Battle of Okinawa

From Academic Kids

Template:Battlebox The Battle of Okinawa, fought on the island of Okinawa in the Ryukyu Islands (south of the four big islands of Japan) was the largest amphibious assault during the Pacific campaign of World War II. It was the largest sea-land-air battle in history, running from April through June, 1945.

Neither side expected it to be the last major battle of the war, which it was. The Americans were planning Operation Downfall, the invasion of the main islands of Japan, which never happened due to Japanese surrender in August 1945.

The battle has been referred to as "Typhoon of Steel" in English and "tetsu no ame," "tetsu no bōfū" by Okinawans, which means "rain of steel" and "violent wind of steel" respectively, referring to the intensity of gunfire that characterized this battle.

At some battles such as Iwo Jima, there had been no civilians, but Okinawa had a large indigenous civilian population, and the civilian losses in the battle were at least 130,000*. American losses were over 72,000 casualties, of whom 18,900 were killed or missing, over twice Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal combined. Several thousand soldiers who died indirectly whether because of wounds or other causes at a later date are not included. About a quarter of the civilian, Japanese, and American populations about the island in spring 1945 were killed. There were about 107,000 Japanese or civilians killed or captured; many preferred suicide to the disgrace of capture.

  • Note(*)-This figure is accurate, however very few civilians were actually killed in battle. Rather, the majority of civilian casualities were suicides caused by fear of torture (many were told that "to become a Marine you have to kill your mother.")


The American land campaign was controlled by the Tenth Army, commanded by Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr. The army had two corps under its command, III Amphibious Corps, consisting of 1st and 6th Marine Divisions, with 2nd Marine Division as an afloat reserve, and XXIV Corps, consisting of the 7th, 27th, 77th and 96th Infantry Divisions. At the very end of the campaign, Buckner was killed by ricocheting shell fragments, becoming one of the most senior US casualties in the entire war.

The Japanese land campaign (mainly defensive) was conducted by the 100,000 strong 32nd Army. It consisted of the 9th, 24th, and 62d Divisions and the 44th Independent Brigade. Primary resistance was led in the south by General Mitsuru Ushijima. He committed suicide at the end. In the less-talked-about north of Okinawa, General Takehido Udo commanded.

But much happened before the land campaign.

Missing image
A Corsair fighter looses its load of rocket projectiles on a run against a Japanese stronghold on Okinawa

Before April 1, 1945

United States submarines had by late 1944 wreaked havoc on Japanese shipping. The troop ship Toyama Maru was sunk on its way to Okinawa by USS Sturgeon (SS-187) causing a loss of about 5,600 men nine months before the land campaign; these Japanese deaths (Sturgeon escaped despite being pummeled by depth charges) are usually not even figured in battle losses.

Before this battle, the evacuation ship Tsushima Maru was sunk by USS Bowfin (SS-287) and 1,484 women and children died.

On October 10 1944, Okinawa gained a dubious shorthand for disaster—the numerals 10-10. Waves of bombers pummeled the nearly-defenseless island, causing untold wreckage on land; over 80% of Naha was destroyed and more than 65 boats were sunk. Japanese anti-aircraft technology was not up to the nimble American planes.

Shortly before the battle, the Japanese battleship Yamato was sunk by American aircraft on her trip to Okinawa in the disastrous Operation Ten-Go. The Japanese had a plan to beach Yamato on Okinawa's shore and use it as a land battery. Widespread rumors that the ship was only given enough fuel for a one-way trip are false; Feifer debunks this (references).

The land battle

The land battle took place over about 82 days after April 1, 1945.

The north

The Americans swept across the thin part of the south-central part of the island with relative ease (by World War II standards), soon taking the lightly-held north, though there was fierce fighting at Yae-dake Mountain, and taking Kadena Air Base and Yomitan Air Base. (As of 2005, Kadena remains the largest American air base in Asia, and its runways can handle big planes.)

The Japanese were to dearly regret losing Kadena and Yomitan air bases, and gave them up with little fight. The entire north fell on April 20.

Few Americans encountered the feared Habu snake, soon discarding their cumbersome leggings. Far worse awaited them in the south. The north was warm-up.

The south

Fighting in the south was hardest, the Japanese soldiers hiding in caves, but the American advance was inexorable. The island fell on about June 21, though some Japanese continued fighting, including the future governor of Okinawa prefecture, Masahide Ota.

The most famous American casualty was the war correspondent Ernie Pyle, who was killed by a Japanese sniper on Ie-shima, just off the northwest coast of Okinawa.

U.S. General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr. was killed by a Japanese ricocheting artillery shell while inspecting his troops at the front line, just 4 days before the end of the battle. He was the highest ranking American to die during the war.

External links


de:Schlacht um Okinawa fr:Bataille d'Okinawa ja:沖縄戦 pl:Bitwa o Okinawę pt:Batalha de Okinawa sr:Битка за Окинаву sv:Slaget om Okinawa


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