Seizure of the Beachhead
By the early morning hours of 1 April 1945 more than 1,300 ships of the Central Pacific Task Forces had gathered in the darkness surrounding Okinawa. Transports and LST’s bearing the III Amphibious Corps and XXIV Corps moved to their assigned areas off the Hagushi beaches. There the transports laid to, the LST’s dropped anchor, and preparations were made to debark troops. On the other side of the island shipping carrying the 2d Marine Division stood off the Minatoga Beaches.
At 0406 Admiral Turner made the traditional signal “Land the Landing Force,”1 and shortly before daylight the assault on Okinawa opened with a crash of naval gunfire.
The dawn of L-Day brought enemy reaction in the form of scattered air attacks on the convoys. While carrier air and ship’s antiaircraft guns accounted for most of the raiders, the transportHinsdale and LST 884, standing off the southeastern beaches with elements of the 2d Marine Division, were crashed by enemy aircraft. The Kamikazes struck as the troops, mostly from the 3d Battalion, 2d Marines and its reinforcing units, were preparing to disembark for the feint on Minatoga. Eight Marines were reported killed, 37 were wounded, and eight listed as missing in action.3 Thus, ironically, the first troop casualties were sustained by units not even scheduled to land.
At 0650 air support arrived over the target in force,4 and ten minutes later the assault troops commenced debarkation. Troops embarked in APA’s transferred to landing craft. Landing ships disgorged armored amphibians and amphibian tractors preloaded with troops and equipment. Simultaneously, landing craft, mechanized (LCM), carrying tanks, floated from the flooded well-decks of landing ships,
LVT(A)’s of the 1st Armored Amphibian Battalion form the first wave of the 6th Marine Division assault. In the background, the USS Idaho shells the landing area. (Navy Photograph)
dock (LSD’s), and tanks rigged with T-6 flotation equipment debarked from LST’s.5
The vicious pounding of the beaches by ten battleships, nine cruisers, 23 destroyers, and 177 gunboats elicited no reply from the shore other than desultory light artillery and mortar fire. Although the assembly areas in which the assault waves formed up were within range, this fire did no damage. The two battalions of the 420th Field Artillery Group on Keise Shima, however, received heavy fire during the early morning hours, which did no damage but caused a suspension of unloading operations.
Landing vehicles formed into waves behind the line of departure, marked by control vessels lying off each landing beach. At 0800 the pennants fluttering from the masts of the control craft were hauled down, signaling the first wave of LVT(A)’s forward behind a line of support craft. In its wake, hundreds of troop-carrying LVT’s disposed in five to seven waves, crossed the line of departure at regular intervals and swept toward the shore.
Throughout the 4,000-yard run to the beach scattered hostile artillery and mortar fire continued to fall ineffectively. As the landing force approached the beach, naval gunfire lifted and the LVT(A)’s took suspected targets under fire, while 138 planes that had been orbiting lazily over both flanks of the beaches, swooped down and saturated the landing area with bullets, explosives, and incendiaries.
With but little deviation from its schedule, the landing force went ashore according to plan. As the assault waves touched down, smoke laid on the high hills east of Yontan neutralized enemy observation of the landing beaches. Concurrently, the landing craft carrying elements of the 2d Marine Division, racing toward the Minatoga beaches, reversed their course as the fourth wave crossed the line of departure, and retired to the transport area behind a screen of smoke.
South of the Bishi Gawa (River) XXIV Corps met with no unexpected difficulties in negotiating the fringing reef. Mortar fire on the beaches did not interfere with the landing, and by H-plus 24 minutes six waves of LVT’s had landed the eight assault battalions, which soon cleared the beaches and moved forward without opposition. (See Map 9)
Hard on the heels of the infantry, LVT(A)’s (which had moved to protect the flanks on landing), tanks, and amphibious trucks (DUKW’s) pre-loaded with 4.2-inch mortars, poured through breaches battered in the sea wall by naval guns and rolled inland. In anticipation of an early build-up, additional beach exits were blasted in the sea wall by engineers who had landed with the first waves.
In the III Amphibious Corps zone north of the Bishi Gawa, the edge of the reef was ragged with fissures and boulders, becoming smoother toward the beach. Fortunately, the rising tide carried the landing vehicles water-borne over a large portion of the reef. However, on the northern flank of the 1st Marine Division, the tractors experienced particular difficulty in crossing the large offshore circular reef covering the approaches to the BLUEBeaches and were delayed in reaching the shore.
Landing Plan–1 April 1945
Several instances occurred where inexperienced wave guide officers followed incorrect compass courses with complete disregard for clearly recognizable terrain features ashore and landed troops out of position. The 3d Battalion, 4th Marines, assigned to RED Beach 1, landed on the right half of GREEN 2 (in the 22d Marines’ zone) and on the rocky coast line between that beach and RED1. Elements of the 7th Marines6 were also landed in the 4th Marines’ area but in insignificant numbers. On the extreme right of the 1st Division the fourth wave was diverted across the corps boundary and landed on the right flank of the 7th Infantry Division.7 On the troop leaders’ initiative, the fifth and sixth waves were forced to change course in order to make the proper beaches. Yet, despite these departures from the landing plan, by 0840 all the LVT(A)’s spearheading the IIIAC attack had reached the beach, and the eight assault BLT’s were all ashore within a half hour.
The beaches were not mined and the scattered upright poles left on the offshore reef were easily pushed over by the LVT’s. Enemy resistance to the landing consisted of sporadic mortar and small-arms fire, which inflicted a handful of casualties and caused no damage to the LVT’s. “With utter consternation and bewilderment and with a great deal of relief the assault wave landed against practically no opposition.”8
As the assault battalions surged up the terraced slopes behind the beaches and drove inland, the center of activity shifted from the line of departure to the transfer line. There, small boat, LVT, and DUKW control was established to unload support troops and artillery units on call.
Throughout the morning, as the attack progressed against negligible resistance, supporting units continued to pour ashore. At the transfer line at the edge of the reef, reserve infantry elements transferred from ship’s boats to LVT’s which had been employed earlier to land the assault battalions. Tanks equipped with flotation devices came in under their own power, others were landed on the beaches at high tide from LCM’s, and the remainder were discharged directly onto the reef from medium landing ships (LSM’s) and LCT’s. Light field artillery battalions (75mm and 105mm howitzers) came ashore in DUKW’s.
The assault waves of tanks of the 1st Division, which landed from LCM’s and LCT’s, were all on the beach by noon with the exception of one that drowned out in a reef pothole. The commander of the LST transporting the six T-6 flotation equipped tanks of the 1st Tank Battalion, disregarding the operation plan, refused to let them be launched until H-plus 60 minutes and then set them in the water ten miles off the landing beaches. It was not until 1445, after more than five hours in the water, that these tanks got ashore and then two were lost crossing the reef because of the falling tide. The LSM’s carrying the reserve tanks of the battalion had extreme difficulty grounding on the reef on L-Day, losing the first tank off the ramp in an unseen pothole. Of the four LSM’s employed, two finally landed their cargo late on L-Day, another at noon on L-plus 1, and the last on 3 April.
In the 6th Division zone tanks were landed early and with little difficulty, a different landing procedure being employed by each of the three companies of the 6th Tank Battalion. Tanks equipped with flotation gear swam easily to the edge of the reef, moved over the rough coral, dropped their pontoons on the beach, and were operational by H-plus 29 minutes. The company in LCM’s came in at high tide (0930) and landed without incident. The third company landed directly from LSM’s successfully, but experienced difficulty in fording the
deep water between the grounding point and the shore.9
On the open flank to the north, the accelerated pace of the assault caused the 22d Marines (Colonel Merlin F. Schneider) to become overextended soon after landing. Numerous detachments of troops made from the 2d Battalion (Lieutenant Colonel Horatio F. Woodhouse, Jr.) on the left of the regiment in order to guard the exposed flank, weakened the attacking echelon and reduced the frontage which the battalion could cover effectively. In consequence, a considerable gap developed between the 2d Battalion and the 3d Battalion (Lieutenant Colonel Malcolm “O” Donohoo) advancing on the right. Within a half hour after the landing Colonel Schneider ordered in his reserve battalion, less Company C which remained afloat. The remainder of the 1st Battalion (Major Thomas J. Myers) was committed in the center of the 22d Marines’ zone of action.
Still meeting no opposition and moving rapidly inland, by 1000 the left flank of the 22d Marines had stretched dangerously thin. Anxious to press the attack and exploit his initial success, General Shepherd (anticipating Schneider’s request for reinforcements to cover his exposed flank) requested IIIAC to release one BLT of the 29th Marines to the 6th Marine Division.
While the 22d Marines continued to advance on Hanza unopposed, the 4th Marines (Colonel Alan Shapley) on the right moved on Yontan airfield against scattered resistance. Impeded only by isolated enemy pockets built around light machine guns, the regiment had swiftly penetrated several hundred yards inland and gained contact with the 7th Marines of the 1st Division on the right. Continuing the advance, the 4th reached Yontan airfield by midmorning.
The field was found to be essentially intact, but all buildings had been stripped and the antiaircraft emplacements contained only
dummy guns. Unopposed, except for occasional sniper fire, the 4th Marines swept across the airfield and secured their objective to the east of it by 1300. This forward rush carried the regiment ahead of adjacent units, leaving an appreciable gap in depth between the left flank of the 4th Marines and the 22d Marines, then in the vicinity of Hanza.
At 1330 the 4th Marines again jumped off, meeting light resistance on its left. Tanks were called to reduce several cave positions, and the advance continued slowly through rugged, wooded terrain. In attempting to maintain contact with the 7th Marines on the right, the 4th Marines also became overextended. At 1500 the 2d Battalion (Lieutenant Colonel Reynolds H. Hayden) was released to the regiment from division reserve and immediately committed on the left of the line to establish contact with the 22d Marines.
Similarly, the 1st Battalion, 29th Marines (Lieutenant Colonel Jean W. Moreau) reverted to the 6th Division from corps reserve and was assigned the mission of protecting the critical left flank of the division. Released by IIIAC at 1300, Moreau’s unit landed at 1500, and with its left flank anchored on GREEN Beach 1 completed tying in with the 22d Marines by 1700.10
Meanwhile, to the south of the 6th Division, the 1st Marine Division had encountered the same surprising lack of resistance. By 0945 the 7th Marines (Colonel Edward W. Snedeker) on the left had advanced through the village of Sobe, a first priority objective, and the 5th Marines (Colonel John Griebel) was 1,000 yards inland standing up. At this time, with the beaches clear and in order to avoid a loss of troops from anticipated enemy air attacks against the congested shipping, the division reserve was ordered ashore. Colonel Kenneth B. Chappell, commanding the 1st Marines, was directed to embark two BLT’s immediately, and the third as soon as landing craft were available.
Before noon the LVT’s had returned to the transfer line and shuttled the reserve battalions of both assault regiments to the beach. The 3d Battalion, 7th Marines (Lieutenant Colonel Edward H. Hurst), landing in the center of the regimental zone of action, moved to the rear of the left flank unit, Lieutenant Colonel Spencer S. Berger’s 2d Battalion. In the zone of the 5th Marines, the 3d Battalion (Major John A. Gustafson),11 positioned on the right boundary of the division, followed the 1st Battalion at 400 yards.
Thus disposed in depth with reserve elements echeloned to the right and left, the division continued to advance steadily over the rolling checker-board terrain. In addition to the many caves that honeycombed the entire zone, the Japanese had begun to organize the ground, and numerous field fortifications in varying stages of development were encountered throughout the area. The conduct of the defense, however, was left to small, scattered groups of service troops and home guards.12
Below Hiza the principal bridge over the Bishi Gawa was still intact, and the local defense forces had exerted little effort to destroy the narrow bridges spanning the lesser streams. More of a hindrance than the enemy’s abortive attempts to slow the advance by small-scale harassing action, was what one observer has described as “an excellent network of very poor roads.”13
The bulk of the supporting troops and the artillery were ashore by 1530. All divisional artillery landed successfully, with the exception of one howitzer of the 15th Marines and three of the 11th Marines, which were lost when the DUKW’s carrying them foundered on the reef.
Although the artillery landed early, the rapid advance of the infantry and the resultant strain on communications made it difficult for forward observers to register their battalions. Corps artillery reconnaissance parties began landing at 1300, and found that all previously selected positions were suitable.14
Between 1600 and 1700 the advance was halted. The attacking infantry dug in, established contact all along the IIIAC line, and carried out extensive patrolling to the front.
Although General Shepherd’s entire reserve had been committed early to maintain the impetus of the attack, the 6th Marine Division was well disposed to resume the advance the next day. The 4th and 22d Marines each still held a company in reserve, and the corps reserve (29th Marines, less 1/29) had landed at 1535 and was located northwest of Yontan airfield in the vicinity of Hanza.
The 1st Marine Division was unable to close the gap on the corps boundary before dark and halted 600 yards in rear of the 7th Infantry Division on the right.15 Company L was taken from the 5th Marines’ reserve and put in on the right of the 1st Battalion to refuse the open flank. The 1st (Lieutenant Colonel James C. Murray, Jr.) and the 2d (Lieutenant Colonel James C. Magee, Jr.) Battalions of the 1st Marines landed at 1757.16 The 1st Battalion, attached to the 5th Marines for administrative control, moved inland to Furugen. The 2d Battalion, similarly attached to the 7th Marines, set up east of Sobe by 1845.17
The 15th Marines had established its fire direction center (FDC) by 1700, and all battalions were registered by 1830. Because of the late arrival of spotter planes, two battalions of the 11th Marines did not complete registration, but all battalions were prepared to fire night defensive missions. But aside from intermittent mortar and machine-gun fire in the 4th Marines’ sector, enemy action was confined to unsuccessful attempts at night infiltration, a tactic with which Marine units had long been familiar.
Except for the slow movement of supplies ashore after the tide had receded and exposed undesirable reef conditions, L-Day had been successful beyond all expectations. Besides the ground gained by III Amphibious Corps, XXIV Corps had captured Kadena airfield by 1000, driven inland to an average depth of 3,500 yards, and advanced south along the coast to the vicinity of Chatan. Over-all, Tenth Army had landed an estimated 50,000 troops between 0830 and 1600 and established a beachhead 15,000 yards long and 4,000-5,000 yards in depth. The cost in casualties for the entire day’s advance by four assault divisions was reported to Admiral Turner as 28 KIA, 104 WIA, and 27 MIA. (See Map 10)
Severing the Island18
In the face of an optimistic announcement by Radio Tokyo on the morning of 2 April that the beachhead on Okinawa would be wiped out in “due time,”19 the attack jumped off on schedule and without benefit or need of air strikes or artillery preparation. As the assault divisions progressed rapidly through spotty resistance, the 2d Marine Division effectively immobilized the Japanese main body by another feint against the Minatoga beaches.20
On the northern flank the early capture of the unoccupied Zampa Misaki (Point) region was directed by Admiral Turner so that a radar site could be established without delay. Consequently,
as the 4th and 22d Marines resumed the attack eastward, the 1st Battalion, 29th Marines moved northward to seize and secure that area. The advance of 1/29 progressed rapidly, encountering but few enemy soldiers who were speedily disposed of, and the Zampa Misaki peninsula was secured at 1125. At 1430 the battalion was ordered into division reserve, and at 1600 it occupied positions near Beach GREEN 2 with the mission of repulsing any counterlandings against the left flank.21
Clearing Zampa Misaki also uncovered the beaches on the peninsula, which were badly needed for unloading operations; however, they proved unsuitable for use by IIIAC. The 6th Reconnaissance Company (Major Anthony Walker) was ordered to scout the vicinity of Nagahama to determine the enemy situation and the character of the beaches there. Walker and his men passed between the 29th and 22d Marines, dispatched a few snipers in the village, made a complete reconnaissance of the beaches, finding them suitable for the use of small landing craft22 and returned by nightfall.
Meanwhile, the advance elements of the 22d Marines, which progressed rapidly throughout the day against light opposition, reached an objective line well beyond the planned L-plus 5 line by 1600 and organized their defensive position for the night. On the other hand, the 4th Marines met with steadily mounting resistance.
Colonel Shapley’s regiment had resumed the attack at 0730 in the same formation in which it had been disposed the previous evening. At 1100 a platoon of 3/4, entering the mouth of a steep ravine was met by a sharp fusillade of small-arms fire, which revealed a series of mutually supporting caves on both sides of the draw. In the fire fight that ensued, 12 wounded men were isolated and not recovered for four hours. “Every means of painlessly destroying the strongpoint was unsuccessfully tried and it was finally taken by a typical ‘Banzai’ charge, with one platoon entering the mouth of the draw and one platoon coming down one side of the two noses that formed the pocket.”23
Meanwhile, because the 7th Marines was believed to be some 1,000 yards south of the division boundary,24an adustment was requested by the 6th Marine Division, and the regiment was ordered over to its left boundary. This movement placed 1/4 behind the 7th Marines, and in side-slipping back to its own zone 1/4 met with stiff opposition in strong enemy positions similar to those holding up 3/4. With the aid of a platoon of tanks,25 this strong point was likewise reduced. Some 250 Japanese were
killed by the two battalions during the day’s operations. The attack of the 4th Marines ceased at 1830, about 1,000 yards forward of the L-plus 3 line.
Screened by extensive advance patrols, the 1st Marine Division continued to advance with but little interference from the local defense units, a force officially designated the 1st Specially Established Regiment. Plans for this unit had been initiated in January, but it was not activated until L-minus 4. It was composed of 3,473 airfield service troops and Boeitai, less than half of whom had rifles. Additionally, the regiment was equipped with 55 light machine guns and 18 grenade dischargers. Its heaviest weapons were 10 heavy machine guns and five 20mm AA machine cannon. The unit was almost completely untrained, for even among the regular army service troops such elementary instruction as the operation of a light machine gun was incomplete on L-day.
When the combat troops moved south, this scratch outfit was assigned the mission of servicing any final traffic on Yontan and Kadena. With the commencement of an American landing, they were to destroy those airfields on order, and retire to positions from which they could deny their use to the invaders. One battalion, the 1st, was located in the 6th Marine Division zone of action; the 2d battalion and part of the 3d in the 1st Marine Division area; the remainder of the 3d Battalion faced the 7th Infantry Division; and the regimental. reserve, the 5th Company of the12th Independent Infantry Battalion was assembled at Hanza.26
That this motley crew made some attempt to slow the advance of the landing force is indicated in an order issued by the commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Aoyanagi, at 1400 on L-day. This operations order directed all battalions to hold all strong points, to carry out night raids, and to destroy all important bridges, and to construct tank obstacles; it exhorted “each and every one [to] carry out his duty with the conviction of certain victory.”27 But with their routes of escape to organized forces in the south cut off, poorly armed, without communications, and largely leaderless, this haphazard organization collapsed completely. The bulk of these troops probably fled to the northern hills, a few undoubtedly escaped to the south; 26 were captured and 663 killed by the 1st Marine Division alone. Most of those remaining in the combat area threw off all vestige of the military; however, some operated as snipers dressed in civilian clothes.
Because of the lack of firm contact with the enemy, intelligence was meager. But as tactical operations progressed rapidly against light resistance, hundreds of dazed civilians were encountered, interrogated, and sent back to the divisions’ stockades. Attempts to obtain practical knowledge of the enemy situation from the local inhabitants encountered great difficulties imposed by the Okinawan dialect. But the younger natives, those of high school age, were used successfully as sources of information. While the civilians were cooperative, the information drawn from them which could be converted to immediate tactical use was disappointingly limited. It did, however, clarify the picture of the general withdrawal to the south, confirmed the presence of units suspected of being in the area, aided in establishing an order of battle, and revealed specific and general areas to which the civilian population had fled.
For the most part, the local inhabitants had moved with all their belongings to well dug caves near their homes to escape aerial and naval bombardment. Many were reassured by interpreters roving the area in trucks equipped with loud speakers and induced to leave their refuges voluntarily. But usually it was necessary, particularly in isolated regions, for language personnel “to enter the caves and verbally pry the dwellers loose.”28
Patrols, specifically organized to corral civilians into areas designated by military government, were accompanied by language officers searching for documents. Most of the large
amount of printed and written material found was civilian literature and of no military value. But documents containing pertinent information were translated verbally to the regimental S-2’s, who took down details of local significance, and then forwarded to the division G-2 translators section for immediate attention.
Documents recovered in the 1st Division zone, supplemented by interrogations, revealed that the Japanese military authorities had engaged in active conscription of civilians of suitable age since the bombings of 10 October 1944. These men, between the ages of 17 and 45, had then been organized into three types of units: regular army units, specially organized engineer units, and coolie labor. In order to avoid the dangers arising from the presence of such a large element, from which varying degrees of hostility could be expected, all able-bodied males from 15 to 45 were retained with bona fide prisoners of war for further screening.29
In clarifying the status of these people, the Marines were aided by Army Counterintelligence Corps (CIC) detachments. CIC special agents interrogated and investigated each Okinawan male in the 15-45 age group. Eventually, after being cleared by the CIC, intelligent Okinawans were enlisted to assist in interrogations, and specially qualified natives were distributed throughout the villages and districts to act as informants.
Besides the difficulty in producing usable tactical intelligence resulting from the absence of significant enemy forces, the lack of resistance and the consequent rapid advance of the infantry imposed complicated problems upon supporting units and led to serious dislocation of the logistical plan. This plan had been predicated on the premise that the landing would be stubbornly contested, and unloading priorities had been assigned accordingly. But the landing being effected without opposition permitted the debarkation of large numbers of troops which were not expected ashore until L-plus 1 or L-plus 2. This necessitated the use of landing craft originally scheduled to move cargo and caused a delay in unloading critical supplies which were to have been sent ashore on L-Day.
Because of the narrowness of the roads and trails, and in order to avoid traffic congestion, it was not practicable to employ LVT’s very far inland, and transport for front line supply was restricted to jeeps, jeep trailers, weasels, and carrying parties. But as forward elements moved farther inland, the need for motor transport became urgent, which in turn necessitated a change in unloading priorities. Consequently, the highest priority was assigned to unloading cargo trucks from APA’s and AKA’s.
By the night of L-plus 1 displacement was necessary for all battalions of the 11th Marines and overdue for 1/11, the assault troops having moved beyond the range of that unit. Displacement was prevented though by the lack of transportation. However, two battalions were moved forward on L-plus 2 by shuttling and adding transport as it came ashore. The remainder of the regiment moved up the following day.30 Corps artillery accomplished very little unloading on L-plus 1 because of the changes in priorities. But unloading continued and improved on L-plus 2.31
Although the organic divisional engineer battalions were relieved of mine removal tasks, the rapid advances of III Amphibious Corps imposed a severe strain on these units in road maintenance and repair.32 Because of the celerity of the movement forward, the “narrow and impassable stretches of roads [and] lack of roads leading into areas in which operations against the enemy were being conducted, the engineers were called upon more than any other supporting unit.”33The 6th Engineer Battalion had the additional task of reconditioning Yontan airfield in the first few days it was ashore. The first American plane to land on Okinawa, an observation type from VMO-2, was able to come down at Yontan late on 2 April, and by 4 April all three strips of the field
While the ever-present infiltration and occasional ambushing of patrols by small hostile groups did little to influence the tactical situation of the 1st Marine Division, “the weakness of the resistance . . . was a source of astonishment” to General del Valle which led him to order a reconnaissance in force36 late in the afternoon of 2 April. The 1st and 2d Battalions of the 1st Marines passed through 3/5 and drove toward the base of the Katchin Peninsula. This attack, which was unopposed, ceased at 2100 when 1/1 on the right reached Chibana and dug in for the night. After being relieved, 3/5 reverted to regimental reserve. Having landed during the morning, 3/1 constituted the division reserve.
On the right of the 1st Division, elements of the 7th Infantry Division, operating over less
difficult terrain.37 reached the east coast at 1600 on 2 April. Consequently, when the attack was resumed the following morning, General del Valle ordered his motorized 1st Reconnaissance Company (First Lieutenant Robert J. Powell) to reconnoiter the area along the corps boundary in order to gain contact with the Army units which were well in advance. Employment of this mobile covering force enabled units on the right to advance rapidly in column, and by noon the leading units of the 1st Marines were on the sea wall overlooking the northern extremity of Nakagusuku Wan. The reconnaissance company, having worked itself out of a job, was ordered to sweep the Katchin Peninsula and then patrol back up the east coast to the village of Hizaonna. During the execution of this mission a lightly held tank trap was the only military installation observed, and Powell returned to division headquarters before dark having covered virtually the entire division zone of action.
At 1700 all units of the 1st Division were ordered to halt on the most favorable terrain. The 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, with its right flank anchored on Nakagusuku Wan, occupied a line sealing off two-thirds of the Katchin Peninsula. The 2d Battalion, 1st Marines, meeting negligible resistance from armed civilians, had seized the high ground immediately west of Gushikawa from which the eastern shore could be covered by fire. During the day’s advance “supply had been almost non-existent and the troops were without water and still depending on the food they landed with.”38
Meeting only a four-man patrol, the advance of the 5th Marines gained momentum throughout the day, the 1st Battalion reaching Agina where 3/5 was committed on the right to contact 2/1. On the left, separated by 1,000 yards, 2/5 had occupied the village of Tengan39 and advanced within its zone of action to the east coast of Okinawa.40
While opposition on the right had been virtually nonexistent, the 7th Marines on the left had pushed forward over the increasingly difficult terrain41 against light to moderate resistance. Nevertheless the assault battalions gained 2,700 yards of enemy territory and dug in for the night after neutralizing a strong point from which heavy mortar, 20mm, and small-arms fire had been received. Taking a calculated risk in order to exploit the enemy weakness, Colonel Snedeker asked and received permission from division to continue the attack. Late in the afternoon the reserve battalion (3/7) executed a passage of lines and moved out in column of companies toward the village of Hizaonna on the high ground overlooking the east coast.42
In the course of this advance, the 81mm mortar platoon, unable to keep up, broke contact with the main body of 3/7. Company K, following
Severing the Island
Tenth Army Progress
the mortars, became separated from the remainder of the battalion upon reaching a road fork after night had fallen. Lieutenant Colonel Hurst radioed the company to dig in for night defense after its repeated efforts to reach Hizaonna were defeated by the darkness and unfamiliar terrain. At daybreak Japanese troops in the hills surrounding the isolated company’s perimeter began firing, and approximately 75 of the enemy attempted to assault the Marines’ lines. The attack was repulsed and the remaining Japanese withdrew to the high ground to continue sporadic small arms and mortar fire. The fire fight gradually died out as the morning wore on and Company K moved out to rejoin the battalion. Tank patrols on the following day counted 126 dead Japanese in the area of the encounter.43
While the 1st Division drove to the coast and advanced its lines 3-5,000 yards,44 the 6th Division, moving through difficult and heavily broken terrain honeycombed with innumerable caves, gained 3,500-7,000 yards of enemy ground. In the process the 4th Marines liquidated the resistance which had opposed it during the preceding two days, and minor pockets encountered by the 22d Marines were mopped up.
In order to develop the situation to the division’s front, the 6th Reconnaissance Company, supported and transported by two reinforced platoons of the 6th Tank Battalion (Lieutenant Colonel Robert L. Denig, Jr.), was ordered forward on the north coast road and across the Ishikawa Isthmus from Nakadomari to the village of Ishikawa. This armored column was taken under mortar fire near Ishikawa and returned the fire at long-range. Before nightfall the reconnaissance was completed, revealing only small enemy groups in the isthmus area.
The 22d Marines, its deployment unchanged, moved out on L-plus 2 with 2/22 advancing up the west coast road to the isthmus and maintaining contact with 1/22 which was moving more slowly through extremely rough terrain. On the right 3/22 maintained contact with the 4th Marines. By 1700 2/22 had Nakadomari and the remainder of the 22d Marines occupied a position 400 yards south of this line.
Although the remnants of Japanese forces offered light and sporadic resistance to the 4th Marines, the greatest hindrance to that regiment’s advance lay in the terrain and the difficulties of supply and evacuation engendered by the lack of roads. Yet the regiment had secured the formidable hill mass behind Yontan airfield when it ceased the attack at 1630, 3,000 yards short of the east coast.
In conjunction with the 58th Naval Construction Battalion (NCB), the 6th Engineer Battalion had continued improving the Yontan airfield. Light observation planes of VMO-6 operated from the field throughout 3 April, and a fighter plane negotiated a successful forced landing before dark. In anticipation of a possible airborne attack the division reserve (1/29) was ordered to Yontan field at 2000 to organize the airdrome for defense.45
After three days of vigorous activity, the 6th Division’s left flank was at the base of the Ishikawa Isthmus and the 1st Division’s right flank on Nakagusuku Wan, and operations in the IIIAC area were approximately 11 to 12 days ahead of schedule. (See Map 10) Earlier in the day, General Buckner signalled General Geiger:
I congratulate you and your command on a splendidly executed landing and substantial gains in enemy territory. I have full confidence that your fighting Marines will meet every requirement of this campaign with characteristic courage, spirit, and efficiency.46
Meeting the Enemy47
On 4 April the attack was resumed at 0730. On the left of the 6th Marine Division 2/22, employing a mobile tank-infantry column, pushed vigorously up the west coast road, sending patrols inland to contact the flank patrols of 1/22 in the interior. The right element of the 22d Marines (3/22) drove across the base of the peninsula on Ishikawa, rapidly outstripping the 4th Marines which was laboring over steep ridges against moderate resistance.48 With the 22d Marines swiftly racing northward, General Shepherd moved the division reserve within supporting distance. At 0835 he ordered 1/29 to entruck immediately and assemble in the vicinity of Nakadomari to await orders.
By midday the 4th Marines had reached the east coast and was pinched out of the line by the advance of Colonel Schneider’s regiment to Ishikawa. The direction of the attack then shifted 90 degrees to the north. The 22d Marines, responsible for covering the entire division front from the east to the west coast, was reinforced by 1/29; and the 4th Marines, after clearing its zone, assembled in division reserve late in the afternoon.
The attack continued throughout the day against scattered resistance. The right battalion (3/22), also driving northward behind an armored spearhead, maintained contact with 1/22 by extensive flank patrolling.
At the time the 4th Marines was ordered into reserve at 1600, Colonel Schneider committed 1/29 in the center of the regimental zone,49 and 1/22 (less Company C detached to 3/22 for night defense) passed into reserve. After an advance of 7,500 yards through rough, mountainous terrain the 22d Marines’ attack was halted at 1700. A defensive position was set along a line through Yakada with both flanks anchored on the sea.
Because of the great distances that now separated infantry units of the 6th Division from Yontan airfield, General Shepherd requested relief from the responsibility for the defense of the airdrome. General Geiger assigned this task to the 29th Marines in corps reserve. Upon relief from this assignment the 29th Marines would revert to the operational control of the 6th Marine Division.50
The 4 April advance through the rugged, spinous mountain range had strained supply lines almost to the breaking point. In consequence, H-Hour on 5 April was delayed until 0900 in order that supplies could be moved forward to support the attack. During this temporary period of inaction, the assault battalions patrolled vigorously 500 yards to their front, and deep reconnaissances by armored columns were launched up both coastal roads. On the left (west) flank, the 6th Reconnaissance Company, reinforced with a tank platoon and tank dozer, was ordered out from Nakadomori to Chuda. Company F, 4th Marines, similarly reinforced, was assigned a like mission on the east coast.51
Company F advanced 14 miles before turning back in late afternoon. During the day the patrol was delayed three times by undefended road blocks but met no opposition until the tanks encountered the enemy at Chimu, where two Japanese were killed and a fuel truck was destroyed.52 The reconnaissance company met no opposition, but was held up at Onna by a destroyed bridge which could not be bypassed. With these mobile covering forces searching out routes of advance, the assault battalions moved forward rapidly detaching companies as necessary to reduce enemy pockets of resistance inland. By the end of the day, although the terrain had become no less difficult and the enemy had become more active, the 6th Marine Division had gained another 7,000 yards. The 22d Marines held the general line Atsutabaru-Chimu, with the 4th Marines (less 1/4 bivouacked at Ishikawa)53 located in assembly areas just behind its lines prepared to pass
through the following morning. The 29th Marines had been released to parent control by IIIAC at 1000 and had moved to the vicinity of Onna.54
During the afternoon of 4 April the 1st Marine Division also closed on the eastern shore of Okinawa. Meeting no enemy but encountering large numbers of civilians, the 1st Marines occupied the Katchin Peninsula by noon. In like manner the 5th Marines secured the shore line in its zone in the same period of time. Both regiments organized defensive positions and immediately initiated intensive patrolling to the rear to eliminate any bypassed positions, a task in which the reconnaissance company and the division reserve (3/1) also participated. The advance of the 7th Marines, however, was considerably more complicated.
At Hizaonna, Lieutenant Colonel Hurst had been joined by Company I and most of Company L the night before. The remainder of Company L, like Company K, took the wrong road at a junction and reached the beach south of Ishikawa late at night. There the company remained unmolested until daybreak enabled it to move to Hizaonna. While Company K was breaking contact to rejoin the battalion, a supply party coming forward from the rear was ambushed, and Company L was dispatched to extricate it. Upon the completion of this mission, Company L returned and reported that the enemy had withdrawn to the north.
In the meantime, 1/7 and 2/7, attacking abreast, were advancing to the coast. Mopping up small pockets of resistance, 2/7 reached the sea at midday after an advance of 3,900 yards over difficult terrain. On the right 1/7 was delayed while it engaged and destroyed a force of some 50 Japanese and did not reach the eastern beaches until 1700.
In the early evening of 4 April 3/1 received orders to relieve the 29th Marines of the mission of defending Yontan airfield the following morning. Tentative plans were also formulated to release the 7th Marines to IIIAC in order to assist the 6th Marine Division in its northern drive. The next day, the 7th Marines (less 3/7 which was attached to 5th Marines) went into IIIAC reserve with orders to occupy and defend the village of Ishikawa pending further tactical developments.55
On 5 April, while the 6th Marine Division conducted vigorous reconnaissance north toward Motobu Peninsula, the 1st Marine Division entered a period primarily devoted to defensive activity. Besides bringing up supplies, camouflaging, and improving positions, heavy patrol activity was continued to the rear. A patrol from the 1st Marines on the Katchin Peninsula waded across the reef to Yabuchi Shima, captured five Boeitai, and reported the presence of some 350 civilians.
The near perfect weather which had prevailed since L-Day deteriorated in scattered rains in the early evening of 5 April. Although there was no organized resistance, enemy activity actually increased, but it was only from small scattered groups behind the lines. Of this period a regimental commander has noted:
There was almost daily patrol contacts with well-armed enemy groups . . . Some of these groups were wandering aimlessly about while others occupied well
defended, organized, and concealed positions. These patrol operations were extremely valuable in giving to the officers and men of the regiment added confidence in each other and helped all to reach a peak of physical perfection. Conducting independent patrols, which were often under fire, added greatly to the ability of the leaders of small units.56
To the south of the 1st Division the tactical situation in the zone of XXIV Corps was also undergoing a radical change. Less hampered by supply difficulties than the units to the north, the assault divisions of the corps had aggressively exploited the initial lack of resistance. While 7th Division advance elements were cutting the island in half on 2 April, the 96th Division, moving south along the western shore, advanced its lines to the vicinity of Futema.
After clearing its zone of action on the trans-island axis of advance, the 7th Division reorganized and continued the attack to the south on 3 April, covering 3,000 yards to reach Kuba by nightfall. In the center of the 96th Division’s zone, the 382d Infantry with two battalions abreast moved south to a line 200 yards north of Nodake, where contact was established with a small enemy force and the regiment dug in for the night. During the afternoon a platoon of the 96th Reconnaissance Troop passed through the 383d Infantry on the west coast and investigated as far south as Mashiki with negative results. Forward elements of the 383d occupied Isa and Chiyuna by nightfall. The 381st Infantry, coordinating its movements with the 32d Infantry of the 7th Division, completed wheeling to the south and at the end of the day was in position near Attaniya awaiting the passage of its lines the following morning by the 7th Division’s 184th Infantry.
In a drive similar to the action involved in the compression of a strong steel spring, the 7th Division pushed south on 4 April to meet stiffening resistance from hostile infantry supported by field artillery at Hill 165.57 During the day the Japanese were driven from this dominant terrain and the division gained approximately 1,000 yards.
Meanwhile, on the left of the 96th Division, the 382d Infantry was held up by the fire of an estimated enemy company. After driving this unit to the south, the regiment again ran into a reinforced company strong point north of Ginowan late in the afternoon. The 383d Infantry came under heavy machine-gun, mortar, and artillery fire during its advance, and 3/383, moving down the west coast road, was forced to hold up about 400 yards north of Uchitomari. The 2d Battalion, 383d Infantry also encountered mounting enemy resistance as it advanced on the positions holding up 3/383. The 381st Infantry reverted to divisional reserve during the day after the 184th Infantry moved through its lines, and the 7th Division took over the left of the 96th’s zone of action.
By the night of 4 April the L-plus 10 line, originally planned as the southern limit of the Tenth Army beachhead, had been seized by the XXIV Corps. Both Army divisions moved out for their fifth day of ground action against an increasing volume of enemy defensive fires. On the corps left flank General Arnold’s division continued its steady progress with the 184th and 32d Infantry advancing an average of 2,600 yards. Resistance was met mainly from small, scattered enemy groups in the hills and ridges bordering the east coast. Because of the 7th Division’s wide turning movement to come into line with the 96th, its night positions forward of Ishado were still almost 1,000 yards to the rear of those of the 382d Infantry.
Both assault regiments of the 96th Division became heavily engaged with enemy outpost strong points during 5 April. On the division’s left, the 382d Infantry’s 2d Battalion took Ginowan during a 900-yard advance, but it was stopped on the outskirts of the village by intensive fire from ridge positions to the southwest. On the division boundary 1/382 made 400 yards through rugged high ground and with the aid of tanks and artillery broke up an enemy counterattack which was spotted forming in front of its lines about noon. For night defense, the regimental reserve (3/382) was moved to blocking positions from which it could cover by fire the gap between divisions.
On the west coast, 3/383 consolidated its positions south of Mashiki won on 4 April and probed hard into the enemy defenses near Uchitomari, while 2/383 on the regimental left flank drove unsuccessfully against the first of a series of prepared ridge positions guarding the approaches to Kakazu. Four tanks were lost during the day’s action, one to a mine and the others to enemy AT fire. In contrast to long advances during preceding days’ actions, the 96th Division was able to take only about 400 yards on L-plus 4.
Over 2,200 Japanese, the majority in the XXIV Corps zone, had been killed or captured in five days of increasingly harder action at a cost of 300 battle casualties to American troops.58However, only the barest surface of Japanese resistance had been exposed. The men of the veteran 7th and 96th Divisions, as spearheads of the Tenth Army’s main drive, stood on the threshold of the bitterest and most protracted battle of their experience. (See Map 10)
The absence of enemy opposition on the beaches had greatly simplified the problems of shore party control and facilitated the progress of unloading of assault shipping. By noon on L-Day division shore party commanders had begun to assume control of their sectors; by nightfall all shore parties were under division control. A steady procession of DUKW’s and LVT’s shuttled across the reefs bringing in supplies to build up inland dumps. For a period of four to five hours at each high tide ship’s landing craft could make their runs directly to the beaches.
Before nightfall on L-Day, shore party officers had become painfully aware of what was to be their most pressing problem during the first days ashore. As the volume of cargo reaching the beaches increased, the number of trucks available to haul it to dumps decreased. Plans had been made to use the organic motor transport of the assault divisions to assist the shore party. These plans had to be drastically modified. The unexpectedly rapid advance of forward elements required the divisions to commit their trucks to an effort to supply assault troops over the tortuous road system of central Okinawa. Even with the immediate and continuing aid of engineers and Seabees in improving beach exits and roads, the shore parties were hard put to keep up with their work load. By dint of improvisation and continuous improvement of matériel handling facilities, however, the flow of supplies continued unabated, although at times the situation was, to say the least, frustrating.
The favorable tactical picture influenced Admiral Turner to authorize night unloading under floodlights on 2 April and to direct that ship’s holds be cleared of all assault cargo. Earlier on L-plus 1 the Joint Expeditionary Force Commander had directed that men and equipment of aviation engineer battalions and Marine air groups (MAG’s) be unloaded as soon as possible. On 3 April General Geiger reinforced Turner’s order with a request that all previous priorities of LST unloadings in IIIAC’s zone be suspended until all the airfield headquarters, service, construction, and maintenance personnel were ashore.
This emphasis on getting Yontan and Kadena airfields operational, coupled with General Buckner’s authorization on 3 April for the corps commanders to unload army troops at their discretion, brought about a steady increase in the volume of ship-to-shore traffic. Control vessels and beach parties soon noticed many instances of low priority units and equipment mingling with the shoreward flow of essential assault gear. In part this interruption of supposedly firm unloading schedules was due to ships’ captains’ natural desire to unload and get clear of the vulnerable Hagushi anchorage. The inability of the shore party with its inadequate transport to handle the vast quantities of supplies, forced many ships to stand off shore with half-empty holds awaiting the return of boats stacked up at control vessels.
The problem of control of ship-to-shore
traffic, while it was immense, was probably better handled at Okinawa than in any previous Pacific operation. Experience gained in the Marianas campaign had led Admiral Turner to recommend that only “the most experienced personnel available should be used in the Control Parties for assault landings.”60 Consequently, key members of the control group used at Iwo Jima served on board control vessels off Okinawa contributing their fresh experiences toward more efficient operations.
Individual coxswains of the landing boats further complicated the critical control problem by their efforts to “get to the beach at all costs.” The commander of the 1st Marine Division’s transport group commented on this unforeseen factor:
There seemed to exist on the part of most coxswains an almost fierce determination to be first ashore with their individual boats, regardless of the orderly assignment to unloading points, which it is the function of the control vessel to carry out. Coxswains simply would not follow orders to form and remain in cargo circles, but jockeyed for positions of advantage from which to come along side the control vessel. Many even attempted to ignore the control vessel and bypass it, proceeding directly to whatever beach they had a preference for.61
By 4 April a good start had been made toward bridging the reef barrier off the Hagushi beaches with the aid of pontoon barges and causeways sidelifted to the target by LST’s and
AKS’s (General Stores Issue Ship).62 The larger landing ships could now discharge their cargo directly onto causeways on RED Beach 1 opposite Yontan airfield and on PURPLE 1 and the ORANGE Beaches near Kadena. In addition, 80 self-propelled barges had been put into operation to shuttle supplies over the reef to the beach. To expedite the handling of the swarming small boat traffic off the IIIAC beaches, eight barge transfer points had been set up to provide temporary floating supply dumps.
Although heavy weather during the night of 4 April and most of the following day interfered with the orderly process of unloading,63 the shore party continued to operate in an attempt to clear its jammed beach dumps. On 5 April, 32 empty transports and cargo vessels departed the target area. With the abatement of high winds on 6 April, unloading stepped up pace so that 13 additional APA’s and AKA’s were emptied and 60 LST’s were reported cleared of cargo.
The planned process of transition of shore party control to progressively higher troop echelons continued throughout this early period. On 3 April the commander of the XXIV Corps shore party took over the southern beaches, and three days later the commander of the III Corps Service Group assumed control of the Marine divisions’ unloading. As a result of a conference of responsible fleet and troop logistics officers on board Admiral Turner’s flagship on 8 April, arrangements were made for Tenth Army to take over all shore party activities on the Hagushi beaches the following morning. The Island Commander, Major General Fred C. Wallace, was placed in charge and the 53d Engineer Special Brigade directed to operate all beaches except the newly opened one, at Nago. IIIAC Service Group retained direct control of this landing point in order to operate a much-needed forward supply dump for the far ranging battalions of the 6th Marine Division.64
Between L-Day and 11 April when the first substantial increment of garrison shipping began to arrive, unloading over the Hagushi beaches was confined to assault shipping. By noon on 11 April, 532,291 measurement tons65 of cargo had been unloaded, more than had been put ashore from assault shipping during the entire Marianas campaign.66
In large part the success of Tenth Army in early April was due to the untiring efforts of shore party personnel and ships’ crews. The assault troops had seized a substantial beachhead and the support troops had made it secure by building up adequate reserves of supplies and equipment to meet the increasing demands of combat.
While assault battalions of the Tenth Army were probing the enemy outpost line on Okinawa, the fleet in the surrounding waters was engaged in a desperate battle to maintain its position. Crewmen of the destroyers and support craft on the picket line were on a continual alert. Radar screens searched the sky to detect the signs of enemy aircraft approaching the Hagushi anchorage. Many Japanese pilots
died, however, before they came within range of the pickets, shot down in furious battles with watchdog patrols of TF’s 57 and 58 and the omnipresent fighters of TF 51’s escort carriers.
Enemy planes that evaded the combat air patrols ran a gantlet of antiaircraft fire all the way from the outermost pickets to the AAA battalions on the beaches. Comparatively few pilots who took off from the airfields of Kyushu, Formosa, and the Sakishimas managed to reach their objective. Many of those who won through the curtain of fire were on conventional bombing and reconnaissance missions that held out some hope of survival. Others, far too many from the American viewpoint, were members of special suicide air attack units, the Kamikazes.
The first scattered Kamikaze attacks had been made in the Philippines in concert with the Japanese fleet’s desperate bid for victory at Leyte Gulf. The development of the suicide philosophy, according to enemy sources, “originated in the feelings of all combatants in the Philippine area. All were beginning to think that there was no way but suicide to save the situation; there were many volunteers.”68 The motives of these Kamikaze pilots were explained to American interrogators after the war by a staff officer of the unit which made the initial attacks:
We felt as follows: we must give our lives to the Emperor and Country, this is our inborn feeling. I am afraid you cannot understand it well, or you may call it foolish. We Japanese base our lives on obedience to Emperor and Country. On the other hand, we wish for the best place in death, according to Bushido. Kamikaze . . . was the incarnation of these feelings.69
The initial success of the special attack units at Leyte, Lingayen Gulf, and later at Iwo Jima heartened the Japanese leaders and public and encouraged them to a desperate gamble which had its culmination at Okinawa. The Kamikaze concept, “macabre, effective, supremely practical under the circumstances, supported and stimulated by a powerful propaganda campaign, . . . became virtually the sole method used in opposing the United States striking and amphibious forces, and these ships the sole target.”70
In contrast to the sporadic nature of the first suicide attempts, Kamikaze operations at Okinawa were well planned and organized. Army units of the 6th Air Force and naval squadrons of the 5th Air Fleet, with a combined initial plane strength of about 1,815,71 were placed under a single commander, Admiral Soemu Toyoda, Commander in Chief, Combined Fleet.
The new headquarters was established at Kanoya, Kyushu on 13 February 1945 and the first all-out attack unleashed against TF 58’s carriers during raids against Japan of 18-19 March. The results of the assault were considered satisfactory despite the loss of 161 attacking aircraft. The Japanese believed the damage to five American carriers reported by their scouting planes would effectively delay TF 58’s regrouping for further operations. They were surprised, therefore, at the rapidity of the Fast Carrier Forces’ reentry into action to cover the landings at Kerama Retto. Admiral Toyoda’s units were not ready to attack again when Tenth Army began landing on Okinawa.72
Scattered flights of planes from Japan and the Formosa area carried the brunt of the attack on TF 51 during the first few days of April. The toll of ships damaged and sunk rose steadily. To the men of the transport fleet and picket line, especially those whose ships drew the attention of suicide pilots, the period from 1-5 April was nerve-racking. A battleship, an escort carrier, two destroyers, eight transport and cargo vessels, a mine sweeper, and two landing ships were damaged in aerial attacks; the APD Dickerson was hurt so badly by a suicide crash she had to be scuttled. Naval casualties continued to mount with 81 KIA, 294 WIA, and 60 MIA reported from the crews of the damaged ships.
By 6 April the Japanese were ready to mount a carefully planned Kamikaze attack from
End of the Japanese Navy
Sinking of the Yamato by TF 58 Planes
Kyushu. In the early morning scout planes located TF 58 off Amami-O-Shima, and over 100 fighters and bombers were sent to engage the carrier force. Defending combat air patrols over Okinawa were drawn into battles with enemy fighters dispatched ahead of the main attack force. Covered by these advance fighter groups, approximately 200 Kamikazes began to drive in toward the Hagushi anchorage.
The main attack began about 1500 and lasted five hours. Although the weather was fair, visibility was severely limited as the smoke of burning planes and ships soon mingled with that of the protective screen over the transport area. Entirely aside from the danger of suicide crashes, torpedoes, and bombs, crewmen in exposed positions and troops on the beaches were subjected to a deadly hail of shell fragments.73 The hundreds of guns firing from beach and sea accounted for three friendly fighters which followed Japanese planes too closely into the lethal barrage.
The Kamikaze pilots started scoring at 1530 when the first plane crashed into the picket
destroyer Bush. In short order two more suiciders piled into the hapless ship, despite valiant efforts by support craft and the destroyer Colhoun to drive off the attackers. The Calhoun itself was hit by three planes. Both ships eventually sank, the Bush at 1950 and the Calhoun under American gunfire at 0130 on 7 April when she began to break up under tow.
Meanwhile, the battle was raging all over the area with the barrier ring of pickets and patrol craft, lacking the protective cover of a smoke screen, getting the worst of it. Ships of all types were being damaged by plane crashes and near misses. The mine sweeper Emmons had 30 feet of her stern blown off at 1630; she was later sunk to prevent her drifting ashore in enemy territory. Shortly after the Emmons took its crippling suicide hit, Kamikazes dove into three ships in the Kerama area. All three, the LST 447 and the ammunition ships Logan Victory and Hobbs Victory,were total losses and eventually went to the bottom.74
After the fury of the main attack died down, the task force continued to get heckling raids throughout the night. The last ships were hit early on 7 April. The all-out attack had caused an impressive total of damage. In addition to the six ships sunk, the Japanese had damaged nine destroyers, four destroyer escorts, and five mine vessels. Over 500 more men had been added to TF 51’s casualty list during 19 hours of savage action; the ships hit by Kamikazes reported losses of 94 killed, 264 wounded, and 178 missing.
Although the Japanese lost at least 135 planes during the attack to Admiral Turner’s forces, they were elated by imaginative reports from their reconnaissance planes which backed up the claims of Thirty-second Army that more than
30 ships were observed sinking and over 20 ships burning.75
During 6-7 April TF 58 reported splashing about 245 planes to bring the total Japanese loss to nearly 400. The damage to the heavily gunned and armored carrier force was much less than that to TF 51; only one carrier, the Hancock, and two destroyers were hit seriously enough to require retirement from the combat area.
The sortie of the Yamato and its covering squadron, one light cruiser and eight destroyers, was planned as an aid to the Kamikaze attacks. Provided with only enough fuel for a one-way voyage,77 the giant battleship’s assignment was
to shell the landing area and anchorage at Okinawa, drawing off the American air cover so thatKamikazes might have a clear shot at the amphibious force. It was definitely a suicide mission and Admiral Toyada felt the Yamato group had less than a 50-50 chance of even reaching its target. TF 58 reduced the mission from a gambler’s risk to a forlorn hope.
Less than two hours after the Japanese force left Tokuyama naval base on Honshu (1520, 6 April) the submarines Hackleback and Threadfin, lying off the east coast of Kyushu, discovered the enemy ships and alerted Fifth Fleet. The submarines lost their contact later that night, but a search plane from the Essex picked up the Yamato group again at 0822, 7 April. At 1030 Kerama-based seaplane bombers began tracking the enemy ships. At the same time, the last of three strike groups, totalling 380 planes, was launched by TF 58.
A Japanese destroyer lagging at the rear of the enemy formation was attacked at 1210 and eventually sank. At 1240 the full fury of the first two American strike groups hit the main enemy force. The Yamato took two bombs and one torpedo, another destroyer was sunk, and the cruiser was stopped dead in the water. At 1333 the third group struck and finished the job in less than an hour. The Yamato took three additional bombs and nine torpedoes, capsized, blew up, and sank a full day’s steaming from its Okinawan target. The cruiser and one other destroyer were sent to the bottom. Later that night a fourth heavily damaged destroyer was scuttled as the remaining ships withdrew to Japan–mission not accomplished. Despite the heavy curtain of antiaircraft fire put up by the beleaguered Japanese ships, TF 58’s losses were phenomenally small–10 planes and 16 men.
Although this venture in aid of Kamikaze operations ended in abject failure, the Japanese High Command was convinced of the utility of suicide missions. Orders were issued to Fifth Air Fleet“to continue general attacks at all costs.”78 The pattern of air assault on 6-7 April was merely a grim portent of the future.
1. CTF 53 Rpt of Participation in the Capture of Okinama Gunto–Phases I and II, 20Jul45, Part III, 12, hereinafter cited as CTF 53 AR.
2. Unless otherwise noted the material in this section is derived from R. E. Appleman, et al,Okinawa; The Last Battle, U.S. Army in World War II, (Washington, 1948), hereinafter cited asOkinawa: The Last Battle; CTF 51 AR; Tenth Army AR; XXIV Corps AR; IIIAC AR; 1st MarDiv SAR; 1st MarDiv G-3 Jnl, 28Feb-13Jul45 hereinafter cited as 1st MarDiv G-3 Jnl; 1st Mar SAR, Nan Shoto, 25Jul45, hereinafter cited as 1st Mar SAR; 5th Mar S-3 Jnl, 15Jan-26Jul45, hereinafter cited as 5th Mar S-3 Jnl; 7th Mar SAR, Phase I and II, 1May45, and Phase III, 11Jul45, hereinafter cited as 7th Mar SAR; 6th MarDiv SAR, Ph I&II; 6th MarDiv Unit Jnl, Phase I and II, 1-22Apr45, hereinafter cited as 6th MarDiv Jnl, Ph I&II. The action reports of the major component units of the 6th MarDiv are included as annexes to the division SAR and will be cited separately as 4th Mar SAR, Ph I&II; 1/4 SAR, Ph I&II; 6th TkBn SAR, Ph I&II; etc.
3. 2d MarDiv AR, Annexes A-N. Ships crews suffered casualties of 1 KIA, 34 WIA, and 10 MIA.
4. Between 0700 and 1000 more than 500 planes of the Fifth Fleet were engaged in troop support missions.
5. The T-6 flotation devices were utilized by medium tanks to proceed to the beach under their own power, using their tracks for propulsion. They consisted of flotation tanks welded to the outside of the medium, an improvised steering device, electrical bilge pumps, and electrically detonated charges to jettison the flotation tanks once the beach was reached. 6th TkBn SAR, Ph I&II, 39-41.
6. Throughout this monograph the designation “7th Marines,” “22d Marines,” etc., has been used interchangeably with Regimental Combat Team 7 (RCT 7), RCT 22, etc. Thus, reinforcing troops which make a regiment an RCT are considered included in the 7th Marines (22d Marines) designation. In like manner, the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines or 1/5 has been used synonymously with Battalion Landing Team 1/5 (BLT 1/5).
7. This wave consisted principally of Co B, 5th Marines, the reserve company of the 1st Bn, and part of the command post group. By 0930 sufficient LVT’s were sent to pick up all but one lieutenant and two squads who did not rejoin until L-plus 3. 1st Bn, 5th Mar SAR, Phase I and II, 29Apr45, 5, and Phase III, 9Jul45, hereinafter cited as 1/5 SAR.
8. 4th Mar SAR, Ph I&II, 6-7.
9. 6th TkBn SAR, Ph I&II, 15-16, 39-41.
10. 1/29 SAR, Ph, I&II, 8.
11. At 1400 the 3d Battalion moved up behind the assault battalions, at which time Maj Gustafson went forward to reconnoiter. At 1500 Gustafson’s group was fired on by a small bypassed enemy group, and Maj Gustafson was wounded and evacuated. The executive officer, Maj Martin C. Roth, took over temporarily until LtCol John C. Miller, Jr., assumed command on 5 April. 3d Bn, 5th Mar SAR, 1-21Apr45, 30Apr45, and 22Apr-22Jun45, 10Jul45, hereinafter cited as3/5 SAR.
12. A Japanese source describes these troops as “. . . a hastily organized motley unit, . . . facing extreme hardship in trying to achieve an orderly formation.” Okinawa Operations Record,52.
13. 1st MarDiv SAR, Part VII, 1-2. “5th Marines was heckled by division because regimental supply couldn’t keep up with the advance.” Col. J. D. Muncie Ltr to CMC, 27Mar47, hereinafter cited as Muncie.
14. IIIAC Arty AR, 19.
15. “Coordinating the advance of the 1st Marine Division with the Army’s XXIV Corps was tough on the 1st Marine Division which didn’t have comparable transportation or road net.” Muncie.
16. The 3d Battalion, 1st Marines were on the transfer line at 1800 trying to transfer to LVT’s. But unable to get LVT’s they remained in the boats all night.
17. Col R. E. Honsowetz Ltr to CMC, 9Oct54, hereinafter cited as Honsowetz.
18. Unless otherwise noted the material in this section is derived from IIIAC AR; 1st MarDiv SAR; 6th MarDiv SAR, Ph I&II; 1st Mar SAR; 4th Mar SAR, Ph I&II; 5th Mar S-3 Jnl; 7th Mar SAR; 22d Mar SAR, PhI&II; 29th Mar SAR, Ph I&II.
19. IIIAC G-2 PrdRpt No 2, 3Apr45.
20. The operation order issued by Gen Ushijima at 1630, 2 April states in part: “. . . On the Minatoga front the enemy’s plans cannot be disregarded. The Army will use the 62d Division to hold the main line of positions over a long period; it will use its main strength [24th Div and 44th IMB] to annihilate the enemy who plans new landings.” CICAS Trans No 252, 32d Army OpOrd A-140, 2Apr45.
21. 1/29 SAR, Ph I&II, 8; CMC Memo.
22. CMC Memo.
23. 4th Mar SAR, Ph I&II, 8.
24. “Lack of readily identifiable terrain features made it impossible to quickly identify the boundaries of zones of action in the rapid advance. Maps at this time were also poor and difficult to follow. Hill 165 [3,600 yards west of Yontan airfield] and certain towns were, however, unmistakable. [The] 7th Marines ZA was approximately 2,000 yards wide. While there was some slippage to the right all along the front, I know that 2/7 on the left and 1/7 on the right substantially covered their ZA’s. My opinion is that the left flank of the 7th was not over 400 yards from the division boundary at any time. The slant distance from the actual right flank of the 4th Marines and the left flank of the 7th Marines may have been greater as the attacks of the two regiments were not at an even rate.” Snedeker. “The maps were not accurate. The 7th felt that they were on the boundary and so did the 4th. Who was right was never determined.”Honsowetz.
25. 6th TkBn SAR, Ph I&II, 16-17.
26. None of the captured personnel knew that they were in this paper organization; only one had ever heard of it. Without exception they gave as their unit the service or home guard element with which they served at the airfields.
27. CinCPac-CinCP0A Bull 107-45, Translation and Interrogations No 28, 14May45, 12-13, 1st Specially Established Regt OpOrd A2, 1Apr45.
28. 1st MarDiv SAR, Part VIII, 2.
29. “The wisdom of these precautions was illustrated by several incidents which confirmed our suspicions. Many a Kimono hid a uniform, and a number of civilians were found to be armed.”Ibid., 7.
30. 11th Mar SAR, n. d., 3, hereinafter cited as 11th Mar SAR.
31. IIIAC Arty AR, 19-20.
32. Tenth Army AR, Chap II, Sect XI, 8-9.
33. 4th Mar SAR, Ph I&II, 29.
34. 6th EngBn SAR, Ph I&II, Part VII, 2. The first plane was piloted by 1stLt Frank A Milliken. 2d MarDiv AR, Annex L.
35. Blakelock. This source continues: “These planes were required to make the return flight to Guam without refueling at Okinawa due to the shortage of AvGas ashore to refuel the planes. Okinawa had five flights daily from Guam on a non-fueling basis until 12 April when 500 gal/plane was furnished for the return flight.”
36. LtGen P. A. del Valle Ltr to CMC, 29Sept54, hereinafter cited as del Valle.
37. “In the sweep across the island the most serious obstacle was the terrain, especially as no road existed in my zone of action, so that, as happened again later, I was obliged to employ the road on which the Seventh Infantry Division advanced, which was in their zone of action.” Ibid.
38. 1st Mar SAR, 6.
39. 1/5 SAR, 6. “Our ever widening zone of action prohibited the ‘hand-in-hand’ advance of some small island operations and our units were able to maintain contact and clear their areas only by patrolling to the flanks and front.” 1st Mar Div SAR, Part VIII, 5.
40. “This was accomplished by 1700 on 3 April. 2/5, commanded by LtCol W. E. Benedict, had marched approximately eight miles over hilly country since 0800 when they left their 2 April position near Ishimine.” Col J. H. Griebel Ltr to CMC, 18Oct54.
41. “The movement from the west coast landing beaches of Okinawa across the island to the east coast was most difficult because of the rugged terrain crossed. It was physically exhausting for personnel who had been on transports for a long time. It also presented initially an almost impossible supply problem in the Seventh’s zone of action because of the lack of roads.” Col E. W. Snedeker Ltr to CMC, 27Mar47, hereinafter cited as Snedeker 1947.
42. 1st MarDiv, G-3 Jnl, 3Apr45; Col E. H. Hurst Interview, 3Mar55. “The forced march of over three miles of the Third Battalion, Seventh Marines to Hizaonna, late on 3 April is noteworthy. Orders for the march were not issued until about 1430 on that date. Information received from the Division Reconnaissance Company indicated no substantial enemy strength on the east coast in the Seventh’s zone. What might be encountered from the front line to the east coast was unknown. The march was made over rugged unfamiliar terrain, with the probable expectancy of meeting enemy forces at any time, and it resulted in advance elements, including the battalion CO reaching Hizaonna at 1830, 3 April. Hizaonna was at that time well beyond our front lines . . .” Snedeker 1947.
43. Hurst, op. cit.,; 1st MarDiv Interviews, Co K, 7th Mar, hereinafter cited as 1st MarDiv Interviews. This last source consists of a series of interviews conducted by Sgt Kenneth A. Shutts and Sgt Paul Trilling, historians assigned to the 1st MarDiv for the Okinawa operation, which form a valuable record of the important actions of the campaign at the small-unit level.
44. Tenth Army AR, Chap 7, Sect III, 3.
45. 1/29 SAR, Ph I&II, 8. During the morning 1/29 had again patrolled Zampa-Misaki with negative results, and had then assembled in reserve east of Yontan airfield. Ibid.
46. 6th MarDiv Jnl, Ph I&II, 3Apr45.
47. Unless otherwise noted the material in this section is derived from 1st MarDiv SAR; 6th MarDiv SAR, Ph I&II; 7th. InfDiv AR; 96th InfDiv AR; 1st Mar SAR; 4th Mar SAR, Ph I&II; 5th Mar S-3 Jnl; 7th Mar SAR; 22d Mar SAR, Ph I&II; 29th Mar SAR, Ph I&II.
48. 6th MarDiv Jnl, Ph I&II, 4Apr45.
49. 1/29 SAR, Ph I&II, 8-9.
50. 6th MarDiv Jnl, Ph I&II, 4Apr45.
51. 6th TkBn SAR, Ph I&II, 19.
53. 1/4 SAR, Ph I&II, 7.
54. IIIAC AR, 35.
55. Snedeker 1947, Enclosure A, A History of the 7th Marines on Okinawa Shima, 7, hereinafter cited as 7th Mar History.
56. Snedeker 1947.
57. It should be borne in mind that elevations on maps used at Okinawa were in meters. Thus Hill 165 if envisioned as feet by the reader seems a relatively insignificant terrain feature, whereas a height of 544 feet (165 meters) is an appreciable hill.
58. Tenth Army G-2 Rpt No 12, 7Apr45; CTF 51 AR, Part V, Sect H, 6.
59. Unless otherwise noted the material in this section is derived from OpNav 34-P-0700, Amphibious Operations–Capture of Okinawa, 27Mar-27Jun45, 22Jan46, hereinafter cited as CNO Record; CTF 51 AR; Tenth Army AR.
60. CTF 51 OpRpt, FORAGER, 25Aug44, Recommendations, 2.
61. Quoted in CNO Record, Chap 7, 55.
63. Beaching difficulties and heavy weather seriously affected the resupply of ammunition to the 155mm guns on Keise Shima throughout the operation. On 8 April, when an LST due to discharge its cargo of vitally needed ammunition was unable to unload at Keise, orders were issued that an LCT be dispatched daily from the Hagushi beaches with resupply ammunition. Ibid.
64. In the IIIAC zone of action many of the shore party troops were men from replacement drafts who trained with the divisions as infantrymen, accompanied the assault echelon to the target, and served in the vital role of beach and ship labor until the need for casualty replacements required their assignment to division combat units.
65. The measurement ton is a unit of volume, not weight, used in describing ships’ cargo. It is usually figured at 40 cu. ft.
66. “The first garrison shipping to arrive carried assault cargo that could not be lifted in the assault shipping,” and by 15 April 577,040 measurement tons of cargo, mostly assault supplies, had been unloaded against an estimated beach capacity of 529,790. Blakelock.
67. Unless otherwise noted the material in this section is derived from CinCPac War Diary, April 1945; Fifth Flt AR, 1Apr-27May45, 10Jul45; CTF 51 AR; Campaigns. Casualty statistics for ship’s crews are taken from CTF 51 AR, Part III, Sect H, 7-10, while figures on ship damage and losses are a result of a careful analysis of all the above sources for what is considered to be the most accurate information.
71. RAdm T. Yokoi, “Kamikazes and the Okinawa Campaign,” USNI Proceedings, May 1954, 508, hereinafter cited as Kamikazes.
72. Ibid., 507-508.
73. CTF 51 reported personnel injured by AA fragments on five APA’s and one patrol craft during the attack. In addition CG, XXIV Corps reported 4 killed and 34 wounded by the falling shell fragments.
74. The loss of these two ammunition ships was a serious blow to Tenth Army resupply plans. A majority of the 81mm mortar ammunition in the U.S. was loaded on these ships and subsequent resupply shipments were in short supply of this type of ammunition. Air lift was resorted to in order to make up partially for this deficiency, and before the end of the campaign 117 tons of 81mm ammunition was flown to Okinawa by Army and Navy transport planes. Blakelock; Tenth Army AR, Chap 11, Part IV, 12.
75. Kamikazes, 508.
76. Capt K. Matsumoto and Cdr M. Chihaya, “Design and Construction of the Yamato andMusashi,” USNI Proceedings, October 1953, 1105. The principal armament of the Yamato was nine 18-inch rifles. It had a radius of action of 7,200 sea miles cruising at 16 knots, an overall length of 863 feet, and a beam of 128 feet. It carried a crew of 2,500 men.
77. Kamikazes, 509. Admiral Toyoda indicated there was extreme difficulty getting even the 2,500 tons of fuel oil necessary for the operation. Additional warships were available, but fuel for them was not. Campaigns, 327.
78. Kamikazes, 509.