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Battle For Okinawa: World War II     |     home
Days of the Divine Wind
The Kamikaze Factor on Okinawa 1945 (1)

The Battle for Okinawa lasted three-months between the Japanese 32nd Army numbering 100,000 troops and American GIs and Marines with 172,000 troops. The Navy supported the ground forces by remaining on station to lend supply, air support and naval gunfire.  While the troops on land eventually were caught up in terrific battles; Waves of kamikaze aircraft flew sorties against the US vessels at sea.

The Kamikaze was a last ditch attempt to force the Allies back from Okinawan waters.

In mass attacks known as kikusui, or "floating chrysanthemums," these Japanese pilots hurled themselves and their aircraft at the US Navy fleet. The US Navy lost nearly 5,000 sailors killed and 4,800 wounded during these attacks. A total of 13 destroyers and one destroyer escort were sunk, 13 aircraft carriers, 10 battleships and five cruisers were heavily damaged. Nearly 50 additional destroyers and destroyer escorts were damaged.

Ships of all size fell victim to the kamikaze including one submarine!  The USS Bunker Hill  a carrier and the destroyer Hugh W. Hadley took a pounding this country will never forget.

The USS Hugh W. Hadley  was a swift new destroyer equipped with the latest technology;  she had been commissioned in November 1944.  Her job was that of standing picket duty on the picket line in one of several defensive rings providing early warning of incoming Japanese aircraft and she doubled her duty by protecting supply lines. She was picketed close to her sister ship of the same class the USS Evans at picket duty station 15.

In half an hour between 8:30 and 9:00, Hadley's gunners knocked a dozen enemy planes from the sky and during the rest of the day more than 150 suicide planes assaulted Hugh W. Hadley and her sister ship the USS Evans.
Ohka Bomb or  Baka Bomb
At 9:05, a Yokusuka MXY7 "Baka-Bomb" a rocket-powered flying bomb--laden with high explosives hit the destroyer.  Most of the Kamikaze's were whatever the Japanese could find that would fly by this time in the war. These Baka-Bombs drop their wheels on take off;  and they can not land again; and look like a flying torpedo. (pictured left)

The Hadley then took a bomb and another kamikaze in rapid succession. A third kamikaze nearly sent her to the bottom. When a carrier can sink in three minutes and a destroyer can go down in about 30 seconds the Hadley appeared doomed.  The Hadley's skipper, Commander Baron J. Mullaney, ordered the ship abandoned but; he left a volunteer skeleton crew aboard, and in 30-minutes damage control had patched her up enough to float.  She had lost 28 men, and 67 of her crew were wounded.

The Bunker Hill had survived a close call at the Battle of the Philippine Sea when a Japanese bomb missed the carrier by a hair and exploded alongside and caused slight damage to the ship. She would not be so lucky on Okinawa

On 11 May  just a little over a month and so many days since L-Day; 30 planes were armed and fueled on the flight deck of the Bunker Hill while 48 more were being readied on the hangar deck below. The vessel's had taken on a new supply of aviation fuel and ammunition stores and 2 million gallons of fuel oil. Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher, commander of US Task Force 58,  used the Bunker Hill as his flagship.
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At 10:05 a.m., a Japanese Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero suicide plane came in low out of a cloud bank on the starboard beam, crashing into the parked planes on the flight deck. Less than a minute later, a second kamikaze roared from above in a near vertical dive and crashed at the base of the carrier's island, its 550-pound bomb ripping a 40-foot gash across the deck. Instantly, Bunker Hill became a living Hell. Photos show great cloud of black smoke erupting from the ship, mixing with superheated steam from ruptured valves. The ship's top three decks were blazing from amidships to the fantail. 3000 sailors and their ship were in peril of sinking.

Capt. George A. Seitz made two crucial decisions that probably saved his ship. Seitz ordered the stricken carrier to be turned broadside to the wind so that the smoke and flames did not run the vessel's full length. He also ordered an abrupt 70-degree turn, causing thousands of gallons of water that had been used to fight fires and flammable fuel to spill over Bunker Hill's side and into the sea.
It took Six hours after the first kamikaze hit for Damage Control to bring the fires aboard Bunker Hill under control. 396 seamen were left dead or missing and another 264 wounded. Bunker Hill made her way under her own steam towards Ulithi Atoll where she could be refitted and repaired...more than 1,200 miles away.

The Bravery and desperate conditions aboard the Hadley and Bunker Hill attest to the fortitude and courage exhibited by the sailors of the United States Navy during WW II.

USAAF RECORDS: 8th April

HQ AAF (Twentieth Air Force): 2 missions are flown against airfields on Kyushu Island, Japan from which Kamikaze attacks are originating. Mission 60: 29 of 32 B-29s strike 2 airfields at Kanoya. Mission 61: 48 B-29s attack the airfield at Kokubu; 1 B-29 is lost.

Japanese Conversion to Kamikaze Forces (2)
(from the Strategic Bombing Report of World War II; 1946)

By the summer of 1944, it had become evident to the Japanese air commanders that there was no way in which they could equal the United States air arms at any point. Their losses were catastrophic, while the results which they were achieving were negligible. The one and only asset which they still possessed was the willingness of their pilots to meet certain death. Under these circumstances, they developed the Kamikaze technique.

A pilot who was prepared to fly his plane directly into a ship would require but little skill to hit his target, provided he got through the intervening screen of enemy fighters and antiaircraft fire. If sufficient Japanese planes attacked simultaneously, it would be impossible to prevent a certain proportion from getting through. Even though losses would be 100 percent of the planes and pilots thus committed, results, instead of being negligible, might be sufficient to cause damage beyond that which we would be willing to endure.

From October, 1944, to the end of the Okinawa campaign, the Japanese flew 2,550 Kamikaze missions, of which 475, or 18.6 percent were effective in securing hits or damaging near misses. Warships of all types were damaged, including 12 aircraft carriers, 15 battleships, and 16 light and escort carriers. However, no ship larger than an escort carrier was sunk. Approximately 45 vessels were sunk, the bulk of which were destroyers.

The Japanese were misled by their own inflated claims of heavy ships sunk, and ignored the advice of their technicians that a heavier explosive head was required to sink large ships. To the United States the losses actually sustained were serious, and caused great concern.

Two thousand B-29 sorties were diverted from direct attacks on Japanese cities and industries to striking Kamikaze air fields in Kyushu. Had the Japanese been able to sustain an attack of greater power and concentration they might have been able to cause us to withdraw or to revise our strategic plans.

At the time of surrender, the Japanese had more than 9,000 planes in the home islands available for Kamikaze attack, and more than 5,000 had already been specially fitted for suicide attack to resist our planned invasion.

CONCLUSION

The foregoing pages tell of the results achieved by air power in each of its several roles in the war in the Pacific, including the effects of the atomic bombs. The Survey has already reported on the results achieved by air power in the European war. It remains to seek out the degree to which the Pacific study modifies, adds to or supports the signposts to the future which were suggested by the European study; to state the extent to which hindsight suggests that air power might have been differently or better employed in the Pacific; to discuss the impact of the existence of atomic bombs on the role of air power; and to state the Survey's recommendations. First, however, it is necessary to point out some of the unique features of the Pacific war which must be borne in mind while considering lessons to be learned from it.

Uniqueness of Pacific War

The Pacific war was unique in many respects, as was the European war, and great reservation should be used in assuming that what was effective or not effective under those circumstances would be similarly effective at other times and under different circumstances.

Japan's initial war strategy called for a war of limited objectives. Her capabilities did not permit an attack on our basic supporting strength. She was, however, a fanatically determined enemy, well prepared initially, and the fighting quality of her soldiers, seamen and airmen should not be underestimated.

Japan's geographical situation determined that the Pacific war should in large measure be a war for control of the sea, and to insure control of the sea, for control of the air over it. As a result, attacks against warships and merchant ships and amphibious operations for possession of island positions on which forward bases could be located were close to the heart of the struggle. Carrier task forces, surface ships to provide logistic support, and submarines therefore assumed roles of unusual importance.

Japan's industrial potential was approximately 10 percent of that of the United States. Even though her research and technical design work was not purely imitative, her ability to develop reliable operating equipment in the new fields was low. Her radar and communications equipment was weak. She could not build sufficient ships or escort vessels. She lacked construction equipment to build adequate airfields. She was always hampered by a lack of oil. Her antiaircraft was outmoded. She could not economically afford to build adequate shelters for her population. She could not both disperse her industry and also repair damaged plants. She chose dispersal rather than repair, but she had insufficient means even to disperse effectively.
Signposts

Not only the uniqueness of the Pacific war but new developments in weapons and tactics make it impossible to assert that signposts to the future derived from the Pacific war will apply with equal force to other situations. The Survey believes, however, that the following signposts as to the role of air power should be given thorough consideration by those working out the solutions to new problems arising under differing conditions.
1. Control of the air was essential to the success of every major military operation. Control of the air enabled surface vessels to sail the seas as far as that control extended, even within range of enemy land-based airplanes. Control of the air permitted amphibious landings at any point where that control could be assured. Control of the air permitted close air support to ground forces, the effectiveness of which was decisive wherever fully employed. Control of the air over lines of communications permitted effective interdiction of them to the enemy and preserved them to ourselves. Control of the air over the Japanese home islands permitted the destruction by long-range bombing of such of her industries and cities as we chose to attack. The first objective of all commanders in the Pacific war, whether ground, sea or air, whether American, Allied, or Japanese, was to assure control of the air.
2. Control of the air was not easily achieved, and involved the coordinated application of all the resources of the nation. Air power consisted not merely of the planes and pilots that engaged the enemy, but of all the sources of strength that supported, reinforced and exploited control of the air. It was coordinated team play of ground, sea and air forces, both ground-based and carrier-based, and their supporting services, backed up by the full effort of all phases of the home front that enabled us to secure control of the air, at first locally and then more generally, culminating in virtual freedom of the skies over the Japanese home islands themselves.

3. The limitations of air control deserve special mention. It was never completely possible to deny the air to the enemy. It was considered that we had control of the air when the enemy could not operate in it without prohibitive losses in relation to results achieved, while our own planes could operate in it at will and with acceptable risk of loss. The Japanese increased their ratio of results achieved to losses by adopting Kamikaze tactics. This was a measure of desperation, but the results obtained were considerable and, had they been much greater, might have caused us to withdraw or to modify our strategic plans. The principle involved indicates the degree to which defensive air control must be improved or enemy bases kept beyond the range of enemy suicide planes or guided missiles from such land or sea as we propose to use.

4. Given air control, there were also limitations as to the specific results which could be achieved in exploiting such control by aircraft carrying conventional high-explosive bombs. Fox holes, underground emplacements and other prepared defenses could not in many cases be reduced, and it was necessary to eliminate remaining ground forces in costly close-range fighting even though these forces were isolated and completely cut off from supplies and reinforcements.

Weather and darkness limited exploitation of air control, but as the war progressed technical and tactical advances were made which progressively reduced these limitations.
Combat radius of fighters and time on patrol at maximum radius, although great by previously existing standards, required that airfields or carriers be available within 300 nautical miles or less of the critical areas of surface combat for optimum fighter cover.

The effective radius of our longest range bombers was limited to 1,500 miles and bases still closer to Japan were considered essential for emergency landing and fighter support.
The importance of reducing these limitations of control of the air and its exploitation by the application of research and development work in postwar years is obvious.
5. The experience of the Pacific war supports the findings of the Survey in Europe that heavy, sustained and accurate attack against carefully selected targets is required to produce decisive results when attacking an enemy's sustaining resources. It further supports the findings in Germany that no nation can long survive the free exploitation of air weapons over its homeland. For the future it is important to fully grasp the fact that enemy planes enjoying control of the sky over one's head can be as disastrous to one's country as its occupation by physical invasion.  
(Note: How the lessons of WW II applied to Iraq)

Editors Note:  The Japanese did not surrender following the use of Atomic Bombs in Japan as is widely believed; but the Japanese surrender was brought about by heavy bombing of the Imperial Empire.  For more information on this subject see Jim Smith's fine web site.

Evening Star Newspaper
Washington DC
14 April 1945
800 Super Forts Rain 6,000 Tons
of Bombs On Targets in Japan
  180 Fighters Join In Pounding; Fleet Still Hovering Off Shore
  By the Associated Press. GUAM, Aug. 15 (Wednesday)  

More than 500 Super Fort and 180 fighter planes smashed heavily in dreaded fire demolition and strafing attacks against Japanese war industries yesterday and early today.  About 6,000 tons of bombs were dropped on six military targets in the last 24 hours, Strategic Air Force headquarters announced. This made that period one of the busiest days in the history of the 20th Air Force. The B-29s hurled their might against the enemy hard on the heels of devastating attacks by carrier aircraft of Admiral William P. Halsey's 3d Fleet and attached British warships, still hovering off the  Japanese coast.
Not Far From Palace
More than 725 B-29s from the Marianas and 186 fighters based on Iwo Jima participated in the Super Fort smash. Targets for the assault included war industries at Isezaki and Kumagaya, only an hour's automobile ride from the Emperor's palace, and an oil refinery at Akita. Kumagaya was one of the cities on the Super Fort's death list. Other targets were the Marifu railroad yards on the Tokyo main line, the giant Osaka army arsenal and the naval arsenal at Tokuyama. Fighters strafed transport and communications in Nagoya.
Longest Nonstop Mission
Flying the longest nonstop mission from the Marianas on record more, than 150 B-29s bombed Akita refinery on Northern Honshu in the darkness early today.  A couple of hours earlier an even larger Super Fort fleet set fire to Isezaki 55 miles northwest of Tokyo, and Kumagaya, 43 miles north of the capital city.  None of these three targets had been hit previously. The nighttime assaults were a round-the-clock extension of the attacks which opened against the Marifu railway yards on Southern Honshu shortly after noon Tuesday.  During Tuesday afternoon the Hikari and Osaka arsenals were bombed. The night and day raids constituted the first maximum effort of the 20th Air Force since August 1, when 824 Super Forts carried out the biggest assault on record.
No Stops at Iwo
Bombing the refinery near Akita was the longest mission ever undertaken from Guam without a stopover at Iwo for fuel. Today's attacks were by Guam-based Super Forts. The 315th Wing, noted for its achievement in night precision bombing, hit Akita with more than 140 planes from an altitude upward of 10,000 feet. The refinery area, 2,000 square feet, adjoins one of Japan's largest oil fields and even has some wells on its grounds. The refinery handles 37 percent of that area's oil output and is the No. 1 remaining oil target in 14 missions against petroleum centers.

Fire Rage in Aircraft Cities
Fire bombs dropped by the 314th wing set flames raging ln Isezaki, population 40,000, and Kumagaya, a city of 50,000. The Nakajima aircraft industry has taken over both cities for the manufacture of aircraft parts which feed into six larger factories. The Tuesday-Wednesday raids were under way when the Tokyo radio broadcast
that the Japanese would accept the Potsdam Declaration.  The Japanese also knew that the world's mightiest naval force the United States 3d Fleet with a British carrier task force-- was idling close off the home shores after pressing home air strikes on the Tokyo area Monday.  The enemy had attempted to reach the fleet with a belated air attack, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz reported, but 21 of the attacking planes were shot down and none got near the ships. Meanwhile the American and. British carrier airmen knocked out 117 parked Japanese planes and struck ground installations a stout blow, despite bad, rainy weather on Monday.  On Sunday night, American cruisers and destroyers shelled Japan's Kurile Island. So far as has been disclosed, the fleet was not in action anywhere yesterday.
Spaatz's Planes Out Again
 After a four-day layoff while the Japanese were making surrender overtures, Gen. Carl A. Spaatz sent his strategic Air Forces out on heavy onslaughts which his headquarters said began at noon and still were under way four hours later.  At 3:58 p.m. (Guam time), the Navy radio here flashed a pickup of the Domei
agency's Tokyo broad- cast saying Japan's acceptance of the Potsdam ultimatum was forthcoming.  By that time Strategic Air Force headquarters already had disclosed that at least 430 Super Fortresses from the Marianas and 176 fighter planes from Iwo had participated in attacks on Southern Honshu. Wing after wing of Super Fortresses were described as making a maximum effort.  So eager were the airmen to get in their last few licks at the Japanese that the total number of planes participating kept increasing right up to takeoff times as repairs on more and more planes were rushed to completion. Yesterday's attacks began with a strike against the Marifu railway yards on Honshu shortly after noon. These yards are only 14 miles southwest of Hiroshima, which was 60 percent destroyed by the first atomic bomb dropped on Japan.
  Railway Shops Blasted
As the reports came trickling in, these targets were added to the list: Railway shops near Iwakuna just south of Hiroshima; shipping off Kure naval base; the great Hikari naval arsenal near Tokuyama and the Osaka army arsenal, Japan's largest. In addition, harbor mining continued. The bombing at altitudes from 15,000 to 20,000 feet in clear weather was described as having considerable effect by pilots who made  preliminary reports by radio while still over the targets.  No fighter opposition had been reported, and antiaircraft fire was meager.  (F)
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US Forces Strategic Bombing Survey 1946 (11)

The strategy of our advance and the limitations imposed on Japanese over water transportation became such that the Japanese could concentrate only a small portion of their available Army ground forces strength at any of the critical island positions which we determined to capture. Japanese soldiers were unique in their willingness to face death and endure hardships.

At every point where our Army or Marine forces engaged the Japanese on the ground after 1942, we enjoyed full air superiority. In every instance, except Ormoc in the Leyte campaign, we had eliminated Japanese ability to reinforce the critical area with either men or supplies.

At Ormoc the Japanese were able to land 30,000 troops, but these reinforcements arrived piecemeal over too long a period of time to be effective and many of the transports were sunk prior to unloading heavy equipment. In every instance where the Japanese had prepared defenses in a landing area these had been softened up by aerial bombardment and usually by naval shelling as well. It often proved impossible, however, to destroy more than a small percentage of the defending Japanese soldiers in preliminary softening up operations of even the greatest intensity. The Japanese were dug in, in tunnels, trenches and caves which were hard to find and often impossible to destroy, either by bombing or by naval shelling. Most of their fixed artillery positions were eliminated, but even some of these survived. The weight of fire on the immediate invasion beaches was generally such that the Japanese retired a short distance inland, but once we advanced beyond the beaches, it became necessary to destroy the remaining Japanese in costly close-range fighting.

It was demonstrated, however, that Japanese resistance was effectively weakened and our casualties lighter when the appropriate weapons were employed with sufficient weight and accuracy in both preliminary softening up operations and subsequent close support.

A Japanese estimate indicates that in the southern regions, approximately 25 percent of their combat deaths resulted from aerial bombardment, 58 percent from small arms fire, 15 percent from artillery, and the remaining 2 percent from other causes.
In those places where it was essential to eliminate Japanese ground resistance in close-range fighting, great precision had to be developed in air-support operations in order to be certain not to hit our own troops, and to assure hits on the small targets which the critical Japanese positions presented. This required highly specialized training and the closest coordination between the ground and air forces through an intricate system of ground and air observers and unified control by ground-ship-air radio communication.

In the Pacific war this system was continuously improved by the Navy and Marines in connection with succeeding amphibious operations against strongly defended positions and reached a high degree of effectiveness.

In the Philippines campaign, the Army air forces employed comparable techniques, and General Yamashita has testified to his feeling of complete helplessness when confronted with this type of opposition.

In the Southwest Pacific, it often proved possible to effect landings at lightly held positions, and thus bypass large bodies of enemy ground forces.

In the Central Pacific, many of the islands the Japanese expected us to attack were bypassed, and the garrisons left to wither and die. Survey examination of the bypassed islands in the Pacific and interrogation of the Japanese survivors confirmed their intolerable situation. Their planes and ground installations were destroyed by air attack. Cut off from any supplies or reinforcements, except occasionally by submarine, their food ran out.

On certain of the islands, Japanese actually ate Japanese. It appears, however, that our air attacks on these by passed positions were often continued longer and in greater weight than was reasonably required or profitable.

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