The forward surge of the American lines on 24 April marked the fall of the first Shuri defense ring everywhere but on the extreme right, in the Item Pocket area. The enemy had withdrawn to the next ring of prepared positions of the Shuri defense zone and was ready to repeat the process of making the invader pay for every foot of ground.
On 24 April General Hodge radioed his division commanders that "operations today indicate enemy withdrawn his forces from the strong positions he has fought so desperately to hold," and ordered aggressive patrolling to determine the new enemy dispositions. At 1100 of the same day he directed the division commanders to regroup their forces and improve their positions by aggressive action, seizing all advantageous ground to their front and pushing in enemy outposts. They were to prepare for a general attack at 0600, 26 April.1
While the attack against the second ring of Shuri defenses was under way, there was a major regrouping of the weary American forces at the end of April everywhere on the line except on the 7th Division front. The 27th Division on the west was relieved by the 1st Marine Division, and the 96th Division in the center of the line was relieved by the 77th. on the line until relieved by the 96th after its 10-day rest.
By the end of April a shift of troops in the line had become necessary. The Japanese position was still strong and there was no indication that it would soon be reduced. The 96th Division, which had gone into Okinawa understrength, had suffered very heavy casualties. It needed a rest and an opportunity to assimilate its replacements; on the other hand, the 77th was relatively fresh, although it had fought in the Kerama Retto and on Ie Shima. The 27th Division had not been intended for combat duty on Okinawa but had been loaned temporarily to XXIV Corps when it became evident that the 7th and 96th could not
ASA RIVER AREA, where marines drove south. (Photo taken 10 July 1945.)
break through the Shuri defenses alone. After the cancellation in the middle of April of Phase III for the Okinawa campaign, the conquest of Miyako, the III Amphibious Corps became available to General Buckner for use on the southern front. The 1st Marine Division in the north was to go south first since it was closer to the Shuri line and could be moved into position more quickly than the 6th Marine Division.
Despite this redisposition, the use of fresh troops, and some of the most intensive efforts that the campaign had yet seen, the Americans fought for an entire week without making any significant gain except in the center of the front. In large measure their failure was due to the difficulty of appraising correctly the nature of the interlocking Japanese defenses that they now faced.
On the west coast, in the 27th Division zone, the Item Pocket fighting was practically over by 27 April. The 165th Infantry spent the remaining days of the month patrolling the Kuwan Inlet south of Machinato airfield. On the division left, the 105th Infantry regrouped after the battles of the Pinnacles, pushed to the southern edge of Nakama on 26 April, organized a line, and held there until relieved on 1 May. In the division center the 2d Battalion, 106th Infantry, engaged in hard fighting on 27-28 April around Yafusu in an effort to straighten the line. But the division, overextended and all but exhausted, made no major offensive effort during the last days of April.2
Stalemate on the West Coast
On 30 April the 1st Marines of the 1st Marine Division relieved the 165th Infantry on the west coast, and the next day the 5th Marines of the same division completed the relief of that part of the line held by the 105th and 106th Infantry. Maj. Gen. Pedro A. del Valle, commanding general of the 1st Marine Division, which had been attached to XXIV Army Corps, assumed responsibility for the former 27th Division zone of action at 1400, 1 May.3
The enemy also reinforced his line in this area. On 26 April General Ushijima ordered the 44th Independent Mixed Brigade to take a position west of Shuri and north of Naha at the Asa River, behind the remnants of the 62d Division. Thus the 62d Division would be supported if a break-through threatened on the west coast.
Asa River BattleThe initial objective of the 1st Marine Division was the north bank of the Asa River. Immediately in front of the division, between it and the Asa River, was a series of hills and ridges. On this high ground the Japanese had prepared defensive positions in depth which were to occupy the Marines well into May. On 30 April, and again on 1 May, while the 5th Marines were moving into the line, the 1st Marines tried to push south, but on each day it was repulsed with considerable loss of life; on 1 May one company alone suffered twenty-four casualties.
The 2d of May was wet and chilly, but the marines, two assault regiments abreast, pressed the attack. On the left, next to the 77th Division, the 5th Marines met stubborn resistance. Again, for the third day, the 1st Marines met trouble trying to cross the draw south of Nakanishi village to reach the Jichaku ridge mass. Marines of Company B, one at a time, attempted to cross over a blown bridge. Three of the first five men were hit in the attempt. One man negotiated the top of the south bank. The next three men to follow him were shot in the head. After this bloody reception the company hugged the southern bank of the draw until 1300, when it was ordered to withdraw. In the confusion of the withdrawal, a large number of men were left behind. Eighteen men, five of them wounded, who had not known of the withdrawal order were brought back after dark.
Advance Along the CoastFarther to the west along the coast, Company F moved forward under fire along Machinato airstrip and dug in after dark by the light of flares. On the regimental left (east), Companies L and K made limited advances but developed gaps of as much as 200 yards between platoons. Weapons jammed with mud, and the situation quickly became precarious. At 1800 the men began to withdraw behind a white phosphorus grenade screen. That night Company K was in an unenviable position, with an exposed left flank. Practically all its weapons were unusable because of mud in the mechanisms. The perimeter defense had only, in addition to grenades, two rifles and one BAR that would work. In repelling a counterattack which struck it that night at 0200, Company K used rifles as clubs. During the day and night Company K suffered forty-two casualties. By 2 May the 1st Marine Division had lost 54 men killed, 233 wounded, and 11 missing--total casualties of 298.4
Map No. 34: Stalemate at Kochi
The fighting on 3 May followed closely the pattern of the previous days. The marines continued to advance along the coastal flats. However, it was soon realized that if the advance continued the troops would be flanked by automatic and mortar fire from the finger ridges to the east. It became clear that enemy positions in the high ground eastward from the coast would have to be destroyed before any general advance was possible. Accordingly, after 3 May, the direction and plan of attack pivoted to the southeast toward this commanding ground.5
On the eastern side of the Corps line, the 7th Division, although not realizing this immediately, faced a new enemy combat unit. On 23 April the 22d Regiment of the 24th Division took over the eastern part of the Shuri defense zone. At last the 62d Division, which for three weeks had borne the brunt of the American attack, was to have help. It was time, for the 62d was but a remnant of its former self. The boundary between the 24th Division and the 62d Division, which now was assembled in the western half of the line, ran generally from Shuri Castle north to the front lines west of Kochi and Tanabaru. The Ginowan Shuri road (Route 5) marked roughly the boundary between the two major units of the Japanese 32d Army. The change in command along the front was effective at 1100, 23 April. The order directing the new deployment of 24th Division troops stated that "in particular, liaison forces with the 62d Division near Kochi, must be strongly protected." The front lines of the 22d Regiment extended from the east coast northwestward through the villages of Gaja, Kuhazu, Onaga, and Kochi. The rest of the 24th Division was in reserve northeast of Shuri or in the Oroku area. The 22d Regiment, fresh and never before in combat except for small groups that had participated in the abortive counterattack of 13 April, faced the 7th Division at Kochi and eastward to the sea.6
The 7th Division at Kochi Ridge
Directly south of Hill 178, two miles away, stood dominant Conical Hill, guarding the coastal passage. Hill 178 and Conical sent long ridges downward toward each other which terminated, 800 yards short of meeting, in a low, flat area, an inward bulge of the coastal flat which reached at this point as far as
KOCHI AREA, where the 96th and 77th Divisions attacked vital Japanese positions. Attempting to reach Kochi through Onaga, south of Skyline Ridge, these tanks (below) were lost 29 April when the American lead tank blocked the road forward.
Onaga. A half mile west of Onaga was the village of Kochi. Between these two villages was high ground, the northern part of which was known as Horseshoe Ridge, and the 500-yard-long southern arm as Kochi Ridge. Beyond Kochi Ridge the ground rose in ever higher broken ridges and hills southwestwardly toward Shuri.7 (See Map No. 34.)
To the southwest of Kochi Ridge was Zebra Hill, a long, high stretch of ground which climbed toward the still higher ground north of Shuri. A deep road cut separated the lower extremities of Kochi Ridge and Zebra. Opposite the road cut on the east, the Onaga side, were How and Item Hills, both of them flanking this important area. On the other side (west) of Kochi Ridge, and paralleling it, was Hill 138. This high ground surrounding Kochi Ridge on three sides was held by the Japanese. From these points the enemy had observation of the Kochi area, and from the same circle of high ground mortars and machine guns could concentrate their fire on Kochi Ridge, which was also a well-organized strong point.
The 17th Infantry Attacks Kochi RidgeOn 25 April the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry, against surprisingly little resistance, advanced 600 yards across the flat ground on the 7th Division right (west) to occupy the slope of Horseshoe Ridge. The next day the 1st Battalion tried to advance along the west side of Kochi Ridge, and the 2d Battalion along the east side. As soon as this effort began, the reverse-slope fighting technique of the Japanese came into play, and prearranged mortar and machine-gun fire from surrounding heights swept over the area. The attack was stopped and all the troops fell back to their former positions except one platoon of Company G that dug in on the east side of the ridge for a precarious foothold. Neither battalion had observation of the other's movements; neither could gain possession of the crest of the ridge; each fought essentially an isolated action on its own side of the ridge. By the evening of 26 April, it was evident that the 17th Infantry had come up solidly against the Japanese manning the Kochi sector of the line. The next day, a rainy, muddy day, efforts to establish physical contact between the 1st and 2d Battalions failed. There was no gain but there were many casualties.
Before dawn of 28 April the 3d Battalion, 17th Infantry, relieved the 1st Battalion on the west side of Kochi Ridge and took up the attack under the command of Lt. Col. Lee Wallace. Colonel Wallace hoped to move men around Kochi Ridge into the cut between the ridge and Zebra, and then to take the
Kochi Ridge defenses in the rear and flank. He succeeded in getting Company K through Kochi to the cut, while Company L moved southward along the west slope. But once at the cut the company received a blast of machine-gun fire that killed four and wounded eight. Thereafter Company K kept under cover until it could work its way back. In the meantime Company L was unable to reach the crest.
The attack remained stalled on 29 April. Whenever any serious movement threatened, the Japanese concentrated the fire of from twelve to fourteen mortars on the endangered spot and denied it to the attackers. To add to the misfortunes of the men, twelve rounds of friendly 105-mm. artillery shells fell short, landing in the midst of Company G on the east side of Kochi Ridge. Five men were killed and eighteen wounded in one platoon, and an adjacent platoon was left with only twelve men. In addition to the killed and wounded, there were eighteen cases of concussion and shock. Company G now had only twenty-seven men left in the rifle platoons.
On the morning of 30 April, Company E took the place in the line formerly held by Company G and started forward. Suddenly, at 0845, it was hit by cross fire from about eight machine guns located on both flanks and to the front. This was followed by a mortar concentration. Losses were heavy. Twenty men were killed, and in one squad only two men were left. The wounded were helpless. Smoke placed over the men was blown away quickly by a brisk wind and offered almost no protection; even those not wounded were unable to withdraw, and relief parties could not come forward. Medical supplies were finally dropped by a cub plane from a height of fifty feet, in the face of small-arms fire. After dark most of the wounded were brought back.
Farther down the slope toward Onaga, Company I was struck by a Japanese counterattack of about 25 men at 1100, and 5 men were killed and 11 wounded. On the same day a carrier-based Corsair strafed behind the lines of the 17th Infantry, killing 6 and wounding 19 in a tragic blunder. Unquestionably, 30 April was a bad day for the 17th Infantry Regiment. Since 26 April the regiment had suffered more than 60 casualties from friendly fire.
While the 17th Infantry was trying vainly to find some way of taking Kochi Ridge, the 32d Infantry to its east was delayed in opening an attack by lack of success around Kochi. On 28 April an attack on the ridge southwest of Kuhazu put armored flame throwers into the village, but the infantry was stopped by heavy mortar concentrations. On the 29th, when tanks tried to reach Onaga from the coast, one of them hit a mine on a narrow road among the
Map No. 35: Maeda Escarpment
rice paddies near Unaha and was knocked out, blocking the road. Three of the remaining four tanks turned over or threw their tracks and were lost in trying to turn around. The 32d Infantry was now trying to help the situation at Kochi by putting pressure on enemy positions to the southeast.
In a predawn attack on 30 April the 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry, successfully placed Company C on "Chimney Crag" and Company A in the "Roulette Wheel" on the ridge southwest of Kuhazu. Japanese in large numbers infiltrated behind the lines of these companies during the night and disrupted the relief of the 32d by the 184th, the completion of which was to take place before dawn of 1 May but was not accomplished until 1730 in the afternoon. In fighting its way back after being relieved in the line, the 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry, lost eleven men killed and twenty-two wounded.
That night, 1-2 May, a penetration was made by Company L, 184th Infantry, to Gaja Ridge just in front of Conical Hill. The advantage gained by this surprise move was lost at the end of the day when the men were withdrawn by company officers in direct violation of orders to hold the ground despite heavy casualties.
The Kochi Fight ContinuesThe fight at Kochi Ridge continued during the early days of May, the 17th Infantry making only negligible gains. On 1 May an armored bulldozer prepared an approach from the west to the top of Kochi Ridge between Knobs 1 and 2. An armored flame thrower moved up the approach and twice burned the area, but it was unable to reach the enemy strong points on the east side just over the crest. Onaga was mopped up during the day, but otherwise the infantry undertook no movement and remained in their dug-in positions, engaging in intermittent grenade duels.
At dawn of 2 May the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry, relieved the 2d Battalion on the east side of Kochi Ridge. It was a bad day, dark with mist and rain. Once again the flame thrower climbed to the saddle between Knobs 1 and 2 and spurted flame at enemy positions. Troops of the 1st Battalion then tried to take Knob 1 from the east side but failed, largely because of the heavy mortar fire which fell on them. During the night sniper positions were dug through the ridge by both battalions to give observation of areas that were hidden from view.
On 3 May, after a dawn artillery preparation, the 1st Battalion on the east and the 3d Battalion on the west side moved forward for a coordinated attack, which included a movement by Company C against How Hill on the east flank of Kochi Ridge. The entire effort came to nothing as the enemy soon halted all
forward movement by a mass of artillery and mortar fire, together with intense machine-gun and rifle fire. Grenades also were brought into play.
General Hodge, XXIV Corps commander, was disturbed by the continued failure of the 7th Division to make gains at Kochi Ridge. This failure was largely caused by the fact that limited knowledge of the mutually supporting Japanese positions hindered the launching of a coordinated divisional attack. Here, as in so many other sectors on Okinawa, the thorough integration of the Japanese defenses across the entire front brought combined fire power on one American regimental sector so great that the troops were denied the freedom of movement necessary to effective attack.8
The eastern end of the Urasoe-Mura Escarpment dominated the 96th Division front in the center of the line. It loomed directly ahead on the division right--a huge, forbidding, sheer cliff. The part of the escarpment lying within the 96th Division zone was called by the division the "Maeda Escarpment" after the village of Maeda, situated just over the crest on the reverse (south) slope. It was also called "Hacksaw Ridge" and the "Big Escarpment." The hill mass centering on the eastern end of the Urasoe-Mura Escarpment was often called Hill 196 in the official reports.9 (See Map No. 35.)
The Maeda Escarpment Barrier
At its eastern end the escarpment terminates abruptly in a gigantic sentinel like monolith, called "Needle Rock." To the left (east) of Needle Rock a 200 yard saddle dips toward Hill 150, and 400 yards east of Hill 150 across another saddle is Hill 152, which marks the corner where the high ground of the Urasoe-Mura Escarpment formation turns at right angles to the southwest. The Ginowan-Shuri road (Route 5) bends around the corner of Hill 152 and then heads southwest toward Shuri, following the slope of the high ground on the west.
On 25 April the 96th Division was deployed with the 383d Regiment on the left, extending from the vicinity of Kochi to Hill 150; on the division right (west) the 381st Regiment stood in front of the escarpment. All of 25 April was spent by the 96th Division in studying this formidable terrain and in pounding known or suspected enemy positions in it. Thirty-six artillery concentrations,
comprising 1,616 rounds, were fired in the zone of the 381st Infantry alone. Air strikes burned the escarpment with napalm bombs.
The Japanese Rampart HoldsOn 26 April the attack against the Maeda Escarpment was launched. The infantry had little trouble in moving up the forward face, but when Company G of the 381st Infantry clambered to the top of the escarpment it suffered eighteen casualties in a matter of minutes. The Japanese on the Maeda Escarpment used to perfection their technique of reverse-slope defense. It was not difficult to occupy the forward slope of the ground, but the crest and the reverse slope were forbidden land. There the battle was to be fought.
Company F at Needle Rock tried to place men on the point of the escarpment by means of a human ladder, but the first three men to reach the top were killed at once by machine-gun fire. Just before dark Company E attempted to occupy some small knolls in Maeda, south of the Hill 150 saddle, but once the men were on the ground the knolls were swept by fire from about a dozen machine guns, which immediately killed two men and wounded six. Four hundred rounds of 81-mm. and 4.2-inch smoke shells were used in screening the withdrawal of the company in the gathering dusk.
Farther to the east there was, for a time, promise of considerable success. Elements of the 383d Regiment reached the crests of Hills 150 and 152 to find the ground below alive with Japanese. They estimated that they could see 600 of the enemy, who were unaccountably exposed. Machine gunners, BAR men, and individual riflemen had a field day. One BAR man was reported to have killed thirty Japanese. Tanks and armored flame throwers were able to move into the edge of Maeda and wreak havoc. Scores of the enemy were driven from caves by flame and then shot down as they fled.
This action on the crest and revere slopes of Hills 150 and 152, and the penetration of the armor to Maeda on 26 April, had immediate and violent repercussions at 32d Army headquarters. At 1600 in the afternoon General Ushijima issued a terse order:
The enemy with troops following tanks has been advancing into the southern and eastern sectors of Maeda since about 1300. The 62d Division will dispatch local units . . . attack the enemy advancing in the Maeda sector and expect to repulse him decisively.10
At the same time, adjacent 24th Division units were ordered to cooperate in this effort regardless of division boundary. Two hours later the Japanese commanding
general issued another order: "The army will crush the enemy which has broken through near Maeda. The 24th Division will put its main strength northeast of Shuri this evening." 11 In these orders can be seen the underlying reason why in the ensuing four days the 96th Division gained only yards. The Japanese meant to hold at Maeda and they did.
Reverse Slope ClassicOn the left of the escarpment, at the corner where the high ground turns sharply southwest, the 1st Battalion, 381st Infantry, and elements of the 383d Infantry on 27 April worked their way through the saddle between Hills 150 and 152, supported by tanks of the 763d Tank Battalion and armored flame throwers of the 713th. In a notable example of tank-infantry action they engaged in hours of carnage. The tanks and flame throwers burned and blasted enemy positions, flushing out of their underground positions hundreds of Japanese who were then cut down by the infantry or by the machine guns of the tanks. Tanks and infantry penetrated to the south edge of Maeda, but here the infantry was stopped by enemy fire. On top of the escarpment an all-out effort was made to reduce the large underground pillbox that separated Companies F and G, but the attempt failed.12 many Japanese were killed southeast of the escarpment, no ground was won permanently this day except for very slight advances in Maeda near Hills 150 and 152.
On 28 April Company K of the 381st Infantry, in an effort to weaken resistance at the escarpment, moved through the 27th Division zone to the west and attacked southeast through Nakama toward the "Apartment House." This was a large concrete school building, used as barracks, which was a center of Japanese strength; it was situated south of the escarpment between the villages of Nakama and Maeda. In a half hour of hand-to-hand fighting, Company K was repulsed with heavy losses, and survivors withdrew under smoke. Company K was now down to twenty-four electives. Because both were greatly reduced in numbers, Companies K and I, 381st Infantry, were combined into one company which had a consolidated strength of only 70 men, 4 machine gunners from the heavy weapons company, and one artillery observer.13
During the early morning of 29 April, Japanese counterattacks were common across the entire 96th Division front. At 0515 the 2d Battalion, 383d Infantry, was attacked heavily by enemy armed with grenades and spears. One platoon of
MAEDA ESCARPMENT viewed from east end of Kakazu Ridge.
TANK-INFANTRY ATTACKS marked the battle for the escarpment. An armored flame thrower of the 713th Tank Battalion, protected by infantry against enemy satchel-charge attacks, sprays flame over a knob on the crest of the escarpment.
MAEDA ESCARPMENT STRONG POINTS included the Apartment House and a cave-tunnel-pillow network. The Apartment House barracks area (above), just east of Nakama, was captured 5 May as the 307th Infantry, 77th Division, cleaned out reverse slope of Maeda Escarpment. Demolitions played a large part in capture of the maze of caves, tunnels, and pillboxes some 200 feet from the east of the escarpment. Great sections of the hilltop were blasted away (below), blocking cave entrances in the escarpment's face.
Company G was reduced from 30 to 9 men in this fight. In repulsing two counterattacks, the 383d Infantry killed approximately 265 Japanese.14 Later in the day tanks and armored flame throwers spearheaded the action, during which they killed more than 200 of the enemy.15
The left (east) flank of the division on 29 April surged ahead to thrust a salient closer to Shuri than any other point of the Corps line. The crest of Hill 138 was seized again by Company L of the 383d Infantry in furious close combat. One machine-gun position on the crest was destroyed in banzai fashion by Pfc. Gabriel Chavez, who rushed it with a grenade in his hand and took five Japanese and himself to death in the grenade explosion. Tanks worked into position near the top of Hill 138 and engaged in duels with enemy 47-mm. antitank guns to the south; for the first time in the month-old Okinawa battle direct fire was placed in Shuri, a little over a mile to the southwest.16
On 29 April the 307th Infantry of the 77th Division took over the Maeda Escarpment part of the line from the 381st Infantry, and the next morning the 306th relieved the 383d Infantry on the 96th Division left. At noon on 30 April, General Bruce, Commanding General of the 77th Division, assumed responsibility for the former 96th Division zone of action on the Corps front. The end of April also witnessed a regrouping among the Japanese units on the line. In response to the urgent orders of the Japanese commander on 26 April when the Maeda sector was threatened, the 32d Regiment of the 24th Division hurried northward to the Maeda sector but apparently did not take over front-line duty until 28 April. It then went into the middle sector between the 22d Regiment of the 24th Division on the east and the badly mauled 62d Division, which was now occupying the western third of the front.
By the time it was relieved, the 381st had been reduced to about 40 percent combat efficiency and had suffered 1,021 casualties, 536 of them in the Maeda Escarpment fighting of the past four days. Some platoons were down to five or six men.17 Many of the men were so exhausted that they did not have the energy to carry their equipment down the slope to the road below where trucks were waiting to take them to the rear.
Demolition BattleWhen the 307th Infantry moved into the line on 29 April, it found itself on the flat top of an escarpment which at its eastern end at the Needle Rock was not more than two feet wide. From this point westward the escarpment crest gradually widened until it was from 200 to 150 feet across. The reverse slope dropped abruptly, but its height was not as great as that of the northern face. It was on this reverse (southern) slope of the escarpment that the Japanese had their intricate network of caves and tunnels connecting with pillboxes on top of the escarpment. The nature of this underground fortress is illustrated by an incident of 2 May. On that day a tank fired six phosphorus shells into a cave and within fifteen minutes observers saw smoke emerging from more than thirty other hidden openings along the slope.18
There were innumerable attacks and counterattacks, grenade duels, satchel-chargings of dugouts and caves, horrifying night encounters, and many little stratagems used by both sides to win advantages in the hand-to-hand demolition battle of the Maeda Escarpment. Air strikes, employing both demolition and napalm bombs, were made almost daily against the escarpment positions. Tanks and armored flame throwers worked against the southeastern slope. Yet the top of the escarpment, in the words of the men who fought there, was "all hell rolled into one." It took Lt. Col. Gerald D. Cooney's 1st Battalion, 307th Infantry, on the left side of the line, five days to gain control of Needle Rock. Men of the battalion were driven from Needle Rock and the top of the escarpment nine times before they held them for good.
During the night of 30 April-1 May, the 1st Battalion, 307th, brought up to the escarpment four 50-foot ladders and five cargo nets, the latter borrowed from the Navy. On 1 May Company A troops mounted the ladders at the eastern end of the escarpment, but every man who stood up was killed or wounded. Farther to the west, however, Company B, using the cargo nets, had two platoons on the edge of the escarpment by nightfall. About midnight Japanese counterattacked in this area and drove the men off the escarpment.
On the division right the 3d Battalion, 307th Infantry, on 1 May moved through the 27th Division zone behind the escarpment to Nakama village, from where it attacked eastward toward the Apartment House barracks area. During this action a Japanese shell exploded an ammunition dump in Nakama, killing
Map No. 36: Attack on SHuri Defenses
five men and disrupting ammunition supply for hours. On 2 May, Companies A and B placed men hack on the edge of the escarpment but made no real gain. Machine-gun fire was so intense that one man was decapitated. During 3 May the 1st Battalion, 307th Infantry, fought a desperate grenade battle to win the top of part of the escarpment. The Japanese showered the top with grenades and knee mortars from the reverse slope and with 81-mm. mortar fire from a distance. Men came back across the narrow top of the escarpment to the north side, swearing and crying, saying they would not go back into the fight. "Yet," observed one platoon leader, "in five minutes' time those men would go back there tossing grenades as fast as they could pull the pins."19
Maeda Escarpment Bastion FallsThe fighting was especially fierce on top the escarpment on 4 May. Colonel Cooney's 1st Battalion successfully executed a complicated demolition assault on the big cave-tunnel-pillbox network about 200 feet west of the eastern end of the escarpment. The battalion then held the newly won ground against repeated counterattacks from the southern side. It was estimated that 600 enemy were killed by the 307th Infantry in the fighting at the escarpment on 4 May. Slowly, on 5 May, the reverse slope was taken and caves blasted and closed. On the night of 5-6 May the Japanese staged several counterattacks in an effort to win back the escarpment. An especially severe attack struck the 3d Battalion, 307th Infantry, on the regimental right. In repelling it the 3d Battalion killed 250 enemy troops, largely in hand-to-hand fighting. During 6 May all battalions of the 307th Infantry advanced southward to the slopes of Hill 187. The battle of the escarpment was over.
One of the most remarkable incidents of the battle for the Maeda Escarpment was the performance of Pfc. Desmond T. Doss, a medical aid man attached to Company B, 307th Infantry. Doss was a Seventh Day Adventist and would not touch a gun, but time after time he remained on top of the escarpment after the others had been driven off, lowering the wounded over the side in a rope litter. He went repeatedly to within a few yards of caves to administer first aid to men who had been cut down trying to assault the positions, and then carried these men to safety under the very guns of the enemy. For his valor Doss later received the Congressional Medal of Honor.20
The losses in the escarpment battle had been heavy. In the 1st Battalion, 307th Infantry, no less than eight company commanders were wounded in one
36-hour period. It had gone up on the escarpment on 29 April with a strength of about 800 men; it came down on 7 May with 324. The 77th Division estimated that it had killed upwards of 3,000 Japanese in the 7-day battle for the escarpment.21
While at the Maeda Escarpment and in a few other sectors the American attack continued through the first week of May, yet, in general, this attack was brought to an unexpected pause after 3 May. (See Map No. 36.) On 4 May the enemy launched a surprise counteroffensive by which he hoped to wrest back from the invaders all that they had so painfully gained. For a time most American troops had all they could do to hold their own.
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (10) * Next Chapter (12)
1. XXIV Corps CofS JnI, 24 Apr 45; Appleman, XXIV Corps History, p. 207.
2. Love, 27th Div History, Pt. IX.
3. Capt James R. Stockman, USMC, The First Marine Division on Okinawa, published by Historical Division, Hq USMC, 1946 (hereafter cited as Stockman, 1st Mar Div History); 27th Div Actn Rpt, p. 49.
4. XXIV Corps G-3 Periodic Rpt, 3 May 45; Stockman, 1st Mar Div History.
5. 1st Mar Div Special Actn Rpt, Nansei Shoto,10 Jul 45, Ch. VII: Assault Narrative Phase III, p. 2; XXIV Corps G3 Periodic Rpt, 3 May 45.
6. Tenth Army PW Interrog Summary No. 3, 2 Aug 45: 24th Division; Transl No. 246, 8 Jul 45; 32d Army Ord No. 170, 22 Apr 45; Transl No. 244, 7 Jul 45; 32d Army Ord No. 172, 23 Apr 45; 7th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt Nos. 26-28 and 34, 26-28 Apr and 4 May 45, especially PW Interrog Rpt No. 14 in G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 28, and Transl No. 23 in G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 27.
7. The account of operations of the 7th Division in the Kochi sector is taken from Gugeler, 7th Div History, Ch. 5.
8. Appleman, XXIV Corps History, pp. 274-75.
9. The account of operations of the 96th Division at Maeda Escarpment is, unless otherwise noted, taken from Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div History, Pt. 111.
10. Tenth Army Transl No. 272, 13 Jul 45: 32d Army Ord No. 174, 26 Apr 45.
11. Tenth Army Transl No. 273, 13 Jul 45: 32d Army Ord No. 175, 26 Apr 45.
12. See also 713th Tk Bn Actn Rpt, Ch. I, pp. 6-7; 96th Div Actn Rpt, Ch. VII, pp. 25-26.
13. See also 96th Div Actn Rpt, Ch. VII, pp. 26-27.
14. Ibid., p. 27.
15. See also 713th Tk Bn Actn Rpt, Ch. I, p. 8.
16. 96th Div Actn Rpt, Ch. VII, p. 27.
17. 381st Inf Actn Rpt, pp. 36-37.
18. The account of operations of the 77th Division at Maeda Escarpment is based on the following: Leach, 77th Div History, Vol. II; 77th Div Actn Rpt Okinawa, pp. 35-43; Appleman, XXIV Corps History, pp. 259-64.
19. Leach, 77th Div Hist, Vol. II, p. 13.
20. WD GO 97, 1 Nov 45.
21. Appleman, XXIV Corps History, p. 264; 77th Div Actn Rpt, p. 43.