Summary:The Battle of Okinawa, also known as Operation Iceberg, took place in April-June 1945. It was the largest amphibious landing in the Pacific theater of World War II. It also resulted in the largest casualties with over 100,000 Japanese casualties & 50,000 casualties for the Allies. This article gives an trương mục of the 80 day plus battle for the Island of Okinawa which some have described as the “typhoon of steel”.

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When two United States Marine and two Army divisions landed abreast on Okinawa on Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945, they faced an estimated 155,000 Japanese ground, air và naval troops holding an immense island on which an estimated 500,000 civilians lived in cities, towns and villages. Operation Iceberg was to be, in every way, vast when compared lớn any other operation undertaken by Allied forces in the Pacific War under U.S. Navy command. Indeed, using mainly divisions that had already undertaken island-hopping operations in the South & Central Pacific since mid-1942, the U.S. Pacific Fleet stood up the Tenth U.S. Army under Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr., consisting of III Amphibious Corps và XXIV Army Corps — the largest land command ever assembled under the Navy’s direct control.

To those Japanese who thought the war was winnable, Okinawa was the last chance. The island lay within 350 miles — easy flight distance — from the Japanese homeland & was, by American design, lớn be the base from which the southernmost home Island, Kyushu, would be pummeled lớn dust ahead of the expected follow-on invasion. Anything short of complete victory over Allied air, naval & ground forces spelled doom for japan — và no such victory was remotely in the cards. Thus, from the Japanese view Okinawa was and could be no more than a delaying battle of attrition on a grand scale. The few Japanese who knew that their country’s war effort was in extremis were nội dung to fight on Okinawa simply for reasons of honor, for all military lô ghích pointed khổng lồ the same dismal conclusion: japan was vanquished in all but name as soon as the first Boeing B-29s left the ground in the Marianas, as soon as American carrier aircraft hit targets in nhật bản at will, as soon as even twin-engine bombers could strike Japanese ports from Iwo Jima, as soon as japan dared not move a warship or cargo vessel from a port in any part of the shrinking empire for fear it would be sunk by an Allied submarine. By April 1, 1945, all those events were taking place routinely.

Although the Japanese commanders counted 155,000 defenders, of whom 100,000 were soldiers of Lt. Gen. Mitsuru Ushijima’s Thirty-second Army, the rest were of widely mixed abilities, & there were not nearly enough troops khổng lồ cover the ground the way 23,000 troops had covered Iwo Jima. Therefore the forces on Okinawa were concentrated in a number of sectors that offered the best prospects for a robust, attritional defense. The northern half of the island was virtually conceded, và the south was turned into four extremely tough hedgehog defense sectors. The proportion of artillery & mortars khổng lồ infantry was the highest encountered in the Pacific War.

Coming khổng lồ put their defense arrangement lớn the kiểm tra was the Tenth Army. The new 6th Marine Division (1st Provisional Marine Brigade plus the 29th Marines & attachments) would land over the northernmost beaches on the western side of Okinawa a little south of the island’s midpoint. It was lớn strike across the island, then turn north lớn pacify a little more than half of Okinawa on its own. To lớn the right, the 1st Marine Division was also to lớn strike across the island, then become part of the Tenth Army reserve. The Army’s 7th và 96th Infantry divisions were to land side by side in the southern half of the Tenth Army beachhead và pivot south khổng lồ cover the width of the island. Also on April 1, the III Amphibious Corps’ (IIIAC) reserve, the 2nd Marine Division, made a feint toward a set of beaches in southeastern Okinawa. This feint was in line with where the Japanese predicted the main landing would take place, so for once a feint actually held large numbers of defenders in place looking the wrong way. Other units, including the Fleet Marine Force’s Pacific Reconnaissance Battalion, were assigned objectives elsewhere in the Ryukyu Islands, most of which were taken or at least assaulted before what was dubbed L-day on Okinawa.

(U.S. Marine Corps)
U.S. Commanders observe their troops’ movements. Standing from left are Lt. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr., commander of the Tenth Army; Maj. Gen. Lemuel Shepherd, commander of the 6th Marine Division; và his assistant commander, Brig. Gen. William T. Clement. Buckner was killed by a Japanese shell on June 18, 1945.

Immediate objectives were Yontan và Kadena airfields, in the IIIAC và XXIV Corps zones, respectively. As soon as these airfields could be brought khổng lồ operational status, combat-support aircraft would operate from them. Also, many aircraft carriers would remain on station off Okinawa for as long as their air groups were needed. The land-based component was a Marine command named the Tactical Air Force and consisting of several Marine air groups of fighters and light bombers. Marine fighter squadrons based aboard fleet carriers and several new Marine carrier air groups (fighters và torpedo bombers) based aboard escort carriers would be available throughout the land operation.

The landings were made against zero opposition & with almost no casualties. Far from going into a state of optimism, however, the many veterans in the assault force realized that a very hard road lay before them, that the Japanese had chosen to lớn dig deep & fight on their own terms.

Yontan Airfield fell by midmorning, after Marines overcame very light opposition along the juncture of the 1st & 6th Marine divisions. Reinforcements moved lớn fill gaps that developed due khổng lồ rapid advances by the 4th, 7th và 22nd Marines. Marines of the 1st Division captured an intact bridge across a stream at the IIIAC-XXIV Corps boundary & overcame hastily built field fortifications all across the division front. Divisional and IIIAC artillery battalions landed routinely, và many batteries were providing fire by 1530 hours. The IIIAC advance halted between 1600 và 1700 lớn avoid more gaps & to help the Marines on the far right maintain liên hệ with the 7th Infantry Division, whose left flank outpaced the 1st Marine Division right-flank unit by several hundred yards. The halt also gave artillery units outpaced by the rapid advance time lớn move forward & register night defensive fires.

Basically, all of L-day’s headaches arose from the light-to-nonexistent defensive effort, and not the usual spate of battle problems. Both airfields, Kadena and Yontan, were firmly in American hands by nightfall, and engineers were already at work lớn get them operational in the shortest possible time.

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(U.S. Marine Corps)
A Marine Vought F4U-1D Corsair launches its wing-mounted rockets against Japanese targets on Okinawa. The Americans were using Okinawa’s airfields within days of their capture to tư vấn operations on the island.

While by no means a romp, the days that followed on L-day were nearly bloodless. Enemy troops were encountered here and there as the two Marine divisions swallowed up miles of territory against, at most, desultory opposition. Captives proved lớn be second- và third-rate troops, mostly technicians and other noncombatants drafted into ad hoc defensive units, lightly armed & miserably trained. Also, many thousands of civilians turned themselves in to lớn Marines, khổng lồ be passed along khổng lồ temporary stockades in the rear. The most hard-pressed Marine units were engineers, then supply troops. Roads were barely discernible paths, so they had to be engineered for modern traffic, và many bridges had to lớn be built over gullies và other breaks in the terrain. Even with roads in place, it was difficult to lớn push supplies forward to the rapidly advancing ground units; they moved ahead thousands of yards a day và were constantly on the brink of outrunning their supply dumps. It was difficult, also, for artillery units to keep pace with the advance, & the infantry had a difficult time maintaining liên hệ with flank units, because the advance tended lớn broaden an already broad front. By April 3, the Marine divisions were on ground slated to lớn fall on L-plus-15.

As the advance continued with surprising ease, a picture slowly emerged from prisoner interrogations. The main Japanese effort had gone into deeply fortifying the southern portion of the island. The XXIV Corps ran into the outlying positions on April 4, on the phase line established for L-plus-10. But the Marines were oriented east and north, & swallowing miles of lightly defended ground each day. Before the two Marine divisions could join the fight in the south, they had to secure the rest of the island.

By April 4, the 1st Marine Division had completed its cross-island advance and had thus run out of objectives. It turned lớn scouring land already in its hands và building up its logistical base. By then, Japanese troops cut off in the IIIAC zone had begun lớn coalesce into what the Marines eventually characterized as guerrilla forces that lived off the land in wild areas & exploited opportunities khổng lồ attack patrols and rear-area facilities. Such forces also appeared in the rear of the 6th Division. These so-called guerrillas had khổng lồ be painstakingly tracked by Marine units far more suited for intense modern conflict. Fortunately for the Americans, although the Japanese guerrillas were well motivated, they were not trained for such operations và were easily hunted down if they showed themselves. Khổng lồ help quell civilian complicity in the guerrilla operation, several thousand Okinawan males were interned in camps beginning on April 11. The Tenth Army eventually clamped down on all civilians & filled eight internment camps in the IIIAC zone with Okinawans of all ages & both sexes. This seemed to end the problem of civilian aid lớn guerrilla operations, but those small groups of isolated Japanese soldiers continued lớn operate in diminished circumstances throughout most of the campaign.

The 6th Marine Division continued to lớn drive north — literally driven on tanks và other vehicles. One reconnaissance force advanced 14 miles unopposed, then turned back khổng lồ the main body. The 6th Engineer Battalion had a tough time widening and improving roads and replacing or bracing bridges at such a pace. On April 9, supplies began khổng lồ come ashore on beaches much closer lớn the 6th Division front, và the 1st Armored Amtrac Battalion was committed lớn provide artillery support because the 15th Marines artillery battalions had such a difficult time keeping up with the rapidly moving infantry.

On April 7, Marine Air Group (MAG) 31 began to lớn handle flight operations for its newly arrived squadrons at Yontan Airfield, and MAG-33 arrived on April 9. This relieved some of the ground-support burden on carrier air units, which were increasingly drawn into a battle of attrition with kamikaze units located in nhật bản and intermediate bases. Indeed, Marine air became almost wholly committed lớn XXIV Corps as it hit increasingly stiffer resistance in the south.

It took the 6th Marine Division until April 13 khổng lồ locate a well-led, competent và powerful Japanese force — on Mount Yae Take, in extreme northern Okinawa. A four-day battle involving Marine air & artillery and naval gunfire tư vấn reduced the enemy force of 1,500 and opened the door for the final northern push, which was completed on April 20. The 6th Marine Division’s drive had cost 207 killed, 757 wounded và six missing by April 20, & the Marines had killed an estimated 2,000 Japanese troops.

Marine air, amply assisted by a sophisticated array of modern tools such as search, control & weather radars; landing force air-support control units equipped with advanced radio equipment; and frontline air control teams played a key role in supporting ground operations and forestalling kamikaze & conventional air attacks on the huge fleet that seemed khổng lồ be a permanent fixture off Okinawa. Indeed, beginning on April 7, MAG-31 and MAG-33 fighter pilots scored hundreds of aerial victories off Okinawa, particularly in the north nearer to lớn Japan. These included nocturnal kills by Marine squadrons equipped with F6F-5N Hellcat night fighters based ashore. Also, six Marine F4U Corsair squadrons were based aboard three fleet carriers, & they provided ground tư vấn and fleet cover. Indeed, Marine Corsairs took part in attacks on Kyushu airfields on March 18 và 19 that nearly swept kamikaze and conventional air units from the skies for several days. In return, Japanese aircraft damaged several American carriers, including USS Franklin, embarking two Marine F4U squadrons that saw a total of one day of offensive operations. By April 1945, Marine air was at the leading edge of technique & technology in tư vấn of modern combat operations across all three battle dimensions — land, sea và air.

The XXIV Corps met its first really stiff opposition on the southern front on April 6. Thereafter, resistance became more violent & better organized. The defenses extended across the entire width of the island and to an undetermined depth. In fact, it was a concentric defense, complete và pervasive, centered on the town of Shuri. Not apparent at the outset, but increasingly obvious with each passing day, the hard defenses could not and would not be carried by merely two Army divisions supported by organic và corps artillery, even after the artillery was bolstered on April 7 by IIIAC’s three 155mm gun battalions & three 155mm howitzer battalions — not to mention Marine air based at Yontan and whatever carrier air the fleet had on hand for ground support. Next, beginning on April 9, all four artillery battalions of the 11th Marines and two-thirds of the Army’s 27th Infantry Division were sent into the southern line, albeit with little effect.

By April 14, XXIV Corps had killed nearly 7,000 Japanese, but it had barely made a dent in the defenses north of Shuri. A corps attack on April 19 supported by 27 artillery battalions & 375 aircraft made negligible progress, then halted as the unperturbed Japanese troops moved back lớn their positions from underground shelters. The Army divisions advanced only after the Japanese withdrew from the advance defensive line on the night of April 23-24 to lớn a more integrated line khổng lồ the rear. On April 24, IIIAC was ordered khổng lồ place one of its divisions in the Tenth Army reserve, and the 1st Marine Division was thus ordered to lớn prepare lớn return to lớn battle. (IIIAC’s third division, the 2nd, had been returned to Saipan khổng lồ prepare for an amphibious assault near Okinawa that never took place.) On April 30, the 1st Marine Division advanced khổng lồ replace the 27th Division in the XXIV Corps zone, và that Army division was ordered north khổng lồ replace the 6th Marine Division so it could enter the southern battle.

The infantry units that the 1st Marine Division replaced had been ground down khổng lồ regiments little larger than battalions, và battalions little larger than companies. Dead ahead was the bulk of a Japanese infantry division holding a defensive sector the island command had just reorganized khổng lồ higher levels of lethality. On the division’s first full day on the line, the weather turned cool & rainy, a state that would prevail into July.