|The Battle of Okinawa
The Battle of Okinawa started in April 1945. The capture of Okinawa was part of a three-point plan the Americans had for winning the war in the Far East. Okinawa was to prove a bloody battle even by the standards of the war in the Far East but it was to be one of the major battles of World War Two.
The Americans estimated that there were about 65,000 Japanese troops on the island – with the bulk in the southern sector of the island. In fact, there were over 130,000 Japanese troops on the island with more than 450,000 civilians. The Japanese troops on the island were commanded by Lieutenant- General Ushijima who had been ordered to hold onto the island at all costs.
Ushijima decided on his tactics – he would concentrate his forces in the southern sector of the island and station his men in a series of secure fortifications. If the Americans wanted to take these fortifications, they would have to attack the Japanese in a series of frontal assaults. Alongside the Japanese defense on land, the Japanese high command put their faith in the kamikazes which it was believed would inflict such serious casualties on the Americans in Okinawa that they would retreat.
Kamikaze attacks were being experienced by the American navy anchored off of Okinawa. Out of the 193 kamikaze plane attacks launched against the American fleet, 169 were destroyed. Those planes that got through did caused a great deal of damage especially to America’s carrier fleet that did not have armored flight decks – unlike the British carriers. However, the destruction of so many kamikaze flights did a great deal to undermine the potential for damage that the kamikazes could have inflicted.
For the actual invasion, America had gathered together 300 warships and 1,139 other ships. The first landing of Marines took place on April 1st. They met little opposition and by the end of the day 60,000 American military personnel had landed at Hagushi Bay. By April 20th, all Japanese resistance in the north of the island had been eradicated except for some guerrilla activity.
The real battle for Okinawa was in the south of the island. On April 4th the XIV Corps (US 7th, 27th, 77th and 96th infantry divisions) ran into the Machinato line. This brought to a halt the advance of the Americans in the south of Okinawa. The Machinato line was finally breached on April 24th. However, it then had to confront the Shuri Line which further slowed the American advance. Together with the success of the kamikazes who had sunk 21 American warships and badly damaged 66 other warships, American forces experienced heavy losses. On July 2nd, Okinawa was declared secure by the Americans – Ushijima had committed suicide some days before this.
Okinawa became the bloodiest battle of the Pacific War. More than 100,000 Japanese died, a frightening number matched only by the tally of unfortunate Okinawan citizens who perished in the fighting. Army casualties of more than 4,600 dead and 18,000 wounded were almost equaled by 3,200 Marines dead and 13,700 wounded. Even the Navy, which avoided the horrendous ground combat, lost almost 5,000 dead and 4,900 wounded to kamikaze attacks. Ironically, though Okinawa was a victory for the United States, its extremely large toll shocked military strategists. If Okinawa produced such carnage, what might happen when American forces stepped onto Japanese home soil? That dreadful thought hung lessened opposition among high government and military figures to using the atomic bomb in hopes of ending the war.
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