Battle of Okinawa 65 Years Later — May 19, 1945

May 19, 1945

On Okinawa, the US 77th Division suffers heavy casualties while fighting for the Ishimmi ridge and withdraws.

Sherman Flamethrower tank at Okinawa

Okinawa Campaign Background — Col. Unmacht’s Mechanized Flamethrowers

One little known US Army Chemical Warfare Service Colonel stationed in Hawaii made the flame throwing tanks of the Pacific War possible. His ad-hoc team of CWS, Ordnance Department, US Navy See Bees, and private contractors designed and produced both main gun and auxiliary weapon mounted flame throwers for 384 US Army and USMC M3 Stuart light tanks, LVT4 amtracs and M4 Shermans in less than a year.

That compares to a total of five M5A1 “Q” flame thrower tanks and a few dozen M4-5 auxiliary armament flamethrowers the warring Chemical Warfare Service, Ordnance Department and Armored Force bureaucracies managed to get to the Pacific before VJ-Day.

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Battle of Okinawa 65 Years ago today — May 18, 1945

May 18, 1945

On Okinawa, the US 6th Marine Division, part of US 3rd Amphibious Corps, captures most of the Sugar Loaf Hill, as well as parts of the Half Moon and the Horseshoe positions that overlook it, after several days of bitter fighting.

The US 1st Marine Division continues to battle for the Wana river valley and Wana Ridge but fails to eliminate Japanese resistance, even with flame-throwers and tanks in support.

Meanwhile, the US 77th and 96th Divisions, parts of US 24th Corps, attack Japanese positions on Flat Peak without success.

Landing Supplies at Hagushi Beach Okinawa
Okinawa Campaign Background — Logistics and Priority Shipments

One of the important things that seems to elude modern historians about the Pacific War is what is now referred to as “Supply Chain Management” by civilian businesses and logistics by the Military. This lack of understanding leaves many Diplomatic and Military histories of the decision to use the Atomic Bomb fundimentally flawed.

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Battle of Okinawa 65 Years ago today — May 17, 1945

May 17, 1945

On Okinawa, the US 6th Marine Division, part of US 3rd Amphibious Corps, continues assaulting Sugar Loaf hill have Japanese positions are heavily bombarded by aircraft, artillery and ships.

Elements of US 1st Marine Division capture the western part of the Wana valley but fail to take the ridge.

Units of the US 77th Division, part of US 24th Corps, make a surprise attack on Ishimmi Ridge, west of the village, and end up in positions exposed to Japanese fire.

Campaign Background — Japanese Anti-tank Defense vs M4 Sherman

A Destroyed M4 Sherman on Okinawa

One of the keys to understanding the Okinawa campaign is that it was only the second Pacific Island campaign — Iwo Jima being the first — where the Japanese deployed a continuous ground defense with a anti-tank gun line and an integrated doctrine to separate American tanks and infantry. This gun line was based on a weapon able to defeat the front hull of the M4 Sherman, the Japanese 47mm type 01 anti tank gun. The Japanese also, for the first time in the Pacific War, systematically destroyed abandoned M4 Shermans every chance they got.

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The Battle of Okinawa — 65 Years Ago today, May 16, 1945

May 16, 1945

On Okinawa, the US 6th Marine Division (part of US 3rd Amphibious Corps) reports heavy casualties in continuing attacks on Sugar Loaf Hill.

Japanese antitank guns knock out a number of American tanks supporting an advance, by US 1st Marine Division, along the valley of the Wana River.

Attacks by the US 77th Division to the north of Shuri continue to be unsuccessful.

The US 96th Division reaches the edge of the village of Yonabaru.

Love Hill, to the west of Conical Hill, continues to be held by Japanese forces.

Okinawa Campaign Background — SHINYO! Kamikaze Part Two

The picture of Kamikaze’s off Okinawa is that of burning Japanese planes crashing into carriers and battleships off the coast. While these were the the majority of Kamikaze attacks, they were not the only ones.

IJA Suicide Explosive Motor Boat

The smaller islands of the Ryukyu Island chain that Okinawa was a part of hosted hundreds of explosive motor boats (EMB) of the Japanese Navy’s “Shinyo” (Sea Quake) and Japanese Army’s “Maru-ni” types.

The invasion of the Kerama Retto anchorage several days before Okinawa proper saved the Okinawa invasion flotilla at Hagushi beach the attack of several hundred EMB the night of 1-2 April 1945. These suicide craft were well hidden and had been completely missed by Navy aircraft.

The more numerous, nimble and speedy “Brown Water” PT-boats of the US Navy’s 1942-43 Solomons and 1942-1944 New Guinea Campaigns were left in the Philippines by Admirals Turner and Nimitz. This left overworked fleet destroyers, slower destroyer escorts and very slow converted landing craft gunboats of the Pacific “Blue Water” fleet to face the EMB threat alone.

This was a mistake that would cost hundreds of unnecessary US Navy casualties, as can be seen from the following combat history that is clipped from from http://www.combinedfleet.com

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The Battle of Okinawa — 65 Years Ago today, May 15, 1945

May 15, 1945

On Okinawa, slow American advances and costly Japanese counterattacks continue. Heavy fighting is reported around the Sugar Loaf Hill and Conical Hill positions.

Marines on Sugar Loaf Hill, elements of US 3rd Amphibious Corps, withdraw because of Japanese fire.

The US 1st Marine Division advances along the Wana river valley, west of Shuri, against heavy Japanese resistance.

The US 305th infantry regiment and 77th Divisions, of US 24th Corps, achieve limited progress and have been reduced to 25 percent effectiveness in the fighting.

See Okinawa Map XXXV: Tenth Army Advances, 11-21 May 1945

Map XXXV: Tenth Army Advances, 11-21 May 1945

Campaign Background — Kamikaze!

According Appleman’s OKINAWA:THE LAST BATTLE:

Between 6 April and 22 June there were ten organized (aerial) Kamikaze attacks, employing a total of 1,465 planes as shown below:

Date of Attack…..Total…Navy Planes…..Army Planes
6-7 April……………355…….230…………….125
12-13 April………..185…….125………………60
15-15 April………..165…….120………………45
27-28 April………..115……..65……………….50
3-4 May……………125……..75……………….50
10-11 May………..150……..70……………….80
24-25 May………..165……..65……………..100
27-28 May………..110……..60……………….50
3-7 June…………….50……..20……………….30
21-22 June…………42……..30……………….15

TOTAL
………………………1465………860………………605

In addition, sporadic small-scale suicide attacks were directed against the American fleet by both Army and Navy planes, bringing the total number of suicide sorties during the campaign to 1,900.