Battle of Okinawa – The War that Left an Island in Ruins
When referred to the great battles of the Second World War, it is surprising when the Battle of Okinawa is unrecognized. April of 1945, there were ruthless American and Japanese men who would do anything to win their battles. Okinawa, the largest of the Ryukyus islands at the southern tip of Japan was caught in the middle of this hectic chaos. The armed Americans aimed to demolish what was left of Japan’s merchant fleet. They needed to use airstrips in the region to launch bombing raids on Japan’s industrial heartland. The Americans had their minds set on controlling the amazing four air-fields that were available on the Okinawa Island. The Americans were expecting there to be only 65,000 Japanese troops on the island, but in actuality there were 130,000 troops with over 450,000 civilians. All together there was 77,000-strong regular 32nd Army and about 9,000 Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) troops (a couple hundred had been trained and prepared for ground combat), also given support by 39,000 drafted local Ryukyuan people (including 24,000 hastily-drafted rear militia called Boeitai and including 15,000 non-uniformed laborers). In addition, 1,500 middle school senior boys assigned to front-line-service “Iron and Blood Volunteer Units”, as 600 Himeyuri Students were prepared into a nursing unit.
Lieutenant General Ushijima, the commander of the Japanese troops who were on the island, had been ordered to hold on to the island by any cost. He had planned to concentrate his troops on the greater part of the island, which was the southern sector. He would position his men in a series of protected fortifications. If the Americans wanted to take the fortifications, the Japanese would have to be attacked in a series of frontal attacks. No matter how much Ushijima depended on his tactics; the Japanese relied in their Kamikazes to impose such serious casualties on the Americans in Okinawa, so many victims that they may actually be forced to retreat. These were the Japanese methods, but the vicious opposing side had their own way of preparation.
Lieutenant-General Simon Bolivar Buckner was the commander of the American troops. The 10th army was under his command.
The army itself had two corps under its command. III Amphibious Corps was in the leadership of Major General Roy Geiger, it was consisting of 1st and 6th Marine Divisions. XXIV Corps was under Major General John R. Hodge, this corps was consisting of the 7th and 96th Infantry Divisions. In all, the 10th Army contained 102,000 Army and about 81,000 Marine Corps personnel. The bay chosen for the landing was Hagushi Bay. Extreme bombardment took place during those days, Japanese fighters flying from Taiwan or Japan itself had begun to attack America’s forces. By March 31st all American troops set their positions for the next day, April 1st 1945, the scheduled date for the attack on Okinawa. They had collected 300 warships and 1,139 other ships. The marines were meant to reach Hagushi Bay by April 1st. They were met with a little opposition, but they had arrived by the end of the day and it had ended up to be 60,000 American military personnel ready for battle, the Japanese were also ready.
On April 4th, the true fight during the Battle of Okinawa was in the south of the island. The XIV Corps had run into the Machinato line. This prevented the Americans from progressing any further toward the south of Okinawa. The Machinato line at last was violated on April 24th. Yet, on the other hand, it then had to confront the Shuri Line which had further slowed down the American advance. In result of the kamikazes, which had sunk 21 of the American warships and damaged 66 other warships, American forces had experienced grave losses. On May 3rd, Ushijima ordered a counter-attack against the rivals, but this had failed.
On May 11th 1945, Kamikaze crashes into the aircraft carrier Bunker Hill, more than 300 people had been killed( Between April 6th and June 22nd, the Japanese flew over 1,465 kamikaze aircrafts). On May 24th 1945, Marines had demolished Naha, Capital of Okinawa entirely. By May 21st, Ushijima commanded his men to retreat from the Shuri Line. However, the resistance by the Japanese had still kept their promise strong. It was June when it became very obvious that the Japanese had lost their battle for Okinawa. By June 10th 1945, Lieutenant General Simon B. Buckner Jr. offered surrender to Lieutenant General Ushijima, but when they did not get their response, the Americans stepped up their assaults.
Along with air attacks by planes on direct “suicide” missions; the Japanese forces also sent their last great battleship, the Yamato, along with several others. The special kamikaze tactics the Japanese used on land and sea proved to be the most blood shedding battle in history. The Americans were prepared for these strikes. The British Pacific Fleet (BPF; it is known to the U.S. Navy as Task Force 57) had provided almost ¼ of Allied naval air power, which is 450 planes. It included many ships, as well as 50 warships of which 17 had been aircraft carriers, but while the British armored flight decks meant that fewer planes could be carried in a single aircraft carrier, this meant that they were more resistant to kamikaze strikes. Even though all the aircraft carriers were supplied by Britain, the carrier group was a combined British Commonwealth fleet with British, Canadian, New Zealand and Australian ships and personnel. Their task was to defuse Japanese airfields in the Sakishima Islands and provide all air cover against Japanese kamikaze attacks.
On June 4th, the Americans launched an amphibious attack on the Oroku Peninsula with the goal of taking out the peninsula, and outflank the Japanese defenses. The 4,000 Japanese sailors all committed suicide within the hand-built tunnels of the underground Naval headquarters on June 13th. After many more days of cruel fighting, the Japanese were forced to go to the far south of the island, where they prepared for a final battle. On June 18th, a grievous day had come as American General Simon Buckner was killed by enemy artillery fire while supervising the forward growth of his troops. Roy Geiger replaced Buckner soon after.
The island was secured on June 21st, though some Japanese continued to be in hiding, including the future governor of Okinawa, Masahide Ota. Soon after the island had been secured, General Ushijima Mitsuru sadly committed suicide in his command headquarters on Hill 89, during the end of the battle. Before his death, Col. Yahara had asked Ushijima for permission to commit suicide also, but the general rejected his request, by saying: “If you die there will be no one left who knows the truth about the battle of Okinawa. Bear the temporary shame but endure it. This is an order from your army Commander.” The 82-day-long battle which lasted from the beginning of April until the middle of June 1945 finally came to an end. The Japanese had accepted defeat after a tough fight.
Important Battle of Okinawa Facts:
Almost every single building on the island was absolutely demolished. The beautiful, tropical landscape turned to a vast field of mud and decay.
Civilians and historians state that soldiers on both American and Japanese sides had raped Okinawan civilians during the battle.
During the battle of Okinawa, U.S. soldiers experienced difficulty to differentiate civilians from soldiers.
Museums say that People who had survived after the war were finding themselves in a desperate situation and soon were motivated in to committing suicide, some died of starvation, and some gave in to malaria, while others fell victim to the retreating Japanese troops.
These are some of the (estimated) statistics of the U.S. war casualties:
7,374 people were killed,
31,807 people were wounded,
239 went missing in action,
The navy had endured 4,907 people killed or went missing aboard,
34 ships were sunken and 368 ships were damaged,
763 aircraft were lost.
225 tanks were lost,
Famous Ernie Pyle, a war correspondent was killed by a Japanese machine gun fire.
In the air and at sea, the Japanese exhausted roughly 2,800 aircrafts, in addition a battleship, a light cruiser, and also four destroyers, and with losses that can be estimated at about 10,000.
Below are some impactful Battle of Okinawa statistics;
The Japanese lost 16 ships, including the battleship Yamato,
There were about 95,000 Japanese combatants killed and 7,400 captured
Between 42,000 and 150,000 ended up to be dead.
We created this site for people interested in learning more about one of the most historic battles ever. With over 100,000 who died, the small island of Okinawa was devastated.