Battle of Okinawa 65 Years Later — 21 thru 29 May 1945

The Abandonment of the Shuri Line

May 21, 1945

On Okinawa, US 3rd Amphibious Corps reports advances near the Horseshoe, Half Moon and Wana positions, on the western flank.

On the east-side, US 7th and 96th Divisions (parts of US 24th Corps) attack near Yonabaru.

Japanese forces begin to pull out of the Shuri Line.

May 22, 1945

On Okinawa, American forces enter Yonabaru and capture Conical Hill. Heavy rains begin that hamper offensive operations for the coming weeks.

The positions on the left and right of the Shuri line are about to fall leaving the main defensive positions flanked. The Chiefs of staff of the 32nd Army’s main combat units hold a meeting that will determine the remainder of the Okinawa Campaign. The three options they discuss are:

1) Encircle Shuri Castle and prepare a concentrated defense with the 50,000 remaining troops and long range guns. This proposal retained most of the Japanese heavy guns and artillery ammunition, but there are not enough cave positions in this area to shield all the remaining troops from American artillery.
2) The second option considered was to withdraw east from the Shuri line to the Chinen Peninsula. This was rejected due to poor roads that would hamper the withdrawal and had the same problem of the lack of cave positions plus a lack of stockpiles of food and ammunition.
3) The third options was to withdraw south and form a line across the Kiyan Peninsula. This option was chosen because there were enough cave positions with stockpiles of food and small arms ammunition to fall back on.

May 23, 1945

On Okinawa, after occupying Naha, the US 6th Marine Division (part of US 3rd Amphibious Corps) encounters heavy Japanese resistance to attempts to advance further south.

Japanese aircraft begin a three-day series of strikes against the Allied naval forces around the island. This is the seventh kikusui or “Floating Chrysanthemum” suicide strike.

Reverse slope of Warta Ridge, U.S. forces captured this position only 1,000 yards northwest of the Shuri command cave on 21-23 May

Reverse slope of Warta Ridge, U.S. forces captured this position only 1,000 yards northwest of the Shuri command cave on 21-23 May

May 24, 1945

On Okinawa, during the night, Japanese paratroopers on a suicide mission are landed on American held Yontan airfield.

According to naval historian Samuel Elliott Morrison, four of the five Sally transports are destroyed before landing. The fifth transport lands ten “geritsu” paratroopers who destroy seven aircraft, damage 26 others and blow up a fuel dump with 70,000 gallons of aviation gasoline before being wiped out.

Meanwhile, Japanese troops conduct vigorous counterattacks in the direction of Yonabaru and make a small penetration into the lines of the US 32nd Division.

May 25, 1945

On Okinawa, the US 4th Marine Regiment eliminates the Japanese casemates and underground positions on Machishi Hill.

The US 29th Regiment secures Naha. The beaches at Naha will soon replace Hagushi beach as the main logistical landing beach for Okinawa operations.

Map 9. Preliminary withdrawal of the 62d Division, 25 May 1945

Map 9. Preliminary withdrawal of the IJA 62d Division, 25 May 1945

US Navy Fast Destroyer Transport USS Barry is struck by a Kamikaze and so badly damaged that she is decommissioned and later used as a Kamikaze decoy.

Destroyer USS Storms is struck by a Kamikaze and so badly damaged she is abandoned. Her burning hulk is towed to the smoke screen covered Hagushi beach anchorage, where it capsizes and sinks a few hours later.

US Navy Minesweeper USS Spectacle is struck by a kamikaze at the Kerma Ritto anchorage and is abandoned. The large landing craft LSM-135 that rescues her crew is also struck by a Kamikaze, beaches on a nearby reef, and is abandoned.

May 26, 1945

On Okinawa, American bombers and artillery attack Japanese troops withdrawing from the Shuri Line.

The remnants of the IJA 62nd Division stage a series of night attacks the American 77th Division at Yonabaru.

May 27, 1945

On Okinawa, American forces attacking southward, continue to encounter heavy Japanese resistance.

Japanese aircraft begin a three-day series of strikes against the Allied naval forces around the island. This is the eighth kikusui or “Floating Chrysanthemum” suicide strike.

Battleship USS Mississippi completes the destruction of Shuri Castle. The rubble of the castle is later used to make roads supporting the American advance.

May 28, 1945

More than 100 Japanese planes are shot down near Okinawa.

One American radar picket destroyer, the USS Drexler, is sunk in by a Kamikaze.

Night time Kamikazes attacks under a 50% overcast and a full moon cause damage to several merchant ships and a transport. The Josiah Snelling is struck off Ie Shma and at Nakagusuku Wan the merchantmen Brown Victory and Mary Livermore and the transport Sandoval are hit. None of these ships are seriously damaged.

May 29, 1945

The IJA 62nd Division attack American positions at Yonabaru on the night of 25-26 May convinced American commanders that the Japanese intend to defend existing lines. This allows the IJA 24th Division to be pulled back from the northeast part of the line to the southwest on 29 May (see map 10 below) in a “zero visibility” driving rain storm that grounds all American aircraft surveillance.

The withdrawal of the IJA 24th Infantry Division

2 thoughts on “Battle of Okinawa 65 Years Later — 21 thru 29 May 1945”

  1. It is remarkable that the Japanese were able to withdraw across open ground. US artillery fire was not sufficient to make movement above ground impossible? Did they drag their artillery with them? Did they manhandle it?

  2. Lex,

    You don’t get something for nothing.

    The weather that grounded American aircraft, and made movement by US trucks and tanks impossible, prevented the Japanese from getting out their guns and heavy ammunition from the Shuri line.

    This would be telling later as American armor was going to face much less in the way of anti-tank fire from the last line of defense and the surviving Japanese service troops were short of both crew served automatic weapons and small arms of all kinds.

    Also, by this time the American 10th Army was suffering shortages of 155mm howitzer shells and was air lifting mortar shells of all kinds — 4.2″, 81mm and 60mm.

    My next post will explain some of this.

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