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Okinawa the Last Battle

Okinawa the Last Battle

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Published by Bob Andrepont
United States Army history of the Battle of Okinawa.
United States Army history of the Battle of Okinawa.

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Published by: Bob Andrepont on Feb 07, 2011
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Having ascended the slight hills at the landing beaches, the troops moved
inland cautiously. Their immediate objectives were the two airfields, Kadena
and Yontan, each about a mile inland. At 1000 the 17th RCT of the 7th Divi-

11

Gugeler, 7th Div Hist, p. 24; Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 11-IX-6; III Amph Corps Actn Rpt, p. 99.

12

CINCPOA Operations in FOA, April 1945, p. 42.

WINNING THE OKINAWA BEACHHEAD

75

sion had patrols on Kadena airfield, which was found to be deserted, and at
1030 the front line was moving across the airstrip. A few minutes later it
was 200 yards beyond. With similar ease the 4th Marines of the 6th Marine
Division captured the more elaborate Yontan airfield by 1130. Wrecked Jap-
anese planes and quantities of supplies were strewn about on both fields.13
By nightfall the beachhead was 15,000 yards long and in places as much
as 5,000 yards deep. More than 60,000 men were ashore, including the reserve
regiments of the assault divisions. All divisional artillery landed early, and,
by dark, direct-support battalions were in position. Numerous tanks were
ashore and operating, as well as miscellaneous antiaircraft artillery units and
15,000 service troops. Kadena airfield was serviceable for emergency landings
by the evening of the first day. The 6th Marine Division halted for the night
on a line running from Irammiya to the division boundary below Makibaru.
The 7th Division had pressed inland nearly three miles, knocking out a few
pillboxes and losing three tanks to mines. On the southern flank, the 96th
Division had established itself at the river south of Chatan, on the high ground
northwest of Futema, in the outskirts of Momobaru, and in the hills northwest
and southwest of Shido. There were gaps in the lines in many places, but
before nightfall they had been covered by reserve units or by weapons.14
Although in the hills around Shuri the enemy had superb observation of
the Hagushi beaches and of the great American armada that stood off shore,
he had been content for the time being to leave the burden of opposition to
the Japanese air force. Some delaying actions were fought by small groups of
Japanese, and some rounds of artillery and mortar fire were directed at the
landing craft and the beaches, but the total resistance was negligible.
In the air the enemy did his best, but did not inflict much damage. Thrown
off balance by the strikes of Task Force 58 against the airfields on Kyushu on
18-19 March, Japanese air resistance to the landings was aggressively pressed
home but was small in scale. Suicide hits were scored on the battleship West

13

Gugeler, 7th Div Hist, p. 25; Capt Phillips D. Carleton (6th Mar Div Historian), The 6th Marine

Div in Northern Okinawa (hereafter cited as Carleton, 6th Mar Div Hist), p. 11; Steven-Burns, Okinawa
Diary, entry 15 Apr 45; III Amph Corps Actn Rpt, p. 33.

14

CTF 51 Actn Rpt, III-9, and Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 7-III-2, give the number of troops landed as
50,000. A survey of unit reports indicates a figure of 60,000 as more accurate. See 382d Inf (96th Div)
Actn Rpt, Ch. VII, p. 1; 7th Div Opn Rpt, p. 38; III Amph Corps Actn Rpt, p. 33; 1st Mar Div Actn Rpt, Ch.
VII, p. 3; Gugeler, 7th Div Hist, p. 26. On the Kadena airfield, see CTF 55 Actn Rpt, III-7. For the front
lines at the end of L Day, see III Amph Corps G-3 Periodic Rpt, 1 Apr 45; 1st Mar Div Actn Rpt, Ch. VII,
pp. 2, 3; 17th Inf (7th Div), Actn Rpt, map opp. p. 14, Ch. VII; 32d Inf (7th Div) G-3 Periodic Rpt, 1 Apr
45; Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div Hist, Pt. I, pp. 5, 7, and Pt. II, pp. 5, 9, 10.

76

OKINAWA: THE LAST BATTLE

Virginia, two transports, and an LST; another LST was damaged by a suicide
plane's near miss, and two ships were damaged in other ways.15

An indefinite
number of Japanese planes were shot down during the day by ships' fire and
defending fighters.16

Favored by perfect weather and light resistance, American forces moved
swiftly during the next two days, 2 and 3 April. By 1400 on 2 April the 17th
Infantry, 7th Division, had established itself on the highlands commanding
Nakagusuku Bay, on the east coast, and had extended its patrols to the shore
of the bay. The speed of its advance had left the units on its flanks some
distance behind. To the south the 32d Infantry came abreast late in the after-
noon of 2 April, after reducing a strong point south of Koza with tanks.
To the north, where the 1st Marine Division had encountered rugged terrain
and difficult supply problems, a 6,000-yard gap was taken over by the 184th
Infantry. Okinawa was now cut in two, and units of the Japanese Army in
the northern and southern parts of the island were separated.17
The 96th Division made slow progress during the morning of 2 April
in the country around Shido. Here it found heavily forested ridges, empty caves
and dugouts, and mines and tank traps along the rough trails. Before evening
the 381st Infantry had pushed through Shimabuku but had been stopped by
enemy opposition in and around Momobaru. After a sharp fight the 383d In-
fantry took a hill just south of Momobaru, and with the help of an air strike,
artillery, and tanks it reduced a ridge northeast of Futema. That night its lines
stretched from the west coast just north of Isa to a point southwest of Futema
on the Isa-Futema road and along the northern edge of Futema.18
On 3 April XXIV Corps turned its drive southward. Leaving the 17th Infan-
try to guard and consolidate its rear, the 32d Infantry pushed all three of its bat-
talions southward along Nakagusuku Bay. After gaining 5,000 yards it occupied
Kuba and set up its lines in front of Hill 165, the coastal extremity of a line
of hills that swept southwest of the village. Fire was received from the hill, and
a few Japanese were killed in a brief fire fight. Ten rounds of enemy artillery
were received in the regiment's sector, a sign of awakening resistance.19

15

CINCPAC-CINCPOA Opns in POA, Apr 45, p. 42; CTF 51 Actn Rpt, IV-75ff; CTF 58 Actn Rpt, I-7.

16

CTF 51 Actn Rpt, IV-75ff; CTF 53 Actn Rpt, I-A-1; XXIV Corps Actn Rpt, p. 24; 1st Mar Div

Actn Rpt, Ch. VII, p. 2.

17

Gugeler, 7th Div Hist, p. 29.

18

Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div Hist, Pt. I, pp. 10ff, and Pt. II, pp. 11ff.

19

Gugeler, 7th Div Hist, pp. 32ff.

WINNING THE OKINAWA BEACHHEAD

77

Coordinating their advance with that of the 32d Infantry on their left,
elements of the 96th Division moved toward Hill 165 and Unjo. An unsuccessful
attempt was made to take the hill. Other 96th Division units advanced to posi-
tions in the vicinity of Kishaba and Atanniya and northeast of Nodake. Futema
and the high ground 600 yards south of it were taken. On the west flank the
division's line went through Isa to the southeastern edge of Chiyunna.20
Having completed its wheeling movement to the right, the 96th Division
was ready to drive south in conjunction with the 7th Division. Civilians and
prisoners of war stated that Japanese troops had withdrawn to the south. XXIV
Corps now changed the boundary line between its two assault divisions. On the
next day, 4 April, four regiments were to move into line across the narrow
waist of the island—the 32d and the 184th of the 7th Division on the east, and
the 382d and the 383d of the 96th Division on the west. The real battle for
Okinawa would then begin.21
Meanwhile, in the zone of III Amphibious Corps, the 1st Marine Division
continued on 2 April 1945 to the line Ishimmi-Kutoku and Chatan. It met a few
small pockets of resistance but was slowed mainly by the primitive roads and
rough terrain. On the following day this division again advanced against little
opposition, its forward elements reaching Nakagusuku (Buckner) Bay by 1600.
At the same time its reconnaissance company explored Katchin Peninsula and
the east coast roads north to Hizaonna. On 4 April all three regiments of the
1st Marine Division were on the eastern shore of Okinawa, and the division's
zone of action was completely occupied.22
On L plus 1, the 6th Marine Division continued its advance into the foot-
hills of Yontan-Zan, patrolled the peninsula northwest of the Hagushi beaches,
and captured the coastal town of Nagahama. In this mountainous sector,
well-worn trails crisscrossed the wooded hills and ridges, and caves pitted the
coral walls and steep defiles. By manning both ridge tops and caves, the Jap-
anese put up tenacious resistance. The 6th Marine Division killed about 250
of the enemy in two such strong points on 2 April. Next day it advanced
7,000 yards, the 22d Marines on the left maintaining supply through rough
wild country by "weasels." One more day's march would bring this division
to the L-plus-15 line drawn from Nakodamari to Ishikawa.23

20

Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div Hist, Pt. I, pp. 12ff.

21

Gugeler, 7th Div Hist, p. 35; Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div Hist, Pt. I, pp. 17, 18.

22

1st Mar Div Actn Rpt, Ch. VII, pp. 4-5, and maps.

23

Carleton, 6th Mar Div Hist, pp. 15-18; Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 7-III-3.

MOVING INLAND, American troops at first met little or no opposition. South of Kadena
airfield, in coral crags deeply scarred by naval bombardment, 96th Division infantrymen

engaged in their first hill and cave fighting in Okinawa. Other 96th Division troops, in am-
phibian tanks (below), turned south on the right flank and paused just north of Sunabe to
reconnoiter; here they raised the American flag.

WINNING THE OKINAWA BEACHHEAD

79

The tempo of Japanese air attacks increased somewhat during the first
three or four days after L Day, and many ships were damaged and some lost
during this period. Vessels not actually engaged in unloading withdrew some
distance from Okinawa each night, but this did not make them proof against
attack. The Henrico, an assault transport carrying troops and the regimental
staff of the 305th Infantry, 77th Division, was crashed by a suicide plane south
of the Keramas at 1900 on 2 April. The plane struck the commodore's cabin and
plunged through two decks, its bomb exploding on the second deck. The com-
modore was killed, as were also the commanding officer, the executive officer,
the S-1, and the S-3 of the 305th. The ship's total casualties were 30 killed,
6 missing, and 50 injured.24

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