Okinawa-The Last Great Battle of WWII

Posted on April 1st, 2016 by:

Posted in:

Okinawa-The Last Great Battle of WWII:

Seventy one years ago today, 86,000 Japanese military personnel and 39,000 civilian conscripts waited on the Island of Okinawa for the American invasion they knew would come. They did not have a strong beach defense, but had fortified the island in depth with a series of lines designed to make the enemy pay dearly for each yard. The Japanese soldiers knew they couldn’t win, but their goal was to buy time for the Japanese home islands to prepare their defenses.


Marines advance on Okinawa


Marines land on Okinawa on April 1, 1945

Coming to Okinawa were more than 500,000 men of the American 10th Army, the III Amphibious Corps, the US 5th Fleet and Task Force 57 of the Royal Navy’s Pacific Fleet. The Americans signaled their arrival by blasting the landing beaches with an intense naval bombardment, to subdue any Japanese opposition. But when the Americans landed, they found no sign of the enemy. They advanced cautiously, confused by the lack of resistance. It amused Japanese planners to see the American’s wasting so much ammunition against undefended beaches, the fact that the landing took place on April 1st, April fool’s day, was not lost on them.

When American forces finally met their enemy, the Battle of Okinawa became eighty-two days of hell on earth. The Japanese fought tenaciously for every inch of soil until their last breath. The American’s fought bravely but suffered tremendous casualties at places named Cactus Ridge, “The Pinnacle”, Shuri, Kakazu ridge and “Sugar Loaf Hill”.  Among the casualties were Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner, commander of the 10th Army and the famed war correspondent Ernie Pyle.


The Japanese super battleship Yamato

Offshore, Japanese Kamikaze suicide planes and motorboats wreaked havoc on Allied warships. 1465 Kamikaze aircraft were hurled at the American and British fleet. Flown by poorly trained and inexperienced pilots, most were shot down before they reached their target, but by sheer numbers, they managed to sink 20 ships and damage 157 others. The Japanese Navy also sent their super battleship Yamato, and 9 other warships to attack the American fleet. Only supplying her with enough fuel for a one way trip, the Yamato was ordered to fight though the gauntlet of American warships and beach herself to provide artillery support for Japanese forces while her crew would disembark and fight as infantrymen. As the Japanese Task Force approached, it was swarmed by over 300 American aircraft. In the ensuing battle, the Yamato and five other ships were sunk, taking the lives of 3700 Japanese sailors.


A Marine approaches an Okinawan house

The local Okinawans, not seen as “real” Japanese in the eyes of the Japanese military were used as conscripts, human shields, raped or killed as suspected ‘spies’ for speaking Okinawan, not Japanese. Others were driven to commit suicide by the Japanese Army with tales of what the Americans would do to them. The Americans, not able to tell who the enemy was, sometimes fired into villages indiscriminately killing or wounding civilians.

The Battle of Okinawa was the last great battle of World War Two. It claimed the lives of more than 12,000 Americans, 77,000 Japanese and nearly 100,000 Okinawan civilians. These grim statistics made American planners realize the potential cost in lives of the future invasion of the Japan, planned later that year, and made them look for alternate ways, and weapons to bring a quicker end to the war.


US soldiers raise the Stars and Stripes on Okinawa

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Past and Present WWII History Posts