Battle of Okinawa

Battle of Okinawa

The Battle of Okinawa was the last American invasion of WW2 before the occupation and surrender of Japan in WW2. Okinawa is an integral part of the Japanese mainland and is some 1,500 kilometers distant from the southern part of the Japanese mainland) flying time 95 minutes). It is 135 km long and 3-28 km wide .The civilian population in 1945 numbered some 435,000 people.

The Japanese defending force was estimated to be between 50,000-80,000 strong

The invasion of Okinawa started on 1 April (April Fools’ Day-also Easter) 1945 on a scale larger than the D-day Normandy Invasion force. 1,381 ships landed 183,000 marines and soldiers mostly on the west coast. The landings progressed relatively easily and four fifths of the island was captured against minimal resistance. However the southern part of the island was fortified and the defender fought with great ferocity and determination. Then came a new Japanese weapon - the “Kamikaze” (meaning “Divine Wind”) suicide planes to destroy the American fleet and thereby to isolate the invading force. The Japanese also prepared 400 suicide boats to help the kamikaze pilots but they were discovered before they were put into action. In a 36-hour period on April 6-7, 355 kamikaze pilots sank six ships and damaged 22 others. 4155 Japanese planes were destroyed during the campaign of which 1900 were kamikazes. There were also 10 “kikusui” attacks – which were mass Kamikaze attacks .In total the kamikazes sank 36 ships damaged 368 others and caused the highest total of naval casualties than in any other period in history-4907 killed and 4824 wounded.

Japanese dead amounted to 100,000, and American casualties totaled around 8000 killed and close to 50,000 wounded.

The campaign lasted some 82 days ending on June 21. Towards the end many of the civilians committed suicide or killed one another as well as many of the soldiers – many died in the caves or by jumping off high cliffs into the sea, all out of fear of what the Americans would do to them. For the American soldiers and Marines apart from the combat itself one of the main physical difficulties of fighting in Okinawa was the ‘Nubai”—an incessant rain that started in April and made mud of everything. The mud immobilized the tanks and swamped the road system making it difficult to transport supplies.

With the capture of Okinawa the road to Japan was now open.