The capture of Okinawa had elements of Iwo Jima all over again, except it was larger
and with more defenders. The landing force was larger than that at Normandy the previously year. The number of defenders was underestimated, so the large invasion force was useful. The landing was almost unopposed on the west-side middle of the island which was flat land with two air fields. Marines on the north edge and the army on the south quickly occupied the two airfields and marched 6-miles across the island by day 2 and secured a stretch of 20-miles north to south by day 6. There they ran into prepared Japanese defenses. Fighting continued for two months with progress measured in yards most days.
Okinawa is a long, skinny island located 450 miles and an easy flight distance from Kyushu, Japan; Singapore, China; and Taiwan (Formosa). Naval air and B-29's made all airfields on Kyushu inoperable for that first week. British TF-57 held off air attack from Formosa. Escort carriers provided combat air patrols over the island and ships nearby. The US 5th Fleet operated in support. The operation began with the capture of a small island group, Kerama Retto, March 26-27, to act as ship anchorage, supply and repair facility and seaplane base. An island 8-miles from Okinawa was occupied for use by army long-range artillery support for the invasion.
The assault on April 1 included 81,165 marines, 98,567 army, and 2,380 sailors from 77 transports and 187 LSTs. Troops landed almost unopposed and enveloped the airfields by noon, a task which had been scheduled for day 4.
On day six : Troops confronted the prepared underground defenses. The first and largest "floating chrysanthemum" kamikaze attack on warships. And Yamato, the world's largest battleship, was detected making a run to Okinawa to attack remaining ships.
Kamikazes attacked every day with one to 20 one-way flights between March 26 and the end of July. Ten mass
kamikazes attacks were made, the first on 6 April was of 355 planes. Conventional bombing took place throughout the battle. The second big attack on April 12 included 185 kamikazes, 45 torpedo bombers along with 150 fighters.
Yamato, 68,000 tons, 9- 18.1" guns with sufficient fuel for a one-way voyage to Okinawa, escorted by a squadron of 8 destroyers and their flagship, light cruiser Yahagi, was detected. While a U.S. battleship force advanced to intercept, the suicide force was attacked by 280 planes from 5th fleet ; Yamato, Yahagi, and four destroyers went under in less than 2-hours.
On April 8 a Marine fighter wing of 82 Corsairs arrived ; by April 15 radar equipped night fighters could help cover the fleet from dawn and dusk attack. Ie Shima island and airfield was taken April 16-21. Attacks on Kyushu began from there on 17May. The 3rd Fleet withdrew to Leyte for rest and refit.
Hard fighting continued for two months until the southern end of Okinawa was secured on 2 July. Mopping up continued until the island was surrendered 7 Sept.
By the end of June, 100,000 construction troops were converting the island into an advanced base for the attack and invasion of Japan. 750 aircraft are already based there.
The fleet lost 32 ships and craft with 368 damaged ; Japan lost 8 in suicide mission of battleship Yamato
Sailors : 4,900 killed and 4,824 wounded ;
Marines : 2,899 dead, 11,677 wounded ;
Army : 7,613 killed, 31,807 wounded, plus 26,000 non-combat casualties (shell shock).
The Japanese lost 7,830 planes ; the U.S. 768.
The ships sunk were mostly destroyer-sized radar picket ships. Capital ships were also targets and damaged, tho they survived. For example, one kamikaze hit on Enterprise
put her out of service for 48-hours. In planning for the invasion of Japan, we must
note that the kamikazes were delayed for 6-days and missed getting at the thin-skinned transports while loaded with troops
as they approached Okinawa 450 miles from Japan and attacked all the way by Navy fighters.
CAPITAL SHIPS ENGAGED
Battleships : 10 BB
Fleet Carriers : 11 CV
Light Carriers : 4 CVL
British Carriers : 5 CV
Support Carriers : 22 CVE
Training Carriers : 6 CVE
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Last updated on June 24, 2016