WWII Battle of Okinawa May Have Prevented Invasion of Japan

  • In spring 1945, the United States island-hopping marketing campaign was once drawing nearer to the Jap mainland.
  • US commanders have been enthusiastic about an invasion of Jap itself, and invading Okinawa was once observed as a prelude.
  • The fanatical resistance and appalling casualties on Okinawa made transparent what awaited them.

By means of mid-March 1945, the Allies have been remaining in at the Jap house islands. Allied forces have been properly into the method of freeing the Philippines. Japan’s military had suffered a string of disastrous defeats that left its fleet virtually pointless, and the brutal struggle for Iwo Jima was once drawing to a detailed.

However the Jap had proven they have been decided to struggle to the remaining guy, and because of the United States’s insistence that Japan give up unconditionally, it gave the impression to US commanders that an invasion of the Jap mainland was once the one strategy to finish the struggle.

Strategists started making invasion plans. Okinawa, simply 350 miles south of the Jap mainland, was once a main candidate for a staging flooring. Plane may just release from its airfields, the United States Military may just use it as a base to bring to an end Jap ships from the remainder of Japan’s empire, and Allied troops may just collect there for the invasion of Japan itself.

Okinawa USS Idaho

US Military battleship USS Idaho shells Okinawa, April 1, 1945.

US Military

It was once glaring that the struggle for Okinawa was once going to be no less than as bloody because the combat on Iwo Jima, the place general US casualties outnumbered Jap casualties for the primary time within the struggle. Okinawa was once a lot larger, its Jap garrison was once virtually 5 occasions greater, and, as on Iwo, they’d keen to protect it.

The Jap commander, Lt. Gen. Mitsuru Ushiijima, selected to mount a layered protection.

As a substitute of looking to struggle at the seashores, he targeted maximum of his forces on defensive strains on Okinawa’s southern tip, leaving best smaller teams to protect the central and northerly portions. Some 60 miles of underground tunnels and dozens of bunkers, artillery positions, and mechanical device gun nests have been constructed the usage of the island’s a lot of opposite slopes.

The American invasion drive was once the biggest US amphibious invasion drive within the Pacific marketing campaign. Led through Lt. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr., it was once made up of over 180,000 squaddies and Marines from 4 US Military and two Marine Corps divisions.

They have been supported through greater than 1,300 ships from the United States fifth Fleet and British Pacific Fleet and through hundreds of plane from the United States Military and Military Air Forces.


US touchdown craft sell off provides on Yellow Seaside on Okinawa, April 13, 1945.

US Nationwide Archives

The primary landings at Okinawa have been at the outlying Kerama Islands on March 26, 1945 — the remaining day of the Fight of Iwo Jima. On April 1, after a complete week of naval bombardments, US squaddies and Marines landed on central Okinawa.

In the beginning, it seemed to be going strangely properly. The American citizens encountered virtually no enemy resistance. By means of the top of the primary day, the Kadena and Yontan airfields have been simply taken. Marines started to transparent the northern a part of the island whilst squaddies moved south.

On April 6, the Jap military, in a determined try to protect the island, despatched the biggest and maximum tough battleship ever constructed, the Yamato, on a suicide undertaking towards the United States Military.

Yamato and 5 of her escorts have been sunk simply someday into their voyage after being hit through no less than 15 bombs and 8 torpedoes in an assault through 300 US Military plane, killing greater than 4,000 Jap sailors.

Okinawa Yamato

Jap battleship Yamato explodes and sinks after bomb and torpedo hits from US Military service planes north of Okinawa, April 7, 1945.

US Military

However the Allies’ preliminary successes unexpectedly got here to a halt.

Because the American citizens complicated south, they walked instantly into well-prepared enemy kill zones and ambushes. Consistent artillery, mortar, and machine-gun hearth from fortified and hidden positions, along side Jap midnight attacks and counterattacks, slowed maximum growth.

The combating was once particularly exhausting alongside the Shuri and Machinato defensive strains, the place the opposite slopes equipped transparent fields of fireplace on uncovered American troops. To make issues worse, past due April introduced the wet season, turning battlefields into dust pits. Tanks and armored cars have been left virtually pointless, and the offensive flooring to a halt.

At sea, the combat was once simply as intense. With their military not able to mount any resistance to the awesome American fleet, the Jap grew to become to mass kamikaze assaults from the air.

Okinawa USS Bunker Hill Kamikaze

US Military plane service USS Bunker Hill was once hit through two kamikaze assaults in 30 seconds off Kyushu, Would possibly 11, 1945.

US Military

Even supposing kamikaze assaults have been utilized in earlier battles, Okinawa was once the primary time they have been introduced concurrently and in overwhelming numbers.

Over six weeks, hundreds of planes from bases in Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s primary islands, performed about 1,900 such assaults.

A few of the planes was once a brand new form of weapon: the Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka, a 2,600-pound rocket-powered manned kamikaze plane.

Those assaults wreaked havoc; 13 plane carriers, 10 battleships, and loads of destroyers, transports, and different vessels have been hit, killing about 4,900 sailors. The destroyer USS Laffey on my own survived six kamikaze hits.


Marines supported through bazookas attack a ridge throughout combating on Okinawa, April 5, 1945.

US Marine Corps/PFC L. L. Griffin

Regardless of the fierce resistance, American troops persevered to advance. On April 20, the northern a part of the island was once totally cleared. By means of the top of Would possibly, Naha, Okinawa’s capital town, was once captured after being nearly destroyed.

Aided through airpower, naval bombardments, further landings, and flamethrower tanks, the American citizens have been in a position to in any case seize the remaining a part of the island on June 22 — just about 3 months after the combat began.

The overall casualties have been staggering: over 12,00 American citizens have been killed and 36,000 wounded. A few of the useless have been Buckner, the entire commander, and Brig. Gen. Claudius Miller Easley, commander of the Military’s 96th Infantry Department. Each have been killed within the ultimate days of the combat.

Of the over 100,000 Jap defenders, virtually all have been killed in motion or died through suicide; best about 7,000 surrendered. 3 of the 4 senior Jap officials killed themselves, together with Lt. Gen. Ushijima. The remainder officer, Col. Hiromichi Yahara, asked permission to dedicate seppuku however was once immediately ordered to not.


A US tank, left foreground, makes use of a flamethrower towards a Jap sturdy level as US troops advance previous pillboxes and underground forts on Okinawa, June 20, 1945.

US Military

Subject matter losses have been additionally prime; the American citizens misplaced 36 ships with over 360 extra broken. Greater than 760 plane and 200 tanks have been destroyed as properly. The Jap misplaced 16 ships, greater than 1,000 plane, and about 20 tanks.

Civilians at the island suffered probably the most horrific toll.

In contrast to Iwo Jima, the Jap didn’t totally evacuate the civilian inhabitants of Okinawa. It’s estimated that properly over 100,000 civilians — one-third of the inhabitants — died throughout the combat. Many have been stuck within the combating and have been killed within the crossfire. Some have been even used as human shields through Jap squaddies.

The Jap additionally fixed a program of mass indoctrination of the native inhabitants, telling them that American citizens have been barbarians that might slaughter or rape them in the event that they surrendered. Massive numbers of civilians willingly killed themselves or have been pressured to take action through Jap squaddies to forestall their seize.


Jap prisoners of struggle at Okuku on Okinawa, June 27, 1945.

US Marine Corps

The fanatical resistance and appalling casualties, each army and civilian, led American leaders to rethink an invasion of the Jap mainland.

The combating would have indubitably been more difficult and dearer. Estimates of American casualties in the sort of combat ranged from 225,000 to one million troops, whilst the Jap estimated they’d endure as many as 20 million casualties.

At a White Area assembly on June 18, President Harry Truman made it transparent he sought after to forestall “an Okinawa, from one finish of Japan to the opposite.”

After all, the invasion of Japan by no means took place. Germany’s give up on Would possibly 7, coupled with the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Soviet invasion of Manchuria, made the Jap notice that combating to a negotiated give up was once inconceivable. On September 2, 1945, Japan surrendered unconditionally.

This tale was once first printed in June 2020.

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