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  • Battle of Okinawa 65 Years Later — 02 thru 03 June 1945

    Posted by Trent Telenko on June 3rd, 2010 (All posts by )

    02 June 1945

    On Okinawa, mopping up continues as the US 6th Marine Division prepares to land two regiments on the Oroku peninsula.

    The US Army 77th Division and it’s supporting 706th tank battalion are pulled out of the line.

    The remainder of the Okinawa campaign will be fought by the 24th Corps 7th and 96th Divisions and the 3rd Amphibious Corps 1st and 6th Marine Divisions.

    03 June 1945

    On Okinawa, Japanese forces are isolated in the Oroku and Chinen peninsula.

    The 7th Division cuts across the base of the Chinen peninsula to the south east coast. It finds the peninsula almost devoid of Japanese troops.

    The Ninth Japanese “Floating Chrysanthemum” aerial suicide attack on American navy radar pickets begins.

    Okinawa Background — The Engineer Special Brigade

    Long time military wargamers — grognards — have long noted that the American military, and the US Army in particular, has always been very good at logistics. In the Cold War this was expressed as “Americans always love a technological solution.” Before the advent of highly technological military aviation, this was better expressed as “Americans always love a material and organizational solutions.”

    In World War 2, this habit of institutional excellence was best expressed in the form of the US Army Engineer Special Brigade.

    One of the little know facts of WW2 — thanks to post WW2 USMC PR campaigns — was that the US Army did more amphibious landings, did larger amphibious landings (See Normandy), faced tougher on-shore opposition (See German tank division counter attacks on beach heads at Sicily, Salerno and Anzio) and faced worse aerial opposition (Luftwaffe guided bombs in 1943 and the Japanese Kamikazes appeared first, with better pilots, lasting longer in worse geographic conditions in the Philippines at Leyte and Lingayen) than the US Marine Corps. More over, the US Army was better than the Marines when it came to providing supplies across the beach!


    This last fact was noted at the time by Admiral Barbey, the commander of General MacArthur’s Amphibious ships who got to see both US Army and USN/USMC Central Pacific logistics-over-the-shore procedures during landings at Leyte. He found that the US Army Engineer Special Brigade troops were much faster than the USN/USMC team at clearing supplies through a beach.

    US Navy historian Samuel Elliot Morison also noted this disparate performance in the days following the April 1st “L-Day” landings on Okinawa, that supplies were stacking up on Marine beaches, while Army beaches were running smoothly.

    The reason for this at Okinawa was the 1st Engineer Special Brigade. They were veterans of landings in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Normandy and had been shifted to the Pacific in late 1944 after the Dutch port of Antwerp was captured. They unloaded supplies for the US Army and much gripping by the Marines about superior Army supplies on Okinawa was directly related to them.

    This is what wikipedia said about the concept, development and deployment of the ESB’s:


    Concept and Development

    At the onset of direct American involvement in World War II, it was obvious that the U.S. military would need a large strategic and tactical amphibious capability. In 1941, the United States’ amphibious forces were divided into two corps: one Atlantic; one Pacific. Both amphibious corps were combined Army and Marine Corps commands, administered by the U.S. Navy. The Atlantic Corps consisted of the 1st Infantry Division and the 1st Marine Division, and the Pacific Corps consisted of the 3rd Infantry Division and the 2nd Marine Division. As this set-up quickly proved itself unwieldy, the Joint Staff surprisingly appointed the U.S. Army, and not the Marine Corps, to develop doctrine for sustained amphibious operations. On May 20, 1942, the Army activated its Amphibious Training Command at Camp Edwards, Massachusetts. Subsequently, the Army also activated the Engineer Amphibian Command.
    .
    Initially, the Amphibious Training Command (later, Amphibious Training Center) was tasked to train no fewer than 12 Army divisions (including 1 armored division) in amphibious operations. As the war progressed, the Marine Corps expanded to six divisions and the Army and the Navy began to fight over the procurement and assignment of landing craft and other amphibious assault equipment, resulting in the Army’s decision to ultimately close the Amphibious Training Center. Per its agreement with the Navy, the Army continued to train Engineer Amphibian Brigades, for while the Marine Corps was adept at the initial waves of amphibious assaults, the Marine Corps had yet to create an effective doctrine concerning subsequent support waves. This task fell to the EABs.
    .
    Deployment and Subordinate Units
    .
    The 1st, 5th, and 6th Engineer Special Brigades were assigned to the European Theater of Operations, while the 2nd and 4th Engineer Special Brigades were assigned to the Pacific Theater of Operations. The 3rd Engineer Special Brigade was assigned directly to the Amphibious Training Center; responsible for the training of various Army units in amphibious warfare until the dissolution of the Amphibious Training Center. It was then assigned to the Pacific Theater of Operations. The 1st Engineer Special Brigade was the only ESB to fight in both theaters of the war.
    .
    The various subordinate Engineer Boat, Engineer Amphibian, and Engineer Shore regiments were all redesignated as Engineer Boat Shore Regiments (EBSR) by the end of the war.

    The inner-service politics of the ESB’s was torturous and is today little known.

    It is, however, very important for understanding the real story that underpinned the strategies of the Pacific War — Logistics:

    During June and early July 1942 the Allied situation throughout the world grew more perilous. The Afrika Korps routed the British Eighth Army and reached within striking distance of the Nile; von Bock’s great group of armies started its 1000-mile plunge from Orel to Stalingrad; and the Japanese, despite the naval battles of the Coral Sea and Midway, still threatened Australia.
    .
    To the Combined Chiefs of Staff, meeting in London early in July, the most serious danger appeared to be that the German summer offensive would succeed in knocking Russia out of the War. In order to do what little they could to relieve the pressure on the hard pressed Red armies, they agreed to launch, if necessary, a crosschannel invasion of France, even though the forces at their disposal were pitifully small. To do this they would need more landing craft and crews than were available in the British Isles; so the 1st Brigade on July 23 was ordered to England as fast as it could be moved. The Brigade was in a sad state of confusion, with almost no equipment and all ranks barely oriented as to their technical missions and training objectives. Nevertheless, equipment was rushed from all parts of the country to the Brigade, and it was brought to full strength and sailed from New York on August 5th. Hardly had it debarked in England when it became apparent that the German drive was slowing down in the Caucasus and was being fought to a standstill at Stalingrad, and that it would not be necessary to launch the major attack across the channel during that year. Given this breathing spell, the navies of both Great Britain and the United States set about reversing the decision made in May to have the Army run the small landing craft, and in England they actually took away the 1st Brigade’s boats.
    .
    Back in the United States a bitter wrangle ensued, and the understandably inexpert performance of some of the engineer boatmen in their first maneuvers lent weight to the Navy’s argument that only ‘boys in blue’ could satisfactorily handle boats. Colonel Arthur Trudeau, the Chief of Staff of the Engineer Amphibian Command, made a flying trip to visit General MacArthur in Australia during the early part of October to see if he was interested in continuing the development of the amphibian brigades. Just at this time MacArthur was engaged in his “Battle of the Marne” in the passes of the Owen Stanley Mountains and in the steaming jungles and plantations of Milne Bay. Though he had been successful in driving the Japanese back toward their bases on the northeast coast of New Guinea, lack of water-borne transportation had caused him to rely almost exclusively on his pitifully few airplanes, and he was, necessarily, in a most receptive mood. He promptly informed the War Department that he would like one engineer amphibian brigade immediately, to be followed in 1943 by a second one. The War Department, therefore, reduced the number of brigades to be created by the Engineer Amphibian Command to three.
    .
    Thus, the Navy’s campaign to keep the Army out of the boat business succeeded to the extent that the amphibians in the European theater were henceforth to be nothing more than shore party engineers, while in the portion of the Pacific under Admiral Nimitz’s control there would be no specialized amphibian engineers at all. Only in the Southwest Pacific were the amphibian engineers to be given a chance to operate in the manner originally contemplated in the dark days of May, 1942.

     

    4 Responses to “Battle of Okinawa 65 Years Later — 02 thru 03 June 1945”

    1. Locomotive Breath Says:

      I recently checked, and if I’m reading it right, we no longer have any LSTs in service.

      http://www.navsource.org/archives/10/16/16idx.htm

      These are the “Landing Ship Tank” – the ones with the shallow draft and big bow doors. They can be driven up on the beach, a ramp let down, and materiel driven right off onto the beach. That means we no longer have the ability to land large amounts of supplies over an unprepared beach. Which in turn meant we had to FLY everything into Haiti.

    2. Trent Telenko Says:

      The LST role has been taken over by the multi-purpose LPD and LHD classes that use helicopters and LCU/LCAC landing craft instead of beaching themselves.

      The closest ship to a WW2 LST is the US Army’s LCU-2000. There were 35 in service as of 2006 and have been heavily used in Iraq. They are roughly the size of a WW2 LSM at 174 feet by 42 feet compared to 204 feet by 34 feet and have the capability of a 2,500 square feet (5 M1 Main Battle Tanks or 12 [24 double stacked] 20′ ISO containers).

      See:

      http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/ship/lcu-2000.htm

      http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/ship/lcu-specs.htm

      and

      http://www.navsource.org/archives/10/14/14034.htm

    3. Locomotive Breath Says:

      Interesting – thanks.

      I had been given to understand that LPD and LHD and helicopters/LCU/LCAC were mostly for assault rather than supply.

      LCU-2000 in the Army. Silly me for looking for ships (craft actually) in the Navy. Only 35? And those obsolete(ish). Still sounds like logistics has gotten the short end of the stick.

    4. Trent Telenko Says:

      Defacto, the USMC has given up on the opposed beach assault in favor of “hitting them where they ain’t” when it comes to exposing a LPD or LHD to enemy cruise missile and beach MLRS launchers.

      Whether it becomes dejure policy depends on whether the Marine advanced assault amphibian survives Sec Def Gates budgets.

      The LCU-2000 is for US Army intra-theater coastal sea lift with stategic deployability for its crew.