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Battle For Okinawa: World War II     |     home

"Typhoon Louise"

The Conquest of Okinawa during the summer of 1945 gave the Americans in the Pacific a large island capable of being used as a launching platform for invasion.

Following the cessation of hostilities with Germany, millions of American soldiers, sailors and airmen were re-deployed to the Pacific for the invasion of Japan. The center of this immense military buildup was Okinawa;  the primary staging area for the invasion.

Japan had never been successfully invaded in its history.  American military planners knew that the invasion of Japan would be difficult if not impossible.

More than six centuries before, an invasion similar to the planned invasion had been attempted and failed.

In1281 AD two Chinese fleets set sail for Japan. The purpose was to launch an  invasion on the Japanese home islands and to conquer Japan in the name of the Great Mongol Emperor, Kublai Khan.

The main armada Sailing from China consisted of 3,500 ships and over 100,000 heavily armed troops. Sailing Korea was a second fleet of 900 ships, containing 42,000 Mongol warriors.

The invasion force sailing from Korea arrived off the western shores of the southernmost Japanese island of Kyushu. The Mongols maneuvered their ships into position and methodically launched their assault on the Japanese coast. In graphic human wave assaults wave after wave of Chinese soldiers swept ashore at Hagata Bay, where they were met on the beaches by thousands of Japanese defenders defending thier homeland and their honor.

The Mongol invasion force was a modern army, and its arsenal of weapons far superior to the Japanese.

The Mongol soldiers were equipped with poisoned arrows, maces, iron swords, metal javelins and gunpowder. The Japanese were forced to defend themselves with bow and arrows, swords, spears made from bamboo and shields made only of wood.

The battle was fierce and raged on for days, the Japanese warriors pushed the much stronger Mongol invaders off the beaches and back into their ships lying at anchor in the Bay; aided by the fortifications along their beaches of which the Mongols had no advance knowledge; and inspired by the sacred cause of the defense of their homeland.

The Mongol fleet then set back out to sea, where it rendezvoused with the main body of its army, which was arriving with the second fleet coming from China.

The combined force of foreign invaders maneuvered off shore in preparation for the main assault on the western shores of Kyushu.

In Japan elaborate Shinto ceremonies were performed at shrines, in the cities, and in the countryside. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese urged on by their Emperor, their warlords, and other officials prayed to their Shinto gods for deliverance from the foreign invaders.

As Japanese tradition states; 'A million Japanese voices called upward for divine intervention'. From the Gods who protected them.

As if in answer to their prayers, from out of the south a Typhoon arose and headed toward Kyushu. The storm struck the Mongol's invasion fleet wreaking havoc on the ships and on the men onboard. The Mongol fleet was devastated. After the typhoon had passed, over 4,000 invasion craft had been lost and the Mongol casualties exceeded 100,000 men.

All over Japan religious services and huge celebrations were held. Everywhere tumultuous crowds gathered in thanksgiving to pay homage to the "divine wind" that had saved their homeland from foreign invasion.

The Japanese fervently believed that it was this "divine wind" that would forever protect them. And this was still the attitude against which the Americans would face in any upcoming invasion of Japan.

The American invasion scheduled for November 1, 1945 was to be a similar invasion of Kyushu.

The Americans would launch their attacks from afloating invasion force of 14 army and marine divisions to be transported by ship to hit the western, eastern and southern shoreline of Kyushu. This shipboard invasion force would consist of 550,000 combat soldiers, tens of thousands of sailors, hundreds of naval aviators all as part of the largest seaborn assault force in history.

The assault fleet would consist of thousands of ships of every shape, size and description, ranging from battleships and 66 aircraft carriers to small amphibious craft sailing from Okinawa, Philippines and the Marianas.

Nearly 4,000 army, navy, and marine aircraft would be routed to Okinawa for direct air support of US landing forces during the invasion.

The Japanese knew the Americans were planning to invade their homeland. By July of 1945.  Throughout the early summer, the Emperor and his government officials exhorted the military and civilian population to make preparations for the invasion.

Japanese radios throughout the summer announced to the people to

"...Form a wall of human flesh" and when the invasion began, "...to push the invaders back into the sea, and back onto their ships..." Just as they had pushed back the Monguls.

The Japanese people fanatically believed the American invaders would be repelled.

The Japanese Culture shared in the mystical faith that their country could never be invaded successfully and that they, again, would be saved by the "divine wind".

The American invasion never came because the Japanese surrendered.

By the fall of 1945, approximately 200,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen still remained on Okinawa. As the November invasion date approached the Americans were relieved that the War was over and that they would soon be going home.

Buckner Bay, on the east coast of the island In October, was still crammed full vessels of all kinds which had been gathered for the Invasion of Japan. 150,000 soldiers lived under "Tent Cities." Hundreds of tons of food, equipment and supplies stood stacked in immense piles laying out in the open.

During the early part of October, to the southwest of Okinawa just northeast of the Marianas, a gigantic typhoon had somehow, out of season, grew to life and began sweeping past Saipan and into the Philippine Sea. As the storm grew violent, it raced northward kicked up waves 60 feet high.

Navy Meteorologists expected it to pass between Formosa and Okinawa, and to disappear into the East China Sea.

On the evening of October 8th, the storm changed direction and abruptly veered to the east. When it did so, there was insufficient warning to allow the ships in the harbor to get under way in order to escape the typhoon. By late morning on the 9th, rain was coming down in floods and torrents and the seas were rising visibility zero. Winds 80 miles per hour began blowing from the east and northeast, caused small crafts in Buckner Bay to drag anchor.

By early afternoon, the wind had risen to over 100 miles per hour, the rain coming in horizontally and the larger vessels began dragging anchor under the pounding of 50 foot seas.

Buckner Bay became a scene of devastation. Ships dragging their anchors collided with one another; hundreds of vessels were blown ashore. Vessels in groups of two's and three's were washed ashore into masses of wreckage that began to accumulate on the beaches.

Numerous ships were abandoned; their crews precariously transferred between ships.      

By mid-afternoon, the typhoon reached its peak with winds coming directly out of the north and the northeast, blowing up to 150 miles per hour.

Ships initially grounded by the storm were now blown off the reefs and back across the bay to the south shore, dragging their anchors the entire way. More collisions occurred between wind-blown ships and shattered hulks.

Gigantic waves swamped small vessels and engulfed larger ones. Liberty ships lost their propellers, while men in transports, destroyers and Victory ships were swept off the decks by 60 foot waves that reached the tops of the masts of their vessels.

On shore, the typhoon was devastating the island. Twenty hours of torrential rain washed out roads and ruined the island's stores of rations and supplies. Aircraft was picked up and catapulted off the airfields; huge Quonset huts were sailing into the air, metal hangars were ripped to shreds and the "Tent Cities", housing 150,000 troops on the island, ceased to exist.

Almost the entire food supply on the island was devastated. Americans took refuge in the recently held Japanese caves, trenches and ditches in order to survive. Tents, boards and sections of galvanized iron were hurled through the air at over 100 mph.

The storm raged over the island for hours, and then slowly headed out to sea; then it doubled back, and two days later howled in from the ocean to hit the island again. On the following day, when the typhoon had finally past, dazed men crawled out of holes and caves to count the losses.

Countless aircraft had been destroyed, all power was gone, communications and supplies were nonexistent. General Joseph Stillwell, the 10th Army Commander, asked for immediate plans to evacuate all hospital cases from the island. The harbor facilities were useless. B-29's were requisitioned to rush in tons of rations and supplies from the Marianas.

After the typhoon roared out into the Sea of Japan and started to die bodies began to wash ashore. The toll on ships was staggering. Almost 270 ships were sunk, grounded or damaged beyond repair. Fifty-Three ships in too bad a state to be restored to duty were decommissioned, stripped and abandoned. Out of 90 ships which needed major repairs, the Navy declared only 10 were worthy of complete salvage, and so the remaining 80 were scrapped.

Hundreds of Americans were killed, injured and missing, ships were sunk and the island of Okinawa was in havoc. According to Samuel Eliot Morrison, the famous Naval historian, "Typhoon Louise" was the most furious and lethal storm ever encountered by the United States Navy in its entire history.

In the aftermath of this storm, with the war now history, few people concerned themselves with the obsolete invasion plans for Japan.

However, had there been no bomb dropped or had it been simply delayed for only a matter of months, history might well have repeated itself.

An American invasion fleet of thousands of ships, planes and landing craft, and a half million men might well have been in that exact place at that exact time, poised to strike Japan, when this typhoon enveloped Okinawa and its surrounding seas.

In the fall of 1945, in the aftermath of this typhoon, a "divine wind" might have protected the Japan from foreign invaders.

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