Saturday, May 24, 2008

An Okinawa Remembrance






April 1, 1945. It would be the largest amphibious assault against any target in the Pacific War, and anticipated as a precursor to the dreaded, final apocalyptic battles that would be the invasion of the main islands of Japan, to end the savagery that was World War II. Off the shores of the island bastion of Okinawa, the Navy would go all out, providing 40 aircraft carriers, 18 battleships, and a host of cruisers, destroyers and auxiliaries, to support and sustain the landings and follow-up protection of the invasion forces, numbering 183,000 soldiers and Marines. Awaiting them on the island, only 300 miles south of Japan, were 110,000 Japanese soldiers and Okinawan conscripts, in some of the most formidable defensive positions ever prepared by Man. The Japanese plan was brutally simple: not contest the American landings on the beaches, but establish well dug-in positions inland, and bleed the Americans in costly battles of attrition, while at sea, the Japanese kamikaze corps would wreak havoc on the naval forces required to remain in support of the invasion forces. It was hoped the cost in blood would be too high for the Americans to pay, a cost the Japanese were more than willing to let, even as defeat seemed inevitable now.

After the experiences of Tarawa, Saipan, Peleliu and Iwo Jima, the Marines and Army were prepared for a savage beach greeting as they went ashore on April 1: the Navy gave it all they had to prepare the way, firing about 45,000 artillery rounds, 33,000 rockets, and over 22,000 mortar rounds, into the beachheads. But when the troops poured ashore...all they were met with was the devastation of the naval bombardment.

The Marines pushed north to secure that portion of the island, and later south to support the Army; the Army pushed south. And very soon, straight into the maelstrom of the triple line of defenses prepared by General Mitsuri Ushijima, where progress was measured in yards. Meantime, waves of kamikazes went after the Navy, wreaking havoc at sea. Between April 1 and June 21, when the island was declared secured by the US military, the damage to the American Navy, while not campaign-turning, was savage: 36 ships lost, and 368 more damaged. The Navy suffered over 9700 casualties (including 4900 dead) from kamikazes and conventional air attacks, supporting the troops. The Army and Marines lost over 7600 dead and over 31,000 wounded.

Japanese losses were put at over 107,000 dead, with thousands more unaccounted for, along with over 7800 combat aircraft lost, and the pride of the Japanese Navy -- the biggest battleship in the world, the 18 inch gunned Yamato -- was lost to air attack, while on a one-way suicide run to interdict the American invasion forces.

Okinawans -- conscripts and caught-in-between civilians -- sustained more than 100,000 casualties. Many -- believing Japanese propaganda about how brutally Americans treated captives -- committed suicide, rather than fall into American hands.

Okinawa had one other bloody distinction: the commanders of both armies engaged were killed during the battle. General Ushijima committed suicide, and American Lt. General Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr., commanding the US Tenth Army, was killed by Japanese artillery in the closing days of combat.

After the savagery of Okinawa, no one wanted to talk about the probable next assault target, the Japanese home islands. Targets projected to be like Okinawa, only more grotesquely magnified.

Then on August 6, 1945, and again on August 9, 1945, a new age of warfare was brought to the terrifying fore, each time by a single B-29 Superfortress. Shortly thereafter on August 15, 1945, the Japanese bowed to the inevitable, and surrendered.

We have plenty to remember this Memorial Day, to be sure: over 4,000 American military personnel, lost in the global war on terrorism. And remember them we must and should. But let us not forget those who paid such a stiff price, 63 years ago, on an island just south of Japan, in an 82 day brawl that was a harbinger of the unspeakable horrors projected to come, had the missions of the Enola Gay and Bock's Car not gone forth.

A Memorial Day remembrance to those who served; those who came home, and those, forever young, who didn't. God Bless and our collective thanks to the US Military: then, now, always.

9 Comments:

Blogger Jack K. said...

Amen to your closing comment.

24 May, 2008 09:07  
Blogger Debbie said...

Excellent article to help us remember. Yes God bless them every one.

"Okinawans -- conscripts and caught-in-between civilians -- sustained more than 100,000 casualties."

People forget about the numbers of civilians who die in war. It wasn't the Americans fault that these people died any more than it is America'w fault that some civilians die in current conflicts. We just didn't blame our own country back then like some do today.

Debbie Hamilton
Right Truth

24 May, 2008 12:43  
Blogger Little Lamb said...

A Memorial Day Post. I like that.

24 May, 2008 16:37  
Blogger Serena Joy said...

That's a perfect Memorial Day post. And I, too, applaud your closing statement.

24 May, 2008 19:11  
Anonymous okinawa said...

Thanks for taking us back through those painful memories. I love Okinawa and hope the future has many wonderful days for it.

24 May, 2008 20:07  
Blogger ANNA-LYS said...

Lovely ending on Your post!
Have You served Yourself?

25 May, 2008 14:30  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Skunk. Your closing paragraph brought tears to my eyes. God bless those who have served, are serving now, and will serve our great nation in the future.

25 May, 2008 14:49  
Blogger Herb said...

Amen, sir.

25 May, 2008 15:49  
Blogger ANNA-LYS said...

Thanks for Your answer!

As a Swede I am stupid in the eyes of all of You - 'cause I don't like war

(( Peace ))

26 May, 2008 07:17  

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