The Battle of Okinawa, codenamed Operation Iceberg, was fought on the Ryukyu Islands of Okinawa and was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific War of World War II. The 82-day-long battle lasted from early April until mid-June 1945. After a long campaign of island hopping, the Allies were approaching Japan, and planned to use Okinawa, a large island only 340 mi (550 km) away from mainland Japan, as a base for air operations on the planned invasion of Japanese mainland (coded Operation Downfall). Four divisions of the U.S. 10th Army (the 7th, 27th, 77th, and 96th) and two Marine Divisions (the 1st and 6th) fought on the island while the 2nd Marine Division remained as an amphibious reserve and was never brought ashore. The invasion was supported by naval, amphibious, and tactical air forces.
The battle has been referred to as the "Typhoon of Steel" in English,  and tetsu no ame (鉄の雨) ("iron rain") or kou no kaze (鋼の風) ("steel wind") in Japanese. The nicknames refer to the ferocity of the fighting, the intensity of kamikaze attacks from the Japanese defenders, and to the sheer numbers of Allied ships and armored vehicles that assaulted the island. The battle resulted in the highest number of casualties in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Japan lost over 100,000 soldiers, who were either killed, captured or committed suicide, and the Allies suffered more than 65,000 casualties of all kinds. Simultaneously, tens of thousands of local civilians were killed, wounded, or committed suicide. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki caused Japan to surrender just weeks after the end of the fighting at Okinawa.
Order of battleEdit
- Fast Carrier Force (TF 58) under Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher with 88 ships (11 fleet carriers, 6 light carriers, 7 battleships, 18 cruisers,...);
- British Carrier Force (TF 57) under Vice Admiral Sir Bernard Rawlings with 4 carriers, 2 battleships, 5 cruisers, 14 destroyers and fleet train;
- Gunfire and Covering Support Group (TF 54) under Rear Admiral Morton L. Deyo with 10 old battleships, 11 cruisers and 30 destroyers.
- Task Force 51 (TF 51; also Joint Expeditionary Force) under Vice Admiral Richmond K. Turner (who was holding position of Commander, Amphibious Forces, Pacific):
- Western Islands Attack Group (TG 51.1) under Rear Admiral Ingolf N. Kiland with 77th Infantry Division, 17 attack and attack cargo transporters, 56 LSTs and support vessels;
- Northern Attack Force (TF 53) under Rear Admiral Lawrence F. Reifsnider, Commander Amphibious Group 4, aboard USS Panamint (AGC-13) with III Amphibious Corps (Major General Roy Geiger) on 40+ attack and attack cargo transporters, 67 LSTs and support vessels;
- Southern Attack Force (TF 55) under Rear Admiral John L. Hall with XXIV Corps (Major General John R. Hodge);
- Demonstration Group (TF 51.2) with 2nd Marine Division;
- Expeditionary Troops (TF 56) under Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr. with Tenth Army.
TF 56 was the largest force within TF 50 and was built around the 10th Army. The army had two corps under its command, III Amphibious Corps, consisting of 1st and 6th Marine Divisions, and XXIV Corps, consisting of the 7th and 96th Infantry Divisions. The 2nd Marine Division was an afloat reserve, and Tenth Army also controlled the 27th Infantry Division, earmarked as a garrison, and 77th Infantry Divisions. In all, the Army had over 102,000 Army (of these 38,000+ were non-divisional artillery, combat support and HQ troops, with another 9,000 service troops), over 88,000 Marines and 18,000 Navy personnel (mostly Seabees and medical personnel). At the start of Battle of Okinawa 10th Army had 182,821 men under its command.
Most of the air-to-air fighters and the small dive bombers and strike aircraft were U.S. Navy carrier-based airplanes. The U.S. Navy sustained greater casualties in this operation than in any other battle of the war.
Although Allied land forces were entirely composed of U.S. units, the British Pacific Fleet (BPF; known to the U.S. Navy as Task Force 57) provided about ¼ of Allied naval air power (450 planes). It comprised a force which included 50 warships of which 17 were aircraft carriers, but while the British armored flight decks meant that fewer planes could be carried in a single aircraft carrier, they were more resistant to kamikaze strikes. Although all the aircraft carriers were provided by Britain, the carrier group was a combined British Commonwealth fleet with British, Canadian, New Zealand and Australian ships and personnel. Their mission was to neutralize Japanese airfields in the Sakishima Islands and provide air cover against Japanese kamikaze attacks.
Commanders of the Japanese 32nd Army, February 1945The Japanese land campaign (mainly defensive) was conducted by the 67,000-strong (77,000 according to some sources) regular 32nd Army and some 9,000 Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) troops at Oroku naval base (only a few hundred of whom had been trained and equipped for ground combat), supported by 39,000 drafted local Ryukyuan people (including 24,000 hastily drafted rear militia called Boeitai and 15,000 non-uniformed laborers). In addition, 1,500 middle school senior boys organized into front-line-service "Iron and Blood Volunteer Units", while 600 Himeyuri Students were organized into a nursing unit.
The 32nd Army initially consisted of the 9th, 24th, and 62nd Divisions, and the 44th Independent Mixed Brigade. The 9th Division was moved to Taiwan prior to the invasion, resulting in shuffling of Japanese defensive plans. Primary resistance was to be led in the south by Lt. General Mitsuru Ushijima, his chief of staff, Lieutenant General Isamu Chō and his chief of operations, Colonel Hiromichi Yahara. Yahara advocated a defensive strategy, whilst Chō advocated an offensive one. In the north, Colonel Takehido Udo was in command. The IJN troops were led by Rear Admiral Minoru Ota. They expected the Americans to land 6–10 divisions against the Japanese garrison of two and a half divisions. The staff calculated that superior quality and numbers of weapons gave each U.S. division five or six times the firepower of a Japanese division; to this would be added the Americans' abundant naval and air firepower.
The Japanese had used kamikaze tactics since the Battle of Leyte Gulf, but for the first time, they became a major part of the defense. Between the American landing on 1 April and 25 May, seven major kamikaze attacks were attempted, involving more than 1,500 planes.
USS Bunker Hill burns after being hit by two kamikazes within 30 seconds.There was a hypnotic fascination to the sight so alien to our Western philosophy. We watched each plunging kamikazewith the detached horror of one witnessing a terrible spectacle rather than as the intended victim. We forgot self for the moment as we groped hopelessly for the thought of that other man up there. Vice Admiral C.R. Brown USN Task Force 58, deployed to the east of Okinawa with a picket group of from 6 to 8 destroyers, kept 13 carriers (7 CV and 6 CVL) on duty from 23 March to 27 April and a smaller number thereafter. Until 27 April, from 14 to 18 converted carriers (CVE's) were in the area at all times, and until 20 April British Task Force 57, with 4 large and 6 escort carriers, remained off the Sakishima Islands to protect the southern flank.
Japanese air opposition had been relatively light during the first few days after the landings. However, on 6 April the expected air reaction began with an attack by 400 planes from Kyushu. Periodic heavy air attacks continued through April. During the period 26 March-30 April, 20 American ships were sunk and 157 damaged by enemy action. For their part, the Japanese had lost up to 30 April more than 1,100 planes in the battle to Allied naval forces alone.
Between 6 April and 22 June, the Japanese flew 1,465 kamikaze aircraft in large-scale attacks from Kyushu, 185 individual kamikaze sorties from Kyushu, and 250 individual kamikaze sorties from Formosa. When U.S. intelligence estimated 89 planes on Formosa, the Japanese had approximately 700, dismantled or well camouflaged and dispersed into scattered villages and towns; the U.S. Fifth Air Force disputed Navy claims of kamikaze coming from Formosa.[clarification needed] The ships lost were smaller vessels, particularly the destroyers of the radar pickets, as well as destroyer escorts and landing ships. While no major Allied warships were lost, several fleet carriers were severely damaged. Land-based motorboats were also used in the Japanese suicide attacks.
The protracted length of the campaign under stressful conditions forced Admiral Chester W. Nimitz to take the unprecedented step of relieving the principal naval commanders to rest and recuperate. Following the practice of changing the fleet designation with the change of commanders, U.S. naval forces began the campaign as the U.S. 5th Fleet under Adm. Raymond Spruance, but ended it as the 3rd Fleet under Adm. William Halsey.
Main article: Ten-gō sakusenThe Japanese battleship Yamato explodes after persistent attacks from U.S. aircraft.Operation Ten-Go (Ten-gō sakusen) was the attempted attack by a strike force of Japanese surface vessels, led by the battleship Yamato and commanded by Adm. Seiichi Itō. This small task force had been ordered to fight through enemy naval forces, then beach themselves and fight from shore using their guns as coastal artillery and crewmen as naval infantry. The Ten-Go force was spotted by submarines shortly after it left the Japanese home waters, and was attacked by U.S. carrier aircraft.
Under attack from more than 300 aircraft over a two-hour span, the world's largest battleship sank on 7 April 1945, long before she could reach Okinawa. U.S. torpedo bombers were instructed to aim for only one side to prevent effective counter flooding by the battleship's crew, and hitting preferably the bow or stern, where armor was believed to be the thinnest. Of Yamato's screening force, the light cruiser Yahagi and four of the eight destroyers were also sunk. In all, the Imperial Japanese Navy lost some 3,700 sailors, including Itō, at the relatively low cost of just 10 U.S. aircraft and 12 airmen.
British Pacific FleetEdit
The British Pacific Fleet, taking part as Task Force 57, was assigned the task of neutralizing the Japanese airfields in the Sakishima Islands, which it did successfully from 26 March-10 April. On 10 April, its attention was shifted to airfields on northern Formosa. The force withdrew to San Pedro Bay on 23 April. On 1 May, the British Pacific Fleet returned to action, subduing the airfields as before, this time with naval bombardment as well as aircraft. Several kamikaze attacks caused significant damage, but since the British used armored flight decks on their aircraft carriers, they only experienced a brief interruption to their force's objective.
The first Americans ashore were soldiers of the 77th Infantry Division, who landed in the Kerama Islands (Kerama Retto), 15 mi (24 km) west of Okinawa on 26 March. Subsidiary landings followed, and the Kerama group was secured over the next five days. In these preliminary operations, the 77th Infantry Division suffered 27 dead and 81 wounded, while Japanese dead and captured numbered over 650. The operation provided a protected anchorage for the fleet and eliminated the threat from suicide boats.
On 31 March, Marines of the Fleet Marine Force Amphibious Reconnaissance Battalion landed without opposition on Keise Shima, four islets just 8 mi (13 km) west of the Okinawan capital of Naha. 155 mm (6.1 in) "Long Tom"s went ashore on the islets to cover operations on Okinawa.
The battleship USS Idaho shells Okinawa on 1 April 1945.U.S. Marine reinforcements wade ashore to support the beachhead on Okinawa, 31 March 1945.The main landing was made by XXIV Corps and III Amphibious Corps on the Hagushi beaches on the western coast of Okinawa on L-Day, 1 April, which was both Easter Sunday and April Fools' Day in 1945. The 2nd Marine Division conducted a demonstration off the Minatoga beaches on the southeastern coast to confuse the Japanese about American intentions and delay movement of reserves from there.
The 10th Army swept across the south-central part of the island with relative ease by World War II standards, capturing the Kadena and the Yomitan airbases within hours of the landing. In light of the weak opposition, General Buckner decided to proceed immediately with Phase II of his plan—the seizure of northern Okinawa. The 6th Marine Division headed up the Ishikawa Isthmus. On 13 April, the 2nd Battalion, 22nd Marine Regiment reached Hedo-misaki at the northernmost tip of the island. The bulk of the Japanese forces in the north were cornered on the Motobu Peninsula. Here, the terrain was mountainous and wooded, with the Japanese defenses concentrated on Yae-Take, a twisted mass of rocky ridges and ravines on the center of the peninsula. There was heavy fighting before the Marines finally cleared Yae-Take on 18 April. Isolated pockets of enemy troops put up resistance until they were eliminated by the end of April.
Meanwhile, the 77th Infantry Division assaulted Ie Shima—a small island off the western end of the peninsula—on 16 April. In addition to conventional hazards, the 77th Infantry Division encountered kamikaze attacks, and even local women armed with spears. There was heavy fighting before Ie Shima was declared secured on 21 April and became another air base for operations against Japan.
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F4U Corsair fighter firing rockets in support of the troops on OkinawaWhile the 6th Marine Division cleared northern Okinawa, the U.S. Army 96th Infantry division and 7th Infantry Division wheeled south across the narrow waist of Okinawa. The 96th Infantry Division began to encounter fierce resistance in west-central Okinawa from Japanese troops holding fortified positions east of Highway No. 1 and about 5 mi (8.0 km) northwest of Shuri, from what came to be known as Cactus Ridge. The 7th Infantry Division encountered similarly fierce Japanese opposition from a rocky pinnacle located about 1,000 yd (910 m) southwest of Arakachi (later dubbed "The Pinnacle").
By the night of 8 April, U.S. troops had cleared these and several other strongly fortified positions. They suffered over 1,500 battle casualties in the process, while killing or capturing about 4,500 Japanese, yet the battle had only just begun, for it was now realized they were merely outposts guarding the Shuri Line.
The next American objective was Kakazu Ridge, two hills with a connecting saddle that formed part of Shuri's outer defenses. The Japanese had prepared their positions well and fought tenaciously. The Japanese soldiers hid in fortified caves. The U.S. forces often lost men before clearing the Japanese out from each cave or other hiding place. The Japanese sent Okinawans at gunpoint out to acquire water and supplies for them, which led to civilian casualties. The American advance was inexorable but resulted in a high number of casualties on both sides. Marines pass through a destroyed small village where a Japanese soldier lies dead, April 1945As the American assault against Kakazu Ridge stalled, Gen. Ushijima — influenced by Gen. Chō — decided to take the offensive. On the evening of 12 April, the 32nd Army attacked U.S. positions across the entire front. The Japanese attack was heavy, sustained, and well organized. After fierce close combat the attackers retreated, only to repeat their offensive the following night. A final assault on 14 April was again repulsed. The effort led 32nd Army's staff to conclude that the Americans were vulnerable to night infiltration tactics, but that their superior firepower made any offensive Japanese troop concentrations extremely dangerous, and they reverted to their defensive strategy.
The 27th Infantry Division—which had landed on 9 April—took over on the right, along the west coast of Okinawa. General John R. Hodge now had three divisions in the line, with the 96th in the middle, and the 7th on the east, with each division holding a front of only about 1.5 mi (2.4 km).
Hodge launched a new offensive of 19 April with a barrage of 324 guns, the largest ever in the Pacific Ocean Theater. Battleships, cruisers, and destroyers joined the bombardment, which was followed by 650 Navy and Marine planes attacking the enemy positions with napalm, rockets, bombs, and machine guns. The Japanese defenses were sited on reverse slopes, where the defenders waited out the artillery barrage and aerial attack in relative safety, emerging from the caves to rain mortar rounds and grenades upon the Americans advancing up the forward slope. A 6th Division Marine demolition crew watches explosive charges detonate and destroy a Japanese cave, May 1945A tank assault to achieve breakthrough by outflanking Kakazu Ridge, failed to link up with its infantry support attempting to cross the ridge and failed with the loss of 22 tanks. Although flame tanks cleared many cave defenses, there was no breakthrough, and the XXIV Corps lost 720 men KIA, WIA and MIA. The losses might have been greater, except for the fact that the Japanese had practically all of their infantry reserves tied up farther south, held there by another feint off the Minatoga beaches by the 2nd Marine Division that coincided with the attack.
At the end of April, after the Army forces had pushed through the Machinato defensive line and airfield, the 1st Marine Division relieved the 27th Infantry Division, and the 77th Infantry Division relieved the 7th. When the 6th Marine Division arrived, III Amphibious Corps took over the right flank and 10th Army assumed control of the battle.
On 4 May, the 32nd Army launched another counteroffensive. This time, Ushijima attempted to make amphibious assaults on the coasts behind American lines. To support his offensive, the Japanese artillery moved into the open. By doing so, they were able to fire 13,000 rounds in support but an effective U.S. counter-battery firedestroyed dozens of Japanese artillery pieces. The attack failed. American soldiers of the 77th Division listen impassively to radio reports of Victory in Europe Dayon May 8, 1945.Buckner launched another American attack on 11 May. Ten days of fierce fighting followed. On 13 May, troops of the 96th Infantry Division and 763rd Tank Battalion captured Conical Hill. Rising 476 ft (145 m) above the Yonabaru coastal plain, this feature was the eastern anchor of the main Japanese defenses and was defended by about 1,000 Japanese. Meanwhile, on the opposite coast, the 6th Marine Division fought for "Sugar Loaf Hill". The capture of these two key positions exposed the Japanese around Shuri on both sides. Buckner hoped to envelop Shuri and trap the main Japanese defending force. Sugar Loaf Hill (2010)By the end of May, monsoon rains which turned contested hills and roads into a morass exacerbated both the tactical and medical situations. The ground advance began to resemble a World War I battlefield as troops became mired in mud and flooded roads greatly inhibited evacuation of wounded to the rear. Troops lived on a field sodden by rain, part garbage dump and part graveyard. Unburied Japanese and American bodies decayed, sank in the mud, and became part of a noxious stew. Anyone sliding down the greasy slopes could easily find their pockets full of maggots at the end of the journey. Lt. Col. Richard P. Ross, commander of 1st Battalion, 1st Marines braves sniper fire to place the division's colors on a parapet of Shuri Castle on 30 May. This flag was first raised over Cape Gloucester and then Peleliu.On 29 May, Maj. Gen. Pedro del Valle — commanding the 1st Marine Division—ordered Company A, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines to capture Shuri Castle. Seizure of the castle represented both strategic and psychological blows for the Japanese and was a milestone in the campaign. Del Valle was awarded a Distinguished Service Medal for his leadership in the fight and the subsequent occupation and reorganization of Okinawa. Shuri Castle had been shelled by the battleship USS Mississippi for three days before this advance. Due to this, the 32nd Army withdrew to the south and thus the marines had an easy task of securing Shuri Castle. The castle, however, was outside the 1st Marine Division's assigned zone and only frantic efforts by the commander and staff of the 77th Infantry Division prevented an American air strike and artillery bombardment which would have resulted in many casualties due to friendly fire.
The Japanese retreat — although harassed by artillery fire — was conducted with great skill at night and aided by the monsoon storms. The 32nd Army was able to move nearly 30,000 men into its last defense line on the Kiyan Peninsula, which ultimately led to the greatest slaughter on Okinawa in the latter stages of the battle, including the deaths of thousands of civilians. In addition, there were 9,000 IJN troops supported by 1,100 militia, with approximately 4,000 holed up at the underground headquarters on the hillside overlooking the Okinawa Naval Base in the Oroku Peninsula, east of the airfield. On June 4, elements of the 6th Marine Division launched an amphibious assault on the peninsula. The 4,000 Japanese sailors — including Admiral Minoru Ota — all committed suicide within the hand-built tunnels of the underground Naval headquarters on 13 June. By 17 June, the remnants of Ushijima's shattered 32nd Army were forced to the far south of the island, where he prepared for a final stand.
On 18 June, Gen. Buckner was killed by enemy artillery fire while monitoring the forward progress of his troops. Buckner was replaced by Roy Geiger. Upon assuming command, Geiger became the only U.S. Marine to command a numbered army of the U.S. Army in combat. He was relieved five days later by Joseph Stilwell.
The last remnants of Japanese resistance fell on 21 June, although some Japanese continued hiding, including the future governor of Okinawa Prefecture, Masahide Ota. Ushijima and Chō committed suicide by seppukuin their command headquarters on Hill 89 in the closing hours of the battle. Col. Yahara had asked Ushijima for permission to commit suicide, but the general refused his request, saying: "If you die there will be no one left who knows the truth about the battle of Okinawa. Bear the temporary shame but endure it. This is an order from your army Commander." Yahara was the most senior officer to have survived the battle on the island, and he later authored a book titled The Battle for Okinawa.
The last picture of Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr., right, the day before he was killed by Japanese artillery on 19 June 1945U.S. losses were over 62,000 casualties of whom over 12,500 were killed or missing. This made the battle the bloodiest that U.S. forces experienced in the Pacific war. Several thousand servicemen who died indirectly (from wounds and other causes) at a later date are not included in the total. One of the most famous U.S. casualties was the war correspondent Ernie Pyle, who was killed by Japanese sniper fire on Ie Shima.
Gen. Buckner's decision to attack the Japanese defenses head-on, although extremely costly in U.S. lives, was ultimately successful. Just four days from the closing of the campaign, Gen.Buckner was killed by Japanese artillery fire, which blew lethal slivers of coral into his body, while inspecting his troops at the front line. He was the highest-ranking U.S. officer to be killed by enemy fire during the war. The day after, a second general—Brigadier General Claudius M. Easley—was killed by machine gun fire.
Aircraft losses over the three-month period were 768 U.S. planes, including those bombing the Kyushu airfields launching kamikazes. Combat losses were 458, and the other 310 were operational accidents. Japanese aircraft losses were 7,830 over the same period, including 2,655 to operational accidents. Navy and Marine Corps fighters downed 3,047, while shipboard anti-aircraft fire felled 409, and B-29s destroyed 558 on the ground.
At sea, 368 Allied ships—including 120 amphibious craft—were damaged while another 28—including 15 amphibious ships and 12 destroyers—were sunk during the Okinawa campaign. The U.S. Navy's dead exceeded its wounded with 4,907 killed and 4,874 wounded, primarily from kamikaze attacks. Among United States casualties, neither the Army nor the Marine death toll exceeded the Navy death toll in the battle for Okinawa. The Japanese lost 16 ships, including the battleship Yamato.
On land, the U.S. forces lost at least 225 tanks and many LVTsdestroyed while eliminating 27 Japanese tanks and 743 artillery pieces (including mortars, anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns), some of them knocked-out by the naval and air bombardments but most of them knocked-out by American counter-battery fire. Casualties of American ground artillery are unknown. A group of Japanese prisoners who preferred surrender to suicide wait to be questionedBy one count, there were about 95,000 Japanese combatants killed and 7,400 captured. Many of the soldiers committed seppuku or simply blew themselves up with hand grenades. In addition, thousands were sealed in their caves alive by the U.S. combat engineers.
This was also the first battle in the war in which surrendering Japanese were made into POWs by the thousands. Many of the Japanese prisoners were native Okinawans who had been impressed into the Army shortly before the battle and were less imbued with the Japanese Army's no-surrender doctrine. When the American forces occupied the island, the Japanese took Okinawan clothing to avoid capture and the Okinawans came to the Americans' aid by offering a simple way to detect Japanese in hiding. The Okinawan language differs greatly from the Japanese language; with Americans at their sides, Okinawans would give directions to people in the local language, and those who did not understand were considered Japanese in hiding who were then captured.
Okinawan civilians in 1945Two Marines share a foxhole with an Okinawan war orphan in April 1945At some battles, such as at Battle of Iwo Jima, there had been no civilians involved, but Okinawa had a large indigenous civilian population and, according to various estimates, somewhere between one tenth and one third of them died during the battle. Okinawan civilian losses in the campaign were estimated to be between 42,000 and 150,000 dead (more than 100,000 according to Okinawa Prefecture). The U.S. Army figures for the campaign showed a total figure of 142,058 civilian casualties, including those who were pressed into service by the Japanese Imperial Army.
During the battle, U.S. soldiers found it difficult to distinguish civilians from soldiers. It became routine for U.S. soldiers to shoot at Okinawan houses, as one infantryman wrote, "There was some return fire from a few of the houses, but the others were probably occupied by civilians – and we didn't care. It was a terrible thing not to distinguish between the enemy and women and children. Americans always had great compassion, especially for children. Now we fired indiscriminately."
In its history of the war, the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum presents Okinawa as being caught in the fighting between America and Japan. During the 1945 battle, the Japanese Army showed indifference to Okinawa's defense and safety, and the Japanese soldiers used civilians as human shields against the Americans. Japanese military confiscated food from the Okinawans and executed those who hid it, leading to a mass starvation among the population, and forced civilians out of their shelters. Japanese soldiers also killed about 1,000 Okinawans who spoke in a different local dialect in order to suppress spying. The museum writes that "some were blown apart by shells, some finding themselves in a hopeless situation were driven to suicide, some died of starvation, some succumbed to malaria, while others fell victim to the retreating Japanese troops."
With the impending victory of American troops, civilians often committed mass suicide, urged on by the Japanese soldiers who told locals that victorious American soldiers would go on a rampage of killing and raping. Ryukyu Shimpo, one of the two major Okinawan newspapers, wrote in 2007: "There are many Okinawans who have testified that the Japanese Army directed them to commit suicide. There are also people who have testified that they were handed grenades by Japanese soldiers" to blow themselves up. Some of the civilians, having been induced by Japanese propaganda to believe that U.S. soldiers were barbarians who committed horrible atrocities, killed their families and themselves to avoid capture. Some of them threw themselves and their family members from the cliffs where the Peace Museum now resides.
However, despite being told by the Japanese military that they would suffer rape, torture and murder at the hands of the Americans, Okinawans "were often surprised at the comparatively humane treatment they received from the American enemy." According to Islands of Discontent: Okinawan Responses to Japanese and American Power by Mark Selden, the Americans "did not pursue a policy of torture, rape, and murder of civilians as Japanese military officials had warned." Military Intelligence combat translator Teruto Tsubota—a U.S. Marine born in Hawaii—convinced hundreds of civilians not to kill themselves and thus saved their lives.
Civilians and historians report that soldiers on both sides had raped Okinawan civilians during the battle. Rape by Japanese troops "became common" in June, after it became clear that the Japanese Army had been defeated.
The New York Times reported in 2000 that in the village of Katsuyama in 1945, civilians formed a vigilante group to ambush and kill three black American soldiers whom they claimed frequently raped the local girls there.
Marine Corps officials in Okinawa and Washington have stated that they "knew of no rapes by American servicemen in Okinawa at the end of the war, and their records do not list war crimes committed by Marines in Okinawa". Journalist George Feifer, however, writes that rape in Okinawa was "another dirty secret of the campaign" in which "American military chronicles ignore the crimes." Few Okinawans revealed their pregnancies, as "stress and bad diet... rendered most Okinawan women infertile. Many who did become pregnant managed to abort before their husbands and fathers returned. A smaller number of newborn infants fathered by Americans were suffocated." World War II historian Peter Schrijvers has stated that a likely estimate of 10,000 rapes were committed by American soldiers during the three month period of the campaign.
Suicide order controversyEdit
Overcoming the civilian resistance on Okinawa was aided by U.S. propaganda leaflets, one of which is being read by a prisoner awaiting transportThere is ongoing major disagreement between Okinawa's local government and Japan's national government over the role of the Japanese military in civilian mass suicides during the battle. In March 2007, the national Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) advised textbook publishers to reword descriptions that the embattled Imperial Japanese Army forced civilians to kill themselves in the war so they would not be taken prisoner by the U.S. military. MEXT preferred descriptions that just say that civilians received hand grenades from the Japanese military.
This move sparked widespread protests among the Okinawans. In June 2007, the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly adopted a resolution stating, "We strongly call on the (national) government to retract the instruction and to immediately restore the description in the textbooks so the truth of the Battle of Okinawa will be handed down correctly and a tragic war will never happen again."
On September 29, 2007, about 110,000 people held the biggest political rally in the history of Okinawa to demand that MEXT retract its order to textbook publishers on revising the account of the civilian suicides. The resolution stated: "It is an undeniable fact that the 'multiple suicides' would not have occurred without the involvement of the Japanese military and any deletion of or revision to (the descriptions) is a denial and distortion of the many testimonies by those people who survived the incidents."
On December 26, 2007, MEXT partially admitted the role of the Japanese military in civilian mass suicides. The ministry's Textbook Authorization Council allowed the publishers to reinstate the reference that civilians "were forced into mass suicides by the Japanese military", on condition it is placed in sufficient context. The council report stated: "It can be said that from the viewpoint of the Okinawa residents, they were forced into the mass suicides." That was, however, not enough for the survivors who said it is important for children today to know what really happened.
The Nobel Prize winning author Kenzaburō Ōe has written a booklet which states that the mass suicide order was given by the military during the battle. He was sued by the revisionists, including a wartime commander during the battle, who disputed this and wanted to stop publication of the booklet. At a court hearing on November 9, 2007, Ōe testified: "Mass suicides were forced on Okinawa islanders under Japan's hierarchical social structure that ran through the state of Japan, the Japanese armed forces and local garrisons." On March 28, 2008, the Osaka Prefecture Court ruled in favor of Ōe, stating, "It can be said the military was deeply involved in the mass suicides." The court recognized the military's involvement in the mass suicides and murder–suicides, citing the testimony about the distribution of grenades for suicide by soldiers and the fact that mass suicides were not recorded on islands where the military was not stationed.
American Sherman tanks knocked out by Japanese artillery Bloody Ridge, 20 April 1945.Ninety percent of the buildings on the island were destroyed, and the tropical landscape was turned into "a vast field of mud, lead, decay and maggots".
The military value of Okinawa "exceeded all hope." Okinawa provided a fleet anchorage, troop staging areas, and airfields in close proximity to Japan. The U.S. cleared the surrounding waters of mines in Operation Zebra, occupied Okinawa, and set up the United States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands, a form of military government, after the battle. Significant U.S. forces remain garrisoned there, and Kadena remains the largest U.S. air base in Asia.
Some military historians believe that the Okinawa campaign led directly to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as a means of avoiding the planned ground invasion of the Japanese mainland. Victor Davis Hanson explains his view in Ripples of Battle: ...because the Japanese on Okinawa... were so fierce in their defense (even when cut off, and without supplies), and because casualties were so appalling, many American strategists looked for an alternative means to subdue mainland Japan, other than a direct invasion. This means presented itself, with the advent of atomic bombs, which worked admirably in convincing the Japanese to sue for peace [unconditionally], without American casualties. Ironically, the American conventional fire-bombingof major Japanese cities (which had been going on for months before Okinawa) was far more effective at killing civilians than the atomic bombs and, had the Americans simply continued, or expanded this, the Japanese would likely have surrendered anyway. Cornerstone of Peace Memorial with names of all military and civilians from all countries who died in the Battle of OkinawaIn 1995, the Okinawa government erected a memorial named Cornerstone of Peace in Mabuni, the site of the last fighting in southeastern Okinawa. The memorial lists all the known names of those who died in the battle, civilian and military, Japanese and foreign. As of June 2008, it contains 240,734 names.
- Josef R. Sheetz
- History of the Ryukyus
- Chiran Special Attack Peace Museum
- Cornerstone of Peace
- Cave of the Negroes incident
- Rape during the occupation of Japan
- This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Army Center of Military History.
- ^ Appleman, Roy E.; James M. Burns; Russell A. Gugeler; John Stevens (2000). Okinawa: the last battle. Washington, D.C.: United States Army Center of Military History. p. 36. http://www.history.army.mil/books/wwii/okinawa/.
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- ^ Battle of Okinawa
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- ^ The Amphibians Came to Conquer
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- ^ a b c The Basic Concept of the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum
- ^ Feifer, George, The Battle of Okinawa, The Lyons Press (2001), p. 374
- ^ 1945 suicide order still a trauma on Okinawa
- ^ Onishi, Norimitsu (April 1, 2007). "Japan’s Textbooks Reflect Revised History". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/01/world/asia/01japan.html?_r=1&oref=slogin. Retrieved March 31, 2010.
- ^ Molasky, Michael S. (1999). The American Occupation of Japan and Okinawa: Literature and Memory. Routledge. p. 16. ISBN 978-0-415-19194-4. http://books.google.com/?id=RMDt86cokDUC&pg=PA16.
- ^ Molasky, Michael S.; Rabson, Steve (2000). Southern Exposure: Modern Japanese Literature from Okinawa. University of Hawaii Press. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-8248-2300-9. http://books.google.com/?id=6xMuWmEsAcMC&pg=PA21.
- ^ Sheehan, Susan D; Elizabeth, Laura; Selden, Hein Mark. Islands of Discontent: Okinawan Responses to Japanese and American Power. p. 18.
- ^ Military Intelligence Service Research Center: Okinawa
- ^ Defiant soldier saved lives of hundreds of civilians during Okinawa battle, Stars and Stripes, April 1, 2005.
- ^ Appleman, Roy E. (1948). Okinawa: The Last Battle. United States Army in World War II. Washington DC: United States Army Center of Military History. p. 462. http://www.history.army.mil/books/wwii/okinawa/.
- ^ Lisa Takeuchi Cullen (August 13, 2001). "Okinawa Nights". TIME. http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,170085-2,00.html. Retrieved April 5, 2010.
- ^ Sims, Calvin (June 1, 2000). "3 Dead Marines and a Secret of Wartime Okinawa". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2000/06/01/world/3-dead-marines-and-a-secret-of-wartime-okinawa.html?pagewanted=1. Retrieved April 5, 2010.
- ^ Feifer, George, The Battle of Okinawa, The Lyons Press (2001), p. 373
- ^ Schrijvers, Peter (2002). The GI War against Japan: American Soldiers in Asia and the Pacific during World War II. New York, New York: New York University Press. pp. 212. ISBN 978-0-8147-9816-4.
- ^ Okinawa slams history text rewrite, Japan Times, June 23, 2007
- ^ "110,000 protest history text revision order"
- ^ Japan to amend textbook accounts of Okinawa suicides Herald Tribune, December 26, 2007
- ^ Texts reinstate army's role in mass suicides: Okinawa prevails in history row Japan Times, December 27, 2007
- ^ Okinawa's war time wounds reopened BBC News, November 17, 2007
- ^ Japan Times, September 12, 2007, Witness: Military ordered mass suicides
- ^ Oe testifies military behind Okinawa mass suicides, Japan Times, November 10, 2007
- ^ Court sides with Oe over mass suicides, Japan Times, March 29, 2008
- ^ Okinawan History and Karate-do
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- ^ Okinawa is promised reduced base burden, The Japan Times, June 24, 2008
- Appleman, Gerald; Burns, James M.; Gugeler, Russel A.; Stevens, John (1948). Okinawa: The Last Battle. Washington DC: United States Army Center of Military History. ISBN 1-4102-2206-3. http://www.history.army.mil/books/wwii/okinawa/index.htm. full text online
- Astor, Gerald (1996). Operation Iceberg: The Invasion and Conquest of Okinawa in World War II. Dell. ISBN 0-440-22178-1.
- Feifer, George (2001). The Battle of Okinawa: The Blood and the Bomb. The Lyons Press. ISBN 1-58574-215-5.
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- Rottman, Gordon (2002). Okinawa 1945: The last Battle. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84176-546-5.
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- Buckner, Simon Bolivar, Jr. and Joseph Stilwell. Seven Stars: The Okinawa Battle Diaries of Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr. and Joseph Stilwell ed. by Nicholas Evan Sarantakes (2004) excerpt and text search
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- Manchester, William (1980). Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War. Boston, Toronto: Little, Brown and Co.. ISBN 0-316-54501-5.
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- Yahara, Hiromichi (2001). The Battle for Okinawa. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-471-18080-7. -Firsthand account of the battle by a surviving Japanese officer.