The regiment had also landed at Emirau and Guam. The 22d Marines had combat experience at Eniwetok and Guam. And while the 29th Marines comprised a relatively new infantry regiment, its 1st Battalion had played a pivotal role in the Saipan campaign. General Shepherd used his time and the more expansive facilities on Guadalcanal to conduct progressive, work-up training, from platoon to regimental level. Looking ahead to Okinawa, Shepherd emphasized rapid troop deployments, large-scale operations, and combat in built-up areas.
Hunt, had returned to Saipan after completing the conquest of Tinian. There the division absorbed up to 8, replacements and endeavored to train for a frustratingly varied series of mission assignments as, in effect, a strategic reserve. The Marine divisions preparing to assault Okinawa experienced yet another organizational change, the fourth of the war. Headquarters Marine 8 Corps HQMC , constantly reviewing the lessons learned in the war to date, had just completed a series of revisions to the tables of organization and equipment for the division and its components.
The overall size of each division increased from 17, to 19, Artillery, motor transport, and service units received slight increases. So did the machine gun platoons in each rifle company. Headquarters, U. Sometimes the skills required did not match the requirement, however. Some of the artillery regiments had to absorb a flood of radar technicians and antiaircraft artillery gunners from the old Defense Battalions at the last moment. But by and large, the manpower and equipment shortfalls which had beset many early operations had been overcome by the time of embarkation for the Okinawa campaign.
Surprisingly for this late in the war, operational intelligence proved 9 less than satisfactory prior to the Okinawa landing. Part of the problem lay in the fact that cloud cover over the island most of the time prevented accurate and complete photo-reconnaisance of the target area. The island of Okinawa is 60 miles long, but only the lower third contained the significant military objectives of airfields, ports, and anchorages.
When Lieutenant General Mitsuru Ushijima assumed command of the Thirty-second Army in August , he quickly realized this and decided to concentrate his forces in the south. He also decided, regretfully, to refrain from contesting the likely American landings along the broad beaches at Hagushi on the southwest coast. Doing so would forfeit the prize airfields of Yontan and Kadena, but it would permit Ushijima to conserve his forces and fight the only kind of battle he thought had a chance for the Empire: a defense in depth, largely underground and thus protected from the overwhelming American superiority in supporting arms.
Each had exacted a frightful cost on the American invaders.
BOUGAINVILLE, 1943-1945: The Forgotten Campaign
Ushijima sought to duplicate this philosophy in spades. To achieve this strategy, Ushijima had upwards of , troops on the island, including a generous number of Okinawan conscripts, the Home Guard known as Boeitai. He also had a disproportionate number of artillery and heavy weapon units in his command. The Americans in the Pacific would not encounter a more formidable concentration of mm howitzers, mm mortars, mm mortars, and 47mm antitank guns. Finally, Ushijima also had time. The American strategic decisions to assault the Philippines, Peleliu, and Iwo Jima before Okinawa gave the Japanese garrison on Okinawa seven months to develop its defenses around the Shuri epicenter.
Americans had already seen what the Japanese could do in terms of fortifying a position within an incredibly short time. At Okinawa, they achieved a masterpiece. The Americans expected a ferocious defense of the Hagushi beaches and the airfields just beyond, followed by a general counterattack—then the battle would be over except for mop-up patrolling. They could not have been more misinformed. The U. Fifth Fleet constituted an awesome sight as it sortied from Ulithi Atoll and a dozen other ports and anchorages to steam towards the Ryukyus.
Those Marines who had returned to the Pacific from the original amphibious offensive at Guadalcanal some 31 months earlier marveled at the profusion of assault ships and landing craft. The new vessels covered the horizon, a mind-boggling sight. On 26 March, the 77th Infantry Division kicked off the campaign by its skillful seizure of the Kerama Retto, a move which surprised the Japanese and produced great operational dividends. Admiral Turner now had a series of sheltered anchorages to repair ships likely to be damaged by Japanese air attacks—and already kamikazes were exacting a toll.
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The soldiers also discovered the main cache of Japanese suicide boats, nearly power boats equipped with high-explosive rams intended to sink the thin-skinned troop transports in their anchorages off the west coast of Okinawa. Navy Underwater Demolition Teams, augmented by Marines, blew up hundreds of man-made obstacles in the shallows. And in a full week of preliminary bombardment, the fire support ships delivered more than 25, rounds of five-inch shells or larger.
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A bombardment of that scale and duration would have saved many lives at Iwo Jima; at Okinawa this precious ordnance produced few tangible results. The 60mm mortar section of Company K, 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, learned that casualty rates on L-Day could reach 80—85 percent. Sledge, a veteran of the Peleliu landing. On board a nearby LST, a platoon commander rehearsed his troops in the use of home-made scaling ladders to surmount a concrete wall just beyond the beaches. The four senior Marine commanders at Okinawa were seasoned combat veterans and well versed in joint service operations—qualities that enhanced Marine Corps contributions to the success of the U.
Major General Roy S. He enlisted in the Marines in and became a naval aviator the fifth Marine to be so designated in Geiger had a nose for combat; even on Okinawa he conducted frequent visits to the front lines and combat outposts. With the death of General Buckner, Geiger assumed command of the Tenth Army, a singular and fitting attainment, and was immediately promoted to lieutenant general by the Marine Corps. Geiger subsequently relieved General Holland M. Geiger also served as an observer to the atomic bomb tests in Bikini Lagoon, and his somber evaluation of the vulnerability of future surface ship-to-shore assaults to atomic munitions spurred Marine Corps development of the transport helicopter.
General Geiger died in Major General Pedro A. Subsequent years of sea duty and expeditionary campaigns in the Caribbean and Central America provided del Valle a vision of how Marines might better serve the Navy and their country in war. In Brigadier General Randolph C. A decade later, del Valle, a veteran artilleryman, commanded the 11th Marines with distinction during the campaign for Guadalcanal.
General del Valle died in Major General Lemuel C. Shepherd became one of those rare infantry officers to hold command at every possible echelon, from rifle platoon to division. In September at Guadalcanal, he became the first commanding general of the newly formed 6th Marine Division and led it with great valor throughout Okinawa.
General Shepherd died in Major General Francis P. He was commissioned in and attended naval flight school that same year. He became one of the Marine Corps pioneers of close air support to ground operations during the inter-war years of expeditionary campaigns in the Caribbean and Central America. He deployed to the Pacific in command of the 2d Marine Aircraft Wing.
In the closing months of the Guadalcanal campaign, Mulcahy served with distinction in command of Allied Air Forces in the Solomons. He volunteered for the TAF assignment, deployed ashore early to the freshly captured airfields at Yontan and Kadena, and worked exhaustively to coordinate the combat deployment of his joint-service aviators against the kamikaze threat to the fleet and in support of the Tenth Army in its protracted inland campaign.
For his heroic accomplishments in France in , the Solomons in —43, and at Okinawa, he received three Distinguished Service Medals. General Mulcahy died in Within III Amphibious Corps, the initial infantry commanders were those who led their troops ashore in the initial assault on Okinawa during Operation Iceberg. Eighty-two days of sustained combat exacted a heavy toll in casualties and debilitation. Among the battalion commanders, for example, four were killed, nine were wounded.
Murray, Jr. Magee, Jr. Sabol 5th Marines: Col John H. Gustafson 7th Marines: Col Edward W.
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Hurst 8th Marines: Col Clarence R. Woodhouse, Jr. Donohoo 29th Marines: Col Victor F. The next reinforcement was the 44th Independent Mixed Brigade which lost part of its strength when one of the ships carrying the brigade to Okinawa was torpedoed. Next, the 15th Independent Mixed Regiment was flown directly to Okinawa and was added to the remnants of the 44th. The next large unit to reach Okinawa was the 24th Infantry Division , which came from Manchuria. Well equipped and trained, it had not yet been blooded in battle.
It was a brigaded division, consisting of two brigades of four independent infantry battalions each. Two more of these battalions arrived on Okinawa in September and one was allocated to each brigade. In view of the hopeless situation in the Philippines and the inability to deliver supplies and reinforcements, IGHQ diverted large weapons shipments, if not troops, to Okinawa.
The Thirty-second Army thus possessed a heavier concentration of artillery under a single command than had been available to any other Japanese organization in the Pacific at any one time. The total enemy artillery strength, less the 42d Field Artillery Regiment , which was organic to the 24th Division , was grouped within the 5th Artillery Command. In addition, he had the 1st and 2d Medium Artillery Regiments with 36 howitzers and the th Heavy Artillery Battalion with eight mm guns.
Wada also had in his command the 1st Independent Heavy Mortar Regiment , which fired the mm spigot mortar earlier encountered by Marines on Iwo Jima.
The reserve of potential infantry replacements varied from good, in the 23d and 26th Shipping Engineer Regiments , to poor, at best, in the assorted rear area service units. The largest number of replacements, 7, men, was provided by the 10th Air Sector Command , which was comprised of airfield maintenance and construction units at the Yontan, Kadena, and Ie Shima air strips. Another source of infantry replacements were the seven sea raiding squadrons, three of which were based at Kerama Retto and the remainder at Unten-Ko in the north of Okinawa.
Each of those squadrons had a hundred picked men, whose sole assignment was to destroy American amphibious invasion shipping during the course of landing operations by crashing explosives-laden suicide craft into the sides of attack transports and cargo vessels. In this combined command were approximately 10, men, of whom only 35 percent were regular naval personnel.
The remainder were civilian employees belonging to the different sub-units of the Naval Base Force. Rounding out the Thirty-second Army was a native Okinawan home guard, whose members were called Boeitai. These men were trained by the army and were to be integrated into army units once the battle for Okinawa was joined. The Boeitai provided Ushijima with 17,—20, extra men. Operation Iceberg got off to a roaring start. The few Japanese still in the vicinity of the main assault at first light on L-Day, 1 April , could immediately sense the wisdom of General Ushijima in conceding the landing to the Americans.
This would be the ultimate forcible entry, the epitome of all the amphibious lessons learned so painstakingly from the crude beginnings at Guadalcanal and North Africa. Admiral Turner made his final review of weather conditions in the amphibious objective area.