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PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2018 5:10 pm 
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Joined: Wed Apr 09, 2008 5:53 pm
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Location: CT
During WWII 73 years ago today, U.S. soldiers and Marines landed nearly un-opposed to take the island of Okinawa in the Ryukyu island chain, 340 miles south of the Japanese mainland. It became the Americans' longest and bloodiest battle of WWII in either theater of war. About 120,000 Japanese had years to prepare defenses against the invading forces....who were us.

We needed Okinawa in order to attack mainland Japan and win the war. In the largest amphibious landing of WWII, the US used the Navy's 50th and 58th Task Forces, the Navy's Joint Expeditionary Force, the British Navy's 57th Task Force, the Army's 7th, 27th, 77th and 96th Infantry Divisions and the US Marines' 3rd Amphibious Corps made up of the 1st, 2nd and 6th Marine Divisions. Total US personnel exceeded 540,000.

The Japanese had about 120,000 soldiers and Okinawian slaves to meet us, and they held the high ground and they knew the island. We were fresh out of Iwo Jima the month before, which had become a 38 day battle and cost us more than 26,000 casualties, the bloodiest battle we had ever fought to that time. Oki would take us 82 days (April, May and June) and cost us 160,000 casualties, our bloodiest battle of WWII. Japanese forces would lose 117,000 fighters (all they had sent there) and 150,000 Okinawian civilians, half the permanent population of the island.

The invasion began on the morning of 01Apr45; it was Easter Sunday and April Fools' Day, just as it is today. More than 177,000 US soldiers and Marines stormed ashore mid-island, to find no resistance. The Army went South with about 95,000 men to find the enemy; about 40,000 Marines went North. The Marines swept all the way south to the end of the island, killing more enemy than they had ever seen at one time before.

The Army ran into fierce resistance in the south and stalled; they called for the Marines to turn around and come back South to help them fight in the rugged rocky jungle mountains. Thus, the USMC literally fought for every single yard of Okinawa during that campaign. (Proud, much?)

The battle lasted three months, during which time Adolph Hitler committed suicide in Germany, the Allies won the war in Europe and President Roosevelt died in office at home. To the battle-weary Marines who were fighting constantly day after day on "The Rock", these events must have sounded like fairytales. Many of the Marines' fights were hand-to-hand, bayonet, pistol and hand grenade affairs. Extracting wounded Marines from the rugged mountains while under fire was nearly impossible, and stretcher bearers and US Navy Corpsmen suffered some of the highest casualties of the war in that battle.

The Navy was not safe off-shore, either. Japan knew this battle was the final "away game" they would fight; the Allies were right at their doorstep and the next battle would be the invasion of mainland Japan, itself. In fact, all forces in Europe and throughout the conquered Pacific and China-Burma-India theaters were being massed together to participate in the invasion of mainland Japan. Japan threw everything it had left at the US forces on Okinawa. About 100 Kamikaze aircraft (some pilots flying their first and only mission) dove into US and British ships, sinking 36 of them and killing a thousand sailors of both Allies. Only 16 Japanese warships were sunk because that's all they had left to send to the battle. Their single remaining battleship, the Yamato, was sunk here. Japan sent it on a suicide mission not expecting it to return; they couldn't scrape together enough fuel oil to allow the Yamato to sail the 340 miles back to Japan.

The result of the horrendous battle was an Allied victory costing us more than 75,000 casualties. All Japanese land and naval forces were literally wiped out on Oki.

I served on "The Rock" six times and discovered new battle carnage each time I was there. Probably a dozen US bases are scattered all up and down the island, each named for some hero who died saving his buddies during the battle. Some areas were marked restricted due to UXB (unexploded bombs) and the ragged scars of battle were still evident in the deep forests. I had a Datsun sedan and spent much of my off-duty time visiting famous battle sites around the island.

One evening while I drove into Naha to shop, my girlfriend and I were first in line, stopped at a major intersection. Traffic from every direction was halted for 20 minutes while a giant crane lowered a single Okinawian worker down into a hole dug in the center of the intersection. As we watched, the crane raised him back up, smoking a cigarette, riding astride a bent but unexploded 40-yr-old 500-pound aerial bomb which had been buried there since the war. Perfect shot, dead center in the largest intersection of Naha, and it didn't detonate. He had de-fused it but the thought occurred to me that if it went off, nobody within my sight would have survived the blast (including us). Such is the daily life on Okinawa.

The horrible month-long battle of Iwo Jima in Feb-Mar45 and the even costlier 3 month-long battle of Okinawa in Apr-May-Jun45 absolutely convinced us the land invasion of mainland Japan would cost us a million casualties. Russia declared war on Japan and moved into Manchuria to prepare an invasion. As U.S. troops gathered throughout the South Pacific to prepare for the invasion, President Truman ordered our only two atomic bombs to be dropped first on Hiroshima, then on Nagasaki in August. Thinking we had lots more of those devil bombs, Japan surrendered. We were fresh-out; those were the only two bombs we had at that time and we lacked material to make any more quickly, but it saved us having to fight every Japanese man, woman and child in a land invasion.

Remember our heroes of Okinawa today; it's Easter Sunday and April fools Day today, just as it was when they stormed ashore on Oki, 01Apr45.

Frank T

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1970 240Z


Last edited by Frank T on Sun Apr 01, 2018 10:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2018 7:29 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jun 30, 2008 2:16 pm
Posts: 373
Location: Ansonia, CT
Thanks Frank. We are ever thankful for the sacrifices these men and women gave for their country. I really do believe they exemplified the term "the greatest generation".

My father-in-law served in the Navy as an ensign on an LCI-R (rocket launcher) and was part of that assault on Okinawa. My dad was in the Army combat engineers which was part of the Normandy invasion campaign. Both hero's in my book.

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John Kish
1971 240Z original owner


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