Okinawa was the largest amphibious invasion of the Pacific campaign and the last major campaign of the Pacific War. More ships were used, more troops put ashore, more supplies transported, more bombs dropped, more naval guns fired against shore targets than any other operation in the Pacific. More people died during the Battle of Okinawa than all those killed during the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Casualties totaled more than 38,000 Americans wounded and 12,000 killed or missing, more than 107,000 Japanese and Okinawan conscripts killed, and perhaps 100,000 Okinawan civilians who perished in the battle.
The battle of Okinawa proved to be the bloodiest battle of the Pacific War. Thirty-four allied ships and craft of all types had been sunk, mostly by kamikazes, and 368 ships and craft damaged. The fleet had lost 763 aircraft. Total American casualties in the operation numbered over 12,000 killed [including nearly 5,000 Navy dead and almost 8,000 Marine and Army dead] and 36,000 wounded. Navy casualties were tremendous, with a ratio of one killed for one wounded as compared to a one to five ratio for the Marine Corps. Combat stress also caused large numbers of psychiatric casualties, a terrible hemorrhage of front-line strength. There were more than 26,000 non-battle casualties. In the battle of Okinawa, the rate of combat losses due to battle stress, expressed as a percentage of those caused by combat wounds, was 48% [in the Korean War the overall rate was about 20-25%, and in the Yom Kippur War it was about 30%]. American losses at Okinawa were so heavy as to illicite Congressional calls for an investigation into the conduct of the military commanders. Not surprisingly, the cost of this battle, in terms of lives, time, and material, weighed heavily in the decision to use the atomic bomb against Japan just six weeks later.
Japanese human losses were enormous: 107,539 soldiers killed and 23,764 sealed in caves or buried by the Japanese themselves; 10,755 captured or surrendered. The Japanese lost 7,830 aircraft and 16 combat ships. Since many Okinawan residents fled to caves where they subsequently were entombed the precise number of civilian casualties will probably never be known, but the lowest estimate is 42,000 killed. Somewhere between one-tenth and one-fourth of the civilian population perished, though by some estimates the battle of Okinawa killed almost a third of the civilian population. According to US Army records during the planning phase of the operation, the assumption was that Okinawa was home to about 300,000 civilians. At the conclusion of hostilities around 196,000 civilians remained. However, US Army figures for the 82 day campaign showed a total figure of 142,058 civilian casualties, including those killed by artillery fire, air attacks and those who were pressed into service by the Japanese army.
By April, 1945 German resistance in the European Campaign was on the verge of collapse, but the Empire of Japan continued to defiantly resist American advances across the Pacific. Strategically located some 400 miles south of Japan, possession of Okinawa would enable the Allies to cut Japan's sea lines of communication and isolate it from its vital sources of raw materials in the south. If the invasion of Japan proved necessary, Okinawa's harbors, anchorages, and airfields could be used to stage the ships, troops, aircraft, and supplies necessary for the amphibious assault. The island had several Japanese air bases and the only two substantial harbors between Formosa and Kyushu.
The outbreak of hostilities in China during the 1930s initially had little impact on the inhabitants of the Ryukyu Islands, a chain running southwest from the Japanese home island of Kyushu toward Taiwan. Despite its size, of approximately 480 square miles and its population of perhaps 500,000, Okinawa had neither surplus food nor a great deal of industry to assist the Japanese effort. Its harbor facilities were unsuitable for large warships. The island's main contribution to the war effort lay in the production of sugarcane, which could be converted into commercial alcohol for torpedoes and engines.
From the first days of the Asia-Pacific war, Okinawa was fortified as the location of airbases and as the frontline in the defense of mainland Japan. Land and farms were forcibly expropriated throughout Okinawa and the Imperial Japanese Army began the construction of airbases.
By late October 1944, Okinawa, in the Ryukyu Island chain, had been targeted for invasion by Allied forces. This invasion -- code named Operation Iceberg --- would see the assembling of the greatest naval armada ever. Admiral Raymond A. Spruance's 5th fleet was to include more than 40 aircraft carriers, 18 battleships, 200 destroyers and hundreds of assorted support ships. Some 1,300 US ships surrounded the island. Of those, 365 were amphibious ships. Over 182,000 troops would make up the assault, planned for 01 April 1945, Easter Sunday. On 29 September 1944 B-29 bombers conducted the initial reconnaissance mission over Okinawa and its outlying islands. On 10 October 1944 nearly two hundred of Admiral Halsey's planes struck Naha, Okinawa's capital and principal city, in five separate waves. The city was almost totally devastated. The American war against Japan was coming inexorably closer to the Japanese homeland.
In mid-March 1945, the American fleet of over 1,300 ships gathered off Okinawa for the naval bombardment The first kamikaze attacks of the Okinawan campaign began on 18 March 1945. On 21 March, the first baka or piloted, suicide rocket bombs, were spotted below Japanese "Betty" bombers.
The invasion began on 01 April 1945 when 60,000 troops (two Marine and two Army divisions) landed with little opposition. The day began and ended with the heaviest concentration of naval gunfire ever expended to support an amphibious landing. Gathered off the invasion beaches were 10 older American battleships, including several Pearl Harbor survivors—the USS Tennessee, Maryland, and West Virginia—as well as 9 cruisers, 23 destroyers and destroyer escorts, and 117 rocket gunboats. Together they fired 3,800 tons of shells at Okinawa during the first 24 hours. Okinawans had long been resigned to the severe typhoons that sweep their land, but nothing in their experience prepared them for the tetsu no bow —- the "storm of steel" —- as one Okinawan characterized the assault on the island. At 0830 the 7th and 96th Infantry Divisions of the XXIV Corps and the 1st and 6th Marine Divisions of the III Amphibious Corps crossed the Hagushi beaches, with 16,000 troops landing unopposed in the first hour. By nightfall more than 60,000 were ashore.
Although Okinawa was strongly defended by more than 100,000 troops, the Japanese chose not to defend the beaches. The uncontested landings of 01 April were part of the overall Japanese strategy to avoid casualties defending the beach against overwhelming Allied firepower. A system of defense in depth, especially in the southern portion of the island, would permit the 100,000-man-strong Japanese 32nd Army under General Ushijima to fight a protracted battle that would put both the attacking amphibious forces and naval armada at risk. The Japanese dug into caves and tunnels on the high ground away from the beaches in an attempt to negate the Allies' superior sea and air power.
The battle proceeded in four phases: first, the advance to the eastern coast (April 1-4); second, the clearing of the northern part of the island (April 5-18); third, the occupation of the outlying islands (April 10 - June 26); and fourth, the main battle against the dug in elements of the 32nd Army which began on 06 April and did not end until 21 June. Although the first three phases encountered only mild opposition, the final phase proved extremely difficult because the Japanese were well entrenched in and naval gunfire support was ineffective.
On April 6-7, the first use of massed formations of hundreds of kamikaze aircraft called kikusui, or "floating chrysanthemum", for the imperial symbol of Japan, began. By the end of the Okinawan campaign, 1,465 kamikaze flights were flown from Kyushu to sink 30 American ships and damage 164 others. The Japanese had devised a plan to load-up high-speed motorboats with high explosives and have them attack the American Fleet. The boats were hidden in caves up rivers and pulled inside along railroad tracks. The plan never was carried out, however.
The Japanese battleship, Yamato, the largest warship ever built accompanied by the light cruiser Yahagi and eight destroyers, was dispatched to Okinawa on 06 April 1945, with no protective air cover. So badly depleted was the Japanese fleet by this time, Yamato was reported to carry only enough fuel for a one-way trip to Okinawa. Her mission: beach herself at Okinawa and fight until eliminated. The American submarine Hackleback tracked her movements and alerted carrier-based bombers. Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher launched air strikes on April 7 at 10 a.m. The first hits on Yamato were claimed by the carrier Bennington. San Jacinto planes sunk the destroyer Hamakaze, with a bomb and torpedo hit. The light cruiser Yahagi was hit by bombs and went dead in the water. For the next two hours, the Japanese force was under constant attack. Yamato took 12 bombs and seven torpedo hits within two hours, finally blowing up and sinking. Three accompanying destroyers were so badly damaged they had to be scuttled. Four remaining destroyers could not return to Japan. Of Yamato's crew of 2,747, all but 23 officers and 246 enlisted men were lost. Yahagi lost 446; Asashimo lost 330; the seven destroyers, 391 officers and men. There were few Japanese survivors. Losses to the Americans were 10 planes and 12 men. This was the last Japanese naval action of the war.
By 19 April soldiers and marines of the US Tenth Army under LGEN Buckner USA were engaged in a fierce battle along a fortified front which represented the outer ring of the Shuri Line. This fighting contrasted dramatically with the unopposed landings and initial rapid advances of the previous weeks. The Shuri defenses were deeply dug into the limestone cliffs and boasted mutually supporting positions as well as a wealth of artillery of various calibers. As the battle dragged on, American casualties mounted. This delay in securing the island caused great consternation among the naval commanders since the fleet of almost 1,600 ships was exposed to heavy enemy air attacks. The most damage from the Japanese attacks came from operation Ten-Go (Heavenly Operation) which employed mass deployment of the fearsome kamikaze.
American losses mounted as soldiers and marines assaulted points on the Shuri line with the deceptive names of Sugar Loaf, Chocolate Drop, Conical Hill, Strawberry Hill, and Sugar Hill. During the course of the battle American forces were informed of two pieces of dramatic news, one tragic and the other joyous. The first was the death of president Franklin Roosevelt on 12 April and the latter the surrender of Nazi Germany on 8 May.
By the end of May monsoon rains which turned contested slopes and roads into a morass exacerbated both the tactical and medical situations. The ground advance began to resemble a World War I battlefield as troops became mired in mud and flooded roads greatly inhibited evacuation of wounded to the rear. Troops lived on a field sodden by rain, part garbage dump and part graveyard. Unburied Japanese bodies decayed, sank in the mud, and became part of a noxious stew. Anyone sliding down the greasy slopes could easily find their pockets full of maggots at the end of the journey.
Heavy pressure on the Shuri Line finally convinced GEN Ushijima to withdraw southward to his final defensive positions on the Kiyamu Peninsula. His troops began moving out on the night of 23 May but were careful to leave behind rear guard elements that continued to slow the American advance. Japanese soldiers too wounded to travel were given lethal injections of morphine or simply left behind to die. By the first week of June, US forces had captured only 465 enemy troops while claiming 62,548 killed. It would take 2 more weeks of hard fighting and an additional 2 weeks of "mopping up " operations pitting explosives and flamethrowers against determined pockets of resistance before the battle would finally be over. The so called "mopping up" fighting between 23 and 29 June netted an additional 9,000 enemy dead and 3,800 captured. Among the Japanese, the incidence of suicide soared during the final days. An examination of enemy dead revealed that, rather than surrender, many had held grenades against their stomachs, ending their personal war in that manner. General Ushijima committed ritual suicide (hara-kiri) on 16 June, convinced that he done his duty in service to the Emperor.
The document ending the Battle of Okinawa was signed on what is now Kadena Air Base on 07 September 1945. Long before the firing stopped on Okinawa, engineers and construction battalions, following close on the heels of the combat forces, were transforming the island into a major base for the projected invasion of the Japanese home islands.
3 Dead Marines and a Secret of Wartime Okinawa
News/Current Events News
Source: New York Times
Published: June 1, 2000 Author: CALVIN SIMS
Posted on 06/01/2000 08:02:27 PDT by H.R. Gross
3 Dead Marines and a Secret of Wartime Okinawa
By CALVIN SIMS
NAGO, Japan -- Shortly before the end of World War II, just after the United States won the brutal battle for Okinawa, three American marines stationed in this sun-drenched archipelago disappeared.
At first, the Marine Corps listed the three, all 19 years old and black, as possible deserters in the summer of 1945. A year later, when there was still no trace of them, they were declared missing in action.
For five decades, the case was forgotten. Then in 1998, the local police, acting on a tip, discovered what proved to be the bones of the three marines in a cave just north of this resort town.
After long examinations, the remains were sent to relatives in the United States for burial early this year.
But the discovery did little to solve the mystery of the marines' disappearance and, far from putting the case to rest, dredged up powerful local resentment about how Americans treated Okinawans after the fighting stopped.
Some elderly Okinawans, who grew up near where the remains were found, are now willing to tell a long-held secret: a group of villagers ambushed and killed the three men, thinking they were the three black marines who the villagers believed had repeatedly come to the village to rape the village women.
While much of what the Okinawans said about those painful days after the war ended is corroborated, it has not been proved that these three marines committed any rape. Nor has it been confirmed that the villagers in fact killed the soldiers, although there is strong evidence that they did.
Still, the villagers' tale of a dark, long-kept secret has refocused attention on what historians say is one of the most widely ignored crimes of the war, the widespread rape of Okinawan women by American servicemen.
Much has been written and debated about atrocities that Okinawans suffered at the hands of both the Americans and Japanese in one of the deadliest battles of the war. More than 200,000 soldiers and civilians, including one-third of the population of Okinawa, were killed.
There has been scant mention of rape afterward. But by one academic's estimate, as many as 10,000 Okinawan women may have been raped and rape was so prevalent that most Okinawans over age 65 either know or have heard of a woman who was raped in the aftermath of the war.
"I have read many accounts of such rapes in Okinawan newspapers and books, but few people know about them or are willing to talk about them," said Steve Rabson, a professor of East Asian Studies at Brown University, who is an expert on Okinawa.
Marine Corps officials in Okinawa and Washington said that they knew of no rapes by American servicemen in Okinawa at the end of the war, and their records do not list war crimes committed by marines in Okinawa.
Gen. John G. Castellaw, deputy commander of the Marine force in Okinawa, said that during the past 30 years, in which he completed numerous assignments on the island, he had never heard of any accusations of widespread rape by American servicemen in Okinawa.
The New York Times tried to contact surviving members of the segregated 37th Marine Depot Unit, to which the three dead marines were attached. But the Montford Point Marine Association, a veterans group representing the marines who were trained at Montford Point, N.C., said it could not locate any veterans willing to be interviewed.
Samuel Saxton, a retired captain who is the association's immediate past president, said in a telephone interview that it was important to learn the truth about the marines' deaths and whether Americans committed rapes in Okinawa. But he said he feared that black marines who served there, and made up only a part of the Americans stationed on Okinawa, would be wrongly painted with a broad brush.
"It would be unfair for the public to get the impression that we were all a bunch of rapists after we worked so hard to serve our country," he said.
Books, diaries, articles and other documents refer to rapes by American soldiers of various races and backgrounds.
Masaie Ishihara, a sociology professor at the Okinawa International University, said "there is a lot of historical amnesia out there" about those traumatic postwar years. He said that "many people don't want to acknowledge what really happened."
One possible explanation for why the United States military says it has no record of any rapes is that few if any Okinawan women reported being attacked out of fear and embarrassment, and that those who did were ignored by the United States military police, the historians said. Moreover, there has never been a large-scale effort to determine the real extent of such crimes.
Even today, efforts to speak to women who had been raped were rejected because friends, local historians and university professors who had spoken with the women said they preferred not to discuss it publicly.
"Victimized women feel too ashamed to make it public, and criminals who killed the three marines are afraid," said a police spokesman in the nearby city of Nago.
In his book "Tennozan: The Battle of Okinawa and the Atomic Bomb," (Ticknor & Fields, 1992) George Feifer said that there were fewer than 10 reported cases of rape by 1946 in Okinawa, "partly because of shame and disgrace, partly because Americans were victors and occupiers." Mr. Feifer said that "in all there were probably thousands of incidents, but the victims' silence kept rape another dirty secret of the campaign."
In interviews, historians and Okinawans said that some Okinawan women who were raped gave birth to biracial children, many of whom were killed at birth. More often, however, rape victims obtained abortions from village midwives.
The first published account in English of the discovery of the remains of the three marines appeared in The Pacific Stars and Stripes in 1998 shortly after the remains were retrieved. In the article, an Okinawan man who would not give his name said that as a child growing up after the war in Katsuyama, the remote mountain village where the remains were found, he heard village elders talk of an incident involving the American marines.
In separate interviews with The New York Times, elderly Okinawans who also grew up in the village, said that after the United States won the battle, three armed marines would come to Katsuyama every weekend and force the village men to take them to their women, who were then carried off to the hills and raped.
The marines were so confident, the villagers said, that they would sometimes come to Katsuyama without weapons. One day, the villagers, with the help of two armed Japanese soldiers who were hiding in the jungle, ambushed three marines in a dark narrow mountain pass near a river, they said. The Japanese soldiers shot at the marines from the bushes and several dozen villagers beat them to death with sticks and stones.
"I didn't see the actual killing because I was hiding in the mountains above, but I heard five or six gunshots and then a lot of footsteps and commotion," said Shinsei Higa, a 71-year-old retired teacher, who was 16 at the time. "By late afternoon, we came down from the mountains and then everyone knew what had happened."
Fearing that other Americans would come looking for the marines, the villagers dumped the bodies in a hillside cave, which has a 50-foot drop just inside the mouth, and they vowed never to speak of the incident to outsiders, the Okinawans said.
Kijun Kishimoto, an 84-year-old retired school principal who grew up in Katsuyama, said that he was away from the village when the killings took place but that he learned of the incident from his brother and niece.
"People were very afraid that if the Americans found out what happened there would be retaliation, so they decided to keep it a secret to protect those involved," Mr. Kishimoto said.
Okinawans who lived in Katsuyama said the three marines who harassed their village were "black Americans" and that one was "as large as a sumo wrestler." The cave, which is on a steep slope above a valley along a narrow river is known to local residents in Japanese as "kurombo gama," which means Cave of the Negroes.
United States military officials said that based on dental records, the remains recovered in the cave were positively identified as those of the three missing marines, all of whom were black. They were Pfc. James D. Robinson of Savannah, Ga., Pfc. John M. Smith of Cincinnati, and Pvt. Isaac Stokes of Chicago.
The Stars and Stripes article said that a guilty conscience led the Okinawan man to contact Setsuko Inafuku, a tour guide for Kadena United States Air Base in Okinawa, who had been involved in retrieving the remains of Okinawan and Japanese soldiers.
Ms. Inafuku said in an interview that she and the Okinawan man began searching for the cave in June 1997 but had no luck finding it until a typhoon struck the island in August and knocked over a tree that hid the entrance to the cave. In September the police were notified but they agreed not to remove the remains for several months so that the person who had led to the discovery could remain anonymous.
Marine Corps officials said that the United States military did not plan to conduct a criminal investigation since the remains were discovered outside a military installation and were under the jurisdiction of the Okinawa Prefectural Police. The prefectural police has said that it has no plans to investigate because the statute of limitations on such a case expired after 15 years.
the Cave of Virgins
Himeyuri No To
museum/memorial, Himeyuri No To, dedicated to high school girls on Okinawa who were forced to serve as nurse's aides during the battle. When the outcome of the fighting became obvious, the imperial army disbanded the unit and forced the girls and their teachers out of the caves. Because of their indoctrination, 150 of the girls committed suicide. Altogether, 95% (about 200) of the girls and all of their 18 teachers died after being turned out by the army.
On May 12, 1945, the 6th Marine Division was nearing Naha, capital of Okinawa. To the division's front lay a low, loaf-shaped hill. It looked no different from other hills seized with relative ease over the past few days. But this hill, soon to be dubbed, "Sugar Loaf," was very different indeed. Part of a complex of three hills, Sugar Loaf formed the western anchor of General Mitsuru Ushijima's Shuri Line, which stretched from coast to coast across the island. Sugar Loaf was critical to the defense of that line, preventing U.S. forces from turning the Japanese flank. Over the next week, the Marines made repeated attacks on the hill losing thousands of men to death, wounds, and combat fatigue. Not until May 18 was Sugar Loaf finally seized. Two days later, the Japanese mounted a battalion-sized counterattack in an effort to regain their lost position, but the Marines held.
Ironically, these losses may not have been necessary. General Lemuel Shepherd, Jr., had argued for an amphibious assault to the rear of the Japanese defense line, but his proposal was rejected by U.S. Tenth Army Commander General Simon Bolivar Buckner. That refusal led to a controversy that has continued to this day.
"Hallas's chronicle of the battle's many instances of grace under fire will enhance all collections devoted to war's human dimensions."
War Times Journal Interview with Guy Gabaldon
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With the success of the Kamikaze the Imperial Navy decided to build an aircraft specifically designed for the task. The Ohka "Cherry Blossom" was to be carried to within range of the target by a Mitsubishi G4M that had it's bomb bay doors removed as well as other modifications. When the parent aircraft had reached roughly 50 from the target the Ohka was released and the pilot would hold the aircraft in a fast glide, around 290 mph, until a target had been chosen. The pilot would then ignite the rocket motor and push the aircraft over into a steep dive. Most of these aircraft failed to reach thier target, the parent aircraft proving to be vulnerable to interception. Numerous variants were proposed, including a submarine launched version but none saw service.