We present three articles that illuminate the controversy and the tragic events of the Battle of Okinawa, including both the Japanese originals and English translations. Aniya Masaaki, an Okinawan historian and emeritus professor of International University examines the issues of the Battle and the textbook controversy, showing how the Ministry of Education rejected the testimony of Okinawan witnesses in favor of two soldiers who filed a defamation suit against novelist Oe Kenzaburo for his work on the military-enforced mass suicides. An Okinawan Times editorial that follows provides a detailed examination of the hair-splitting language politics that lie behind the Ministry of Education&rsquos rejection of the reference to military force in the compulsory group suicide that was imposed on Okinawan citizens, and its partial retreat in the face of citizen anger. Finally, the Asahi Shi n bun &rsquos editorial offers a judicious examination of the politics of attempt to censor the issue from the nation&rsquos textbooks. Together, these articles cast a brilliant light on the fraught political manipulation of the textbooks examination system. MS


Okinawan sculptor Kinjo Minoru&rsquos relief depicting the horror of the Battle of Okinawa, during which many Okinawans were killed or forced to commit
suicide after seeking refuge in the island's caves.

I . Compulsory Mass Suicide and the Battle of Okinawa
Aniya Masaaki

Translation by Kyoko Selden

Click here for the Japanese original

Textbook Inspection Which Denies Historical Truth

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (Monbukagaskusho, hereafter Ministry of Education) on March 30, 2007 announced the selection of high school textbooks for use beginning in 2008. With respect to the question of compulsory mass suicide (shudan jiketsu) during the Battle of Okinawa, they demanded revision of statements saying that there was a suicide order (jiketsu meirei) or coercion (kyoyo) by the Japanese military. This refers to statements in seven textbooks published by five companies.

The gist of the Ministry of Education&rsquos comments is this: &ldquoThe order to commit suicide (jiketsu meirei) by the Japanese military cannot be verified. The suggestion that people were cornered into compulsory suicide by the Japanese military leads to a false understanding of the Battle of Okinawa. Okinawan prefectural citizens protested saying, &ldquothis distorts the truth of the Battle of Okinawa.&rdquo The Okinawan Prefectural Assembly and all the municipal assemblies protested the ruling by the textbook examiners concerning military involvement in compulsory suicide, unanimously passing a resolution demanding retraction of the order to revise the texts.

However, the Ministry of Education rejected the claim of Okinawan citizens, merely reiterating that &ldquoThe textbook inspection counsel decided this&rdquo, and ignoring the unanimous view of Okinawan citizens.

Concerning the disaster experienced in the Battle of Okinawa, there have been various attempts to warp understanding and lead historical awareness astray.


Okinawa Battle map

One such move concerns the Tokashiki, Zamami, and Kerama islands of the Kerama Island group. The Japanese military on the Kerama Islands had 300 suicide attack boats and approximately 300 men in the marine advance corps, along with 600 affiliated members of a special water-surface work corps comprised of Koreans. There was also a locally-drafted defense corps and volunteer corps that were incorporated into the defense corps of the island.

The marine advance corps on Kerama Islands was the army&rsquos suicide attack corps meant to destroy enemy ships with one-man suicide boats carrying 120 kilogram torpedoes. The actual situation of this corps has been the subject of exaggerated reports, but I understand that local people had discomforts and doubts about &ldquothe army&rsquos marine suicide corps.&rdquo

On March 26, 1945, the American military, with the support of artillery launched from both sea and sky began landing on Kerama Islands, and by the 29 th had seized nearly the entire area. The fact is that the army&rsquos attack boats did not attack even a single enemy boat.

During these battles, horrendous &ldquomass suicide&rdquo (shudan jiketsu) of citizens occurred on Keruma, Zamami and Tokashiki Islands. This means that the inhabitants were forced to commit suicide by the coercion (kyosei) and inducement (yudo) of the Japanese military. But, the military leaders of the island now claim that &ldquothere was no military order.&rdquo

The family of Akamatsu Yoshitsugu, the former colonel who headed the military on Tokashiki, and Umezawa Yutaka, the former major who headed the military on Zamami, brought suit in the Osaka court against Oe Kenzaburo and his publisher Iwanami for his book Okinawa Notes, on grounds of &ldquodisparaging their reputations&rdquo and demanded compensation for damages. Calling this trial a law suit on false charges concerning Okinawan mass suicides &ldquoOkinawa shudan jiketsu enzai sosho&rdquo, they criticize Oe and Iwanami.

The plaintiffs claim that &ldquoShudan jiketsu of inhabitants on Tokashiki and Zamani Islands were not by military order. They chose death with lofty self-sacrifice spirit.&rdquo

This is not merely an issue of reputation damage, but a revisionist scheme to justify aggressive war and acquit the imperial army of responsibility for its atrocious deeds. Statements by former military officers in Okinawa, who welcome field surveys by groups like the Liberal View of History Group and government officials, are distorting understanding of the battle of Okinawa. The textbook review this time concerning shudan jiketsu, adopted without verification the claims by unit leaders who say there was no military order. The testimonies by the people of the islands who were forced to kill close relatives were probably ignored as not credible. They are looking at .things from the perspective that testimonies by the commanders alone have credibility. It is out of the question to use the one-sided claims by Akamatsu and Umezawa, who are involved in the lawsuit, as the foundation for textbook approval.

The Battle of Okinawa on Which the Maintenance of the National Polity (Kokutai) Rests

The Battle of Okinawa, fought with the understanding that Japan&rsquos defeat was inevitable, was the last ground combat between Japan and the US in the Pacific War. For the Japanese imperial government, the maintenance of the national polity was the first principle, and gaining time to prepare for the decisive battle on the mainland and negotiations for the conclusion of the war were crucial.

Former prime minister Konoe Fumimaro, on January 14, 1945, right before the Battle of Okinawa, memorialized to the emperor that the war situation had reached a grave situation.

Regrettably, defeat in the war has already become inevitable . . . . Defeat in the war will constitute a great flaw for our national polity (kokutai), but the consensus of England and the US has not yet gone so far as reforming (henkaku) the national polity . . .Therefore, if it is just defeat in the war, I do not think that we need worry so much in terms of national polity . . . What we have most to fear from the viewpoint of the maintenance of the national polity, is communist revolution which could occur following defeat in the war.

Therefore, from the perspective of preserving the national polity, I am convinced that we should think about the way to conclude the war as soon as possible, by even a single day . . . . (Hosokawa Morisada, Hosokawa Nikki (Hosokawa Diary))

The report by former Prime Minister Konoe is remarkable for openly explaining to the emperor the need to conclude the war as a member of the Japanese leadership. But the main point is that although defeat in the war was inevitable, rather than defeat itself, he was most concerned about the disintegration of the ruling structure by the imperial system (tennosei shihai kiko) by a communist revolution. To Konoe&rsquos advice the emperor responded &ldquoI think it is quite difficult unless we achieve a military result just once more.&rdquo This indicates that the Showa emperor, even at this late point, had passion for leading the war effort.

The battle of Okinawa was &ldquoa battle on which the national polity hung,&rdquo yet one which presupposed Japan&rsquos defeat. It is said that Okinawa served as &ldquoa stone to discard for the sake of the defense of the mainland,&rdquo but in fact it was &ldquoa battle to postpone the decisive battle on the mainland&rdquo and to gain some time for the preparation of that battle on the mainland and to negotiate the end of the war, and was not a battle to protect the people (kokumin) of the mainland. It was a preliminary battle before eventually taking the entire nation (kokumin subete) to death along with the Emperor.

The Japanese imperial government, in preparation for the final battle on the mainland, reinforced its total war system intended to mobilize the entire nation.

On May 22, 1945, the wartime education law (senji-kyoiku rei) was made public and even elementary schools and schools for the blind, deaf and dumb were ordered to organize student military units. On June 23, when the Okinawa defending force (32nd Battalion) was defeated and systematic fighting ended, a volunteer soldiers law was promulgated and women, too, were ordered to serve in national volunteer combat units.

On July 8, 1945 in Tokyo, military units of the Okinawan Normal School and the Okinawan Prefectural First Middle School were honored in a ceremony without the presence of the awardees. Minister of Education Ota Kozo told students throughout the country to follow the student military units of Okinawa and dedicate their lives in order to defend the national polity. (Asahi Shinbun July 9, 1945).

When the Japanese imperial government accepted the Potsdam Declaration, maintenance of the national polity was the central issue.

On August 6 and 9, the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, destroying the cities. But the Japanese leadership was preoccupied with the threat of Soviet entry into the war, more than with the destructiveness of the atomic bomb.

On August 8, 1945, the Soviet Union renounced the Soviet Union-Japan neutrality treaty, declared war and attacked Manchuria, Sakhalin, and North Korea. Consequently, the Japanese leadership felt the crisis of the imperial system and decided to bring the war to conclusion.

In the middle of the night on August 9, an imperial conference was held. At 2:30 a.m. on the 10th they accepted the Potsdam Declaration on condition of the maintenance of the national polity (kokutai goji). This was called an imperial decision.

An a mi Korechika, then Minister of the Army, writes in his diary:

With the understanding that the conditions stated in the three countries&rsquo combined declaration dated from the 26 th of last month do not include the demand to change the emperor&rsquos prerogative to rule the state, the Japanese government accepts this.

A Japanese politician has said that by dropping the atomic bombs &ldquoJapan&rsquos defeat was made earlier, so it can&rsquot be helped.&rdquo [The reference is to former Defense Min. Kyuma Fumio. Tr.] But this is a thoughtless statement by one who follows US policies while being ignorant of the affliction of citizens.

Why did the US drop the atomic bombs? Young people who have studied in Hiroshima and Nagasaki the reality of the bombing explain their findings clearly as follows.

  1. The US wanted to carry out attacks on the cities to display the bomb&rsquos power. The ability to destroy with shock waves and ultra-high heat, the influence on human bodies and the environment by radioactivity. The atomic bomb is not a matter of a single moment à there is also secondary radiation and radiation in the womb. Hibakusha are not only Japanese à there were also Koreans and Chinese forced laborers (kyosei renko) as well as allied POWs.


Memorial for the Korean victims
of atomic bombing in Hiroshima

  1. They proudly flaunted the power of the atomic bomb to the Soviet leadership, a strategy that anticipated the US-Soviet postwar conflict.
  2. The B-29 which set out from Tinian in Micronesia at 2:49 a.m. on August 9 dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki at 11:02. That aircraft landed at Bolo Airport in Yomitan in the main Okinawan island at 1:09 on the 9 th . After refueling it returned to Tinian at 22:55 on the 9 th . At that time, US forces in Okinawa had set up an airport with a 2,000 meter runway that could accommodate B29s.

Compulsory Mass Suicide Forced by the Imperial Army

The Okinawa defense force issued a directive to Okinawan prefectural citizens calling for unification of the army, government and civilians living together and dying together (kyosei kyoshi), and stating that even a single tree or blade of grass should be a fighting power. They mobilized for battle all people, down to young and old, women and children.

The military and paramilitary locally recruited in Okinawa numbered more than 25,000 (soldiers on active duty, drafted soldiers, defense units, student units, volunteer units, etc.). We have to realize that one fourth of the Okinawa defense force were &ldquoJapanese soldiers&rdquo coming out of Okinawa prefecture. It is a mistake to think that Japanese forces in the battle of Okinawa were exclusively officers and men from the mainland (Yamato troops).

During the last stages of the battle of Okinawa (June-July) the American forces indiscriminately attacked Japanese forces and residents of the area within caves and called this &ldquoJap hunting&rdquo.

The imperial army drove residents from shelters, took their food, prohibited them from surrendering, tortured and slaughtered them on grounds of suspected spying. They forced people into &ldquomutual killing&rdquo among close relatives, and left the sick and handicapped on the battlefield.

The war dead among civilians in the battle of Okinawa is estimated at more than 150,000.

When we think about the damage to citizens in the battle of Okinawa, shudan jiketsu can be raised as the most peculiar case.

First of all we have to clarify the term shudan jiketsu.

When we say &ldquojiketsu&rdquo (self-determination, suicide) the precondition is &ldquospontaneity, voluntariness of those who choose death.&rdquo It is impossible for infants and toddlers to commit &ldquojiketsu&rdquo and there is no one who spontaneously kills close relatives.

Mutual killing of close relatives, meaning that &ldquoparents kill young children, children kill parents, big brothers kill little brothers and sisters, and husbands kill their wives,&rdquo occurred on the battlefield where the imperial army and citizens mingled.

In Army Strategies in the Okinawa Area compiled by the War History Office of the Ministry of Defense, it is written: &ldquoThey achieved shudan jiketsu and died for the imperial country with a sacrificial spirit in order to end the trouble brought on combatants.&rdquo But this claim goes against the facts. Citizens on the battlefield did not choose death voluntarily.

Although there are numerous interrelated factors, basically people were forced to kill close relatives by compulsion of the imperial army and local leaders who followed the imperial army. Enforcing the mutual killing of close relatives is of the same quality and the same root as the killing of citizens by the imperial army.

One cannot call the death of people who &ldquowere forced&rdquo or &ldquocornered&rdquo shudan jiketsu [if the term indicates voluntary suicide]. It is improper to call this reality shudan jiketsu. Hindering properly conveying reality, it invites misunderstanding and confusing.

The term shudan jiketsu has been used since the 1950s and some say that &ldquoit walks on its own with an established meaning,&rdquo but if one uses the term shudan jiketsu without explaining the realities behind it, that invites misunderstanding and confusion. The reality of the term shudan jiketsu, I must reiterate, is &ldquoresidents mass death by the imperial army&rsquos coercion and inducement.&rdquo

Behind &ldquoresidents mass death&rdquo in the Battle of Okinawa was imperial subject education (education to make everyone an imperial subject) which rendered dying for the emperor the supreme national morality (kokumin dotoku). In the Battle of Okinawa, &ldquothe unification of the military, government, and civilians living together and dying together &rdquo was emphasized, and &ldquoa sense of solidarity about death&rdquo was cultivated. At that moment, knowledgeable Okinawans played essential roles, including those in the Association of Reservists, the Support Group of Adult Men, and police and military affairs chiefs of local and municipal government.

When given hand grenades by the Japanese military, leaders of the islands accepted them, thinking it natural that &ldquoall residents die when the moment demands&rdquo. We cannot, however, think of this as &ldquospontaneity and voluntariness&rdquo of &ldquoshudan jiketsu&rdquo. This was an era when it was impossible to decline &ldquodeath&rdquo ordered by the imperial army.

The extreme fear of &ldquobrute Americans and British&rdquo [cultivated by the Japanese military] was a factor that made people choose death. Japanese military experiences of slaughter of Chinese people on the continent since the &ldquoManchurian Incident&rdquo was widely discussed and about the fate of residents at large at the time when the war turned out to be a &ldquolosing battle&rdquo, people despaired anticipating plunder, violence, slaughter by the American military. There were returned migrants who thought &ldquothe American military can no way be expected to kill residents&rdquo, but returnees were regarded as suspected spies and hence were unable to speak positively. To make such a statement was to court denunciation as a spy and slaughtered.


A Marine guards Japanese prisoners of war after the Battle of Okinawa.
More than 148,000 civilians died in the campaign.

There are people who were driven by the perverse idea that, rather than seeing female siblings and wives being killed cruelly and outraged by brute Americans and Brits, it was an act of love by close relatives to kill them with their own hands.

The fear of spy hunting by the imperial army accentuated the sense of despair among residents. The imperial army&rsquos policy was never to hand over residents who knew military secrets. To accept the protection of the US military was regarded as spying. Residents positioned between the Japanese and American military were driven to &ldquodeath&rdquo. Their hope to live was cut off by the shelling of the islands. Knowing that there was no escape route, they anticipated a cruel death. That too was one cause of their &ldquohurrying to death&rdquo.

&ldquoMass death of residents&rdquo took place when these elements joined together, causing panic that led to mutual killing of close relatives in local communities. Fear and madness overwhelmed village communities.  

&ldquoMass Death&rdquo in Encircled Areas

At the time of the Battle of Okinawa, had lost the control of the sea and sky of the entire area of the Southwest islands had passed to the US military. Communication and transportation with Kyushu and Taiwan were cut off and the islands were surrounded. The Okinawa defending force gave orders about matters involving the jurisdiction of the prefectural and local governments, unifying the military, government and civilians to live together and die together. All actions of prefectural citizens were controlled by commanders of stationed forces. Here there was no civil government. This kind of battlefield was designated &ldquoencirclement areas&rdquo in military terminology. These areas were designated by &ldquomartial law&rdquo as ones to be on the alert when surrounded or attacked by the enemy.

In such areas, commanders of stationed forces wielded full power. This overrode the constitution, and all legislation, administration and jurisprudence were under military control. During the Battle of Okinawa, martial law was not proclaimed, but the entire Southwest islands were virtual encirclement areas. It was for this circumstance that the administrative authority of the prefectural governor and mayors of villages was ignored and the stationed forces handled everything as they pleased . Directives and orders to local residents were received as &ldquomilitary orders&rdquo even if conveyed by town and village governments and local leaders.

On Tokashiki Island of the Keremas, Col. Akamatsu Yoshitsugu wielded total authority. On Zamami Island, Major Umezawa Yutaka held complete authority. The village administration was placed under the control of the military there was no civil administration. Under military rule, those who played an important role in communicating military orders were military affairs directors of the village office.

These were local leaders who took charge of military affairs including coordination of the draft list, verification of the whereabouts of people of draft age, handling of such things as draft delay petitions, distribution of draft cards, and aid to bereft families of war dead and wounded soldiers.

The main duty of military affairs directors at the time of the Battle of Okinawa was to draft soldiers demanded by the stationed forces, to hand them over to the army and to communicate military orders ( supply of labor power, evacuation, assembly and eviction) to the residents.

Toyama Majun, who was a chief of military affairs of the village of Tokashiki, testifies:

On March 28 at Fijiga (katakana) in the upper reaches of the On&rsquona river, the collective death (shudanshi) incident of residents occurred. At that time, defense unit members brought hand grenades and urged residents to commit &ldquosuicide&rdquo.

This testimony by the military affairs director vividly conveys the reality of residents &ldquoshudanshi&rdquo. One can see that a military affairs director, who conveys the military order in an encirclement area, bore a crucial responsibility. Japanese citizens had been taught that a military order was &ldquothe emperor&rsquos order&rdquo. There was also the aspect that people believed that &ldquochoosing death&rdquo rather than become POWs was &ldquothe way of imperial subjects&rdquo. They were, in accord with the instruction of local leaders and the imperial army, made to implement the field service code (senjinkun), which said &ldquoDo not live to receive the humiliation of becoming a prisoner&rdquo.

This article was published in Gunshuku mondai shiryo ( Disarmament Review) , December 2007. Aniya Masaaki is Professor emeritus of Modern Japanese History at Okinawa Kokusai Daigaku, (Okinawa International University).

II . A Political Decision that Obscures Historical Reality: &ldquoInvolvement&rdquo approved, &ldquoCoercion&rdquo Ky ou sei) disapproved in Okinawa Mass Suicide Textbook Treatment.

Okinawa Times editorial

T ransla tion by Kyoko Selden

Click here for the Japanese original.

Regarding the high school Japanese textbook examination issue, the Textbook Approval Council (Kyoukasho-you Tosho Kentei Chousa Shingikai, Investigation Council for Examining and Approving Publications for Textbook Use) reported to Tokai Kisaburou, the Minister of Education and Science, the results of the deliberations on wordings related to &ldquomass suicide (compulsory mass death, shudan jiketsu)&rdquo during the Battle of Okinawa, concerning which six textbook publishers had petitioned for revision (teisei shinsei, a petition to revise an already approved textbook).

We would like to ask all high school students within Okinawa prefecture:

Of the following three sentences, (1) was the original draft [in one of textbooks in question]. Later, at the direction of the Ministry of Education and Science and of the Textbook Approval Council at work, it was rewritten to (2) [this version was approved in March 2007]. In response to the strong protest from many Okinawan citizens, the textbook publisher petitioned to revise the expression. As a result, the wording changed to (3) [this has met approval]. Now, concerning these three sentences, what changed and how? Why did these changes have to be made? What was the aim?

(1) &ldquoThere were residents, who, by the Japanese military, were driven out of shelters or driven into mass suicide.&rdquo (Nihon-gun ni yotte goh wo oidasare, aruiwa shuudan jiketsu ni oikomareta juumin mo atta,)

(2) &ldquoThere were residents, who, by the Japanese military, were driven out of shelters, or committed suicide.&rdquo (Nihon-gun ni goh kara oidasaretari, jiketsu shita juumin mo ita.)

(3) &ldquoThere were residents who, by the Japanese military, were driven out of shelters, or were driven into mass suicide.&rdquo (Nihon-gun ni yotte goh wo oidasaretari, aruiwa shuudan jiketsu ni oikomareta juumin mo atta.)

Because the changes are such that they are hardly discernible without careful comparisons, we would like you to read them slowly twice, and thrice over.

In version 1, the relationship is clear between the subject, &ldquothe Japanese military,&rdquo and the predicate, &ldquowere driven to mass suicide.&rdquo In version 2, however, the subject and the predicate are disconnected, leaving the relationship between the two ambiguous. Version 3 is like one of the two peas in a pod together with the original. One can say that it nearly restores the original, yet it gives the impression that the connection between the subject and the predicate is somewhat weaker.

What comes in and out of sight through this series of editing stages is the intention behind: &ldquoif possible we want to erase the subject, the Japanese military,&rdquo &ldquowe want to make the relation between the Japanese military and the mass suicide ambiguous.&rdquo

The conclusion of the Textbook Approval Council can be summarized into the following three points.

First, the Council has not withdrawn its Approval Statement (kentei ikensho, a written opinion or a statement of one&rsquos views). Second, it does not adopt an expression like &ldquowere coerced by the Japanese military,&rdquo which specifies military enforcement. Third, wordings like &ldquowere driven&rdquo by the Japanese military, which indicate military involvement, were approved.

This means that they tried to settle this issue by restoring &ldquocoercion,&rdquo which had disappeared in the approval examination process, in the form of &ldquoinvolvement.&rdquo

What Characterizes the Battle of Okinawa

The resolution adopted by the Okinawan protest rally of September 29 had two points, &ldquowithdrawal of the Approval Statement&rdquo and &ldquorestoration of the wording.&rdquo

T housands of protesters in Ginowan, Okinawa, demanded that
Japanese government drop plans to remove references
in textbooks to the coerced mass suicides on their island in 1945.

Certainly, the Okinawans&rsquo consensus moved the Textbook Approval Council, resulting in a degree of restoration of the wording. It is not at all the case that Okinawan efforts were for nought.

However, despite the fact that textbook publishers petitioned for approval of revision while carefully working out the wording with the aim of restoring &ldquocoercion,&rdquo the Council judged that &ldquothe revision cannot be approved with the wording as it is,&rdquo demanding another round of rewriting.

Why they shun the use of the term &ldquocoercion&rdquo to this extent is simply incomprehensible.

In deliberating on the petitions for revision, the Approval Council listened to the opinions of eight specialists from inside and outside the prefecture. One specialist commented that residents being driven into a corner by the Japanese military was the very characteristic of the Battle of Okinawa, and that the presence of the Japanese military played a decisive role.

Another specialist pointed out that the policy that says, &ldquothose without combat ability should commit suicide (jiketsu, gyokusai) before becoming prisoners of war,&rdquo was based on a strategic principle across the entire military. It was not an issue at the level of whether or not a specific commanding officer ordered it at a specific point in time.&rdquo We agree.

We must not confuse the issue of the existence of a commander&rsquos order with that of coercion by the Japanese military.

Reforms Are Necessary for the Textbook Approval System

In response to the objection from Okinawa, some said, &ldquoThere should be no political interference.&rdquo But, if that is the case, I would like them to answer the following question as well.

Until 2005, reference to military coercion had been approved. Why, despite the fact that there has been no great change in academic understanding, did the issue this time receive an examination comment? Why is it that the Council made the claim of one party in a trial in progress the foundation of its examination comment?

What has been exposed this time is the locked room nature of the examination system. The contents of the deliberations of the Textbook Approval Council are private, and the proceedings have not been made public. Details of examination comments, as I understand, are not put into writing. The majority opinion is merely stated orally.

The Council passed the textbook investigation officials&rsquo draft statement with no in depth discussion. In what relation the investigation officials stand to the Council too remains veiled. [A textbook draft first goes to Kentei chousakan (examination and approval investigation officials), who, or one of whom, drafts an examination and approval (Kentei) statement. If necessary the textbook goes also to a specialist committee member (sen&rsquomon iin) or members. Then the texbook goes to the Textbook Approval Council.]

This editorial appeared in the Okinawa Times, December 27, 2007

Textbook Review Council Report, part one of two.

III . Mass Suicides in Okinawa

Asahi Shinbun editorial

Click here for the Japanese original.

Education minister Kisaburo Tokai announced Wednesday reinstatement of history textbook references about the Imperial Japanese Army driving civilians into committing mass suicide in Okinawa in the closing days of World War II. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology approved revisions submitted by six publishers on passages concerning the 1945 Battle of Okinawa for senior high school textbooks to be used from the 2008 academic year starting in April.

As a result of the revisions, these textbooks will contain passages with the following content:

Many local residents were driven to commit mass suicides because of the Japanese military's involvement.

Due to coercive circumstances over the military's prohibition on civilians becoming prisoners of war, many local residents felt they were driven into mass suicides and mutual killings.

In textbook screening conducted in spring this year, the education ministry ordered publishers to remove all references to the military's involvement in the mass suicides as well as statements that people were forced into the gruesome acts by Japanese soldiers.

The ministry says the changes are based solely on applications from the textbook publishers and don't represent a retraction of its original decision. Probably, it would be closer to the fact to say that the ministry was forced into a virtual retraction of the decision in the face of strong public criticism about it, mainly from people in Okinawa.

The blame for this fiasco clearly rests with the extraordinary instructions the ministry issued to the publishers. The ministry had all references to the military involvement in mass suicides removed. It argued these passages could generate the misunderstanding that all these actions were carried out under orders from the military.

After the publishers submitted revisions early last month, the education ministry asked the Textbook Authorization and Research Council, a ministry-appointed panel to check the proposed changes. The council heard from experts, including academic researchers on the Battle of Okinawa, and then developed its own opinions as the basis for debate on the revisions.

While insisting there is no solid evidence to confirm direct orders from the military, the council admitted that education and training by the wartime government were behind the mass suicides. The panel also pointed out that the distribution of grenades among local residents by the army was a key factor that created the situation responsible for the mass suicides.

The council's argument must be convincing for many people. In essence, it said people in Okinawa were driven to mass suicides under extreme pressure from militarism, which fanned fear about the invading U.S. soldiers among local residents and prohibited them from becoming POWs.

In its discussions on the proposed revisions, however, the council stuck to its insistence that straightforward expressions like "the military forced" civilians into mass suicide should not be used. This stance should be questioned.

It is hard not to wonder why the panel didn't come up with such common sense opinions for the textbook screening this past spring. If it had done so, the panel would not have endorsed the reviews by the education ministry's textbook inspectors. One of the panel members has conceded that they should have discussed the issue more carefully.

At that time, the government was led by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose motto was to "break away from the postwar regime." Was the expert panel in some way influenced by the Abe administration's political posture? Ironically, this outrageous move by the education ministry caused the grueling wartime episode to attract unprecedented public attention.

Previously, most school history textbooks contained only brief descriptions about the mass suicides in Okinawa. The revisions submitted by the publishers also included descriptions about the social background for the tragedies. As a result, the textbooks offer much more information about the bloody battle fought in Okinawa in 1945.

The public controversy over the textbook references raged for nine months. A huge protest rally was held in Okinawa during that period, which gave many people the opportunity to learn not only about the bloodshed in Okinawa but also about the serious flaws in the ministry's textbook screening system.

The bitter lessons from the experience should be used for the good of the nation.

This editorial appeared in The Asahi Shinbun, Dec. 27 and the International Herald Tribune/Asahi on December 28, 2007.

Kyoko Selden is a senior lecturer in Asian Studies, Cornell University and a Japan Focus associate. The first two volumes of her Annotated Japanese Literary Gems have just been published, featuring stories by Tawada Yoko, Hayashi Kyoko, Nakagami Kenji, Natsume Soseki, Tomioka Taeko and Inoue Yashushi.


Watch the video: Intense Footage of the Pacific War in Color. Smithsonian Channel (May 2022).


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