Although by 20 May the American troops were still short of the line set by Tenth Army as the point of departure for a general offensive, there was no time to spare in launching this offensive. Admiral Turner was somewhat impatient because of the heavy naval losses, particularly in picket ships. On 4 May Brig. Gen. Elwyn Post, Tenth Army Chief of Staff, had declared that the situation was serious and that immediate action was imperative.1 After the failure of the Japanese offensive, General Buckner felt that the moment was opportune because the enemy had used almost all his fresh reserves in the counterattack; both his divisions were in the front lines and the 4th Independent Mixed Brigade also had been partly committed.2 Accordingly, General Buckner on 9 May ordered a coordinated Tenth Army attack for the 11th.
The May Attack on the Shuri Defenses
With both corps now on the line, Tenth Army on 7 May assumed direct control of operations on the southern front for the first time. By 11 May the III Amphibious Corps in the north (consisting of the 6th Marine Division and Corps troops) had been relieved by the 27th Division and had moved into position on the right of the southern front. The Corps assumed control again of the 1st Marine Division, which had been attached to XXIV Corps since the latter part of April. The XXIV Corps' zone of action now extended eastward from the 1st Marine Division boundary to Yonabaru. From west to east, the 6th Marine Division, the 1st Marine Division, the 77th, and the 96th occupied successive positions on the line. The 7th Division was in XXIV Corps reserve, enjoying a period of rest and rehabilitation.
The plan of attack called for Tenth Army to renew the assault on the Shuri defenses with its two corps abreast, III Amphibious Corps on the right, XXIV Corps on the left. The initial scheme of maneuver was an envelopment of Shuri by the Marine divisions on the west and the Army divisions on the east, while a
strong holding attack was maintained in the center.3 The Tenth Army staff believed that the Japanese positions were weaker on the right and that the fresh Marine divisions had a chance for a quick break-through on that flank. Moreover, the terrain was more favorable along the western coast. The wide flanking maneuver around Shuri that later developed was not projected in the original plans. General Buckner explained on 10 May that there would be nothing spectacular. He added:
It will be a continuation of the type of attack we have been employing to date. Where we cannot take strong points we will pinch them off and leave them for the reserves to reduce. We have ample firepower and we also have enough fresh troops so that we can always have one division resting.4
The initial order for the attack provided for a 30-minute general preparation by the artillery just before the ground attack. This provision was revoked two days later in favor of pinpointing of targets. The new order stated that "the maximum practicable number of known enemy guns and strong points will be destroyed or neutralized" prior to the infantry assault. This change resulted, in all probability, from recognition of the failure of the mass preparation for the attack of 19 April. The elaborate system of Japanese underground positions across the entire front made it necessary to use precision fire, hitting each cave entrance.5
In preparation for a renewed American attack the Japanese bolstered their Shuri defenses. Ready at last to commit almost all his reserves to action, General Ushijima ordered that "the Army will immediately move its main strength into the Shuri area." He established a central defense zone with his front lines running from a point north of Asato on the west coast, through Wana and the high ground near Ishimmi, to the east coast just north of Conical Hill. Aware of the entrance of the 6th Marine Division on the west, he shifted his forces
Map No. 40: Tenth Army Advance
for an iron defense on both his flanks. General Ushijima ordered roads and bridges to be destroyed east of Naha. His continued fear of an attack behind Japanese lines by American parachute troops, however, restrained him from bringing all available forces up to the front.6
The attack launched on 11 May, although coordinated initially along the entire front, soon broke down into a series of intense battles for particular points with the western, central, and eastern sectors presenting relatively distinct situations. At many places the American efforts were merely an intensification of assaults that had begun on previous days. For ten days of continuous fighting, from Sugar Loaf on the west coast to Conical Hill on the east, the Japanese, except for local and relatively minor retreats, held tenaciously to their long-prepared positions. Finally, on 21 May, after some of the bitterest action of the battle of Okinawa, the American forces were to seize the eastern slope of Conical Hill, close to the east coast, and thereby to make an opening in the enemy lines which permitted an attempt at envelopment.
On 8 May the 22d Marines, 6th Marine Division, relieved the 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, on the bluffs north of the Asa River. The enemy held positions south of the Asa, which was too deep to ford at the mouth and which had a bottom too soft to support any type of vehicle. The enemy-held ground rose gently to the horizon 2,000 yards away. To the west barren coral ridges formed a barrier to the sea; to the south a long clay ridge dominated the road to Naha; to the southeast a group of low grassy hills, set close together, commanded the ground between the Asa River basin and the Asato River corridor. On the east were the rough folds of Dakeshi Ridge, Wana Ridge, and Wana Draw, positions toward which the 1st Marine Division was driving.7 (See Map No. 40.)
The Attack in the West
Maj. Gen. Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr., commander of the 6th Marine Division, had warned his troops that the battle in southern Okinawa would be different from anything they had previously encountered in the Pacific. In a training order read twice by every platoon leader to his men, he described the enemy's intelligent
use of artillery, his ample supplies, his defensive line "which cannot be breached by simple frontal attack without heavy losses," and his willingness to counterattack by every available means. General Shepherd urged his commanders and troops to take advantage of cover and camouflage, to use maneuver in outflanking the Japanese rather than to try to "outslug" them, and to keep driving. "Your enemy can't think as fast as you can and he is no match for a determined aggressive Marine who has confidence in himself and his weapon."8
6th Marine Division Advances in the WestThe 22d Marines began crossing the Asa estuary in the early hours of 10 May over a footbridge completed during the night. An enemy suicide squad destroyed the bridge with satchel charges after the first three companies had crossed, but other marines reached the south bank by wading. During the morning the troops advanced into the town of Asa against steadily increasing resistance. Movement west of the town was difficult in the confusion caused by heavy fog and smoke. Direct fire from self-propelled 105-mm. howitzers and LVT's supported the attack. Despite heavy enemy artillery fire and strong local counterattacks on the infantry, the 22d Marines had established by dark a "beachhead" 350 yards deep and almost a mile wide. (See Map No. 39.)
The Drive Along the CoastDuring the night of 10-11 May the 6th Marine Division engineers, working under fire, laid across the Asa a Bailey bridge which enabled tanks and other heavy weapons to support the attack. The marines advanced under almost continual artillery fire delivered from the western face of Shuri Heights, where the enemy had excellent observation of the coastal area. Japanese infantry opposition was well coordinated with this fire. A company commander of the 1st Battalion, 22d Marines, led a squad up to the summit of a strongly defended hill 800 yards south of Asa, but all his troops were killed or wounded in the assault except the flame-thrower man. A concentration from the main battery of a fire support ship broke loose great blocks of coral from the top of the hill and rolled them down the face, but without much damage to Japanese positions. An infantry charge by Company C, closely supported by tanks, finally won the hill. Although Company C was now reduced to eighty men, the marines clung to the hill in the face of counterattacks.
On the regimental right (west) the 3d Battalion seized a cliff on the coast north of the town of Amike by a tank-infantry-flame-thrower assault late in
WEST FLANK ZONE, where the 22d Marines, 6th Division, crossed Asa River toward Naha. (Photo taken 5 May 1945).
SUGAR LOAF AND HORSESHOE HILLS, photographed after the battle had moved on into Machisi and almost to Naha. Between Sugar Loaf and the hillock in foreground, where Marine attack centered, 10 knocked-out American armored vehicles can be seen.
the afternoon. This advance placed the Marines on the northern outskirts of Amike overlooking the devastated city of Naha, capital of the Ryukyus. Had this city, the largest in the islands, been the objective of Tenth Army the 6th Marine Division would have held an excellent position from which to capture it. Since Naha was not their objective, however, the marines who reached the north bank of the Asato near its mouth simply consolidated their position during the next two weeks, sending patrols into Naha, while the marines to the east continued to press in on the flank of Shuri.
Progress of the other troops of the 22d Marines during 12 and 13 May was slow. The 1st and 2d Battalions were now moving into the rough ground a mile east of Amike-ground which the Japanese had been ordered to hold as a key point in the defense of Shuri. This area was occupied by the 15th Independent Mixed Regiment, 44th Independent Mixed Brigade, supported by the 7th Independent Antitank Battalion, a Navy mortar company, and an independent battalion of approximately 700 men formed from a Sea Raiding Base Battalion. These forces were well supplied with light mortars; machine guns, and light arms. As the battle developed, reinforcements streamed in from the rest of the 44th Brigade.9
Closing In on Sugar Loaf, 12-13 MayThe first encounter of the Marines with the Japanese guarding Sugar Loaf came on 12 May, almost inadvertently. Company G, 22d Marines, advanced southeast with eleven tanks toward the Asato River. Heading directly toward Sugar Loaf, which was known to be a strong point, the infantry and tanks met increasing rifle fire but pushed ahead. When the Marines reached Sugar Loaf, a number of Japanese soldiers fled from their positions. It was not clear whether this action was a ruse or resulted from panic at the sudden arrival of the Americans. Four men on the crest of Sugar Loaf and the company commander frantically radioed battalion for reinforcements. Because of his many casualties, the commander was ordered to withdraw. As the Americans withdrew, the enemy opened up with heavy fire. Three tanks were quickly knocked out. Slowly the troops pulled back, suffering more casualties in the process. By evening Company G's total strength was down to seventy-five.
The 6th Marine Division now planned an attack in force on the Sugar Loaf area. The hills there were so small that they did not show up on the
standard military map with its 10-meter contour interval. Sugar Loaf and the other hills supporting it were formed in such a way, however, as to offer exceptionally advantageous positions to the enemy. The crest, running generally east-west, curved back slightly at each end, affording the Japanese weapons on the reverse slope excellent protection from American flanking fire as well as from frontal attack. Supporting Sugar Loaf on its right rear was Crescent Hill, also known as Half Moon Hill; on its left rear was the Horseshoe, a long curved ridge harboring many mortar positions. These three hills supported one another, and any attack on Sugar Loaf would bring fire from the others. The Japanese here had excellent fields of fire to the northwest, obstructed only slightly by several tiny humps of ground which had their own reverse-slope defenses. Japanese on Shuri Heights commanded most of the ground.10
On the morning of 13 May the 3d Battalion, 29th Marines, entered the battle east of the 22d Marines. The day was spent in slow costly moves in an effort to seize the high ground overlooking the upper reaches of the Asato. The Marines made advances of several hundred yards on the division left, but resistance steadily increased. By the evening of 13 May the 6th Marine Division had committed the 29th Regiment for a renewed attack. Supporting aircraft made many sorties during 13 May against artillery positions, buildings, and storage areas, using rockets and hundreds of 100- and 500-Pound bombs. One battleship, four cruisers, and three destroyers also supported the attack. This heavy fire power was available to the ground troops throughout the attacks.
The enemy's skillful use of his remaining artillery greatly handicapped the Marine advance from the Asa to the Asato. Artillery of the 44th Brigade consisted of eight 100-mm. howitzers and four mountain guns, and these were supplemented from time to time by artillery and heavy mortars of adjacent units. Having excellent observation, the Japanese used their weapons singly or in pairs with great precision against marines and tanks. On one occasion a shell landed squarely amid several men at an observation point; the commander of the 1st Battalion, 22d Marines, 3 radio men, and 2 tank officers were killed, and 3 company commanders were wounded.
"Banzai Attack" on Sugar Loaf, 14-15 MayThe plan for 14 May called for the 2d Battalion, 22d Marines, commanded by Lt. Col. Horatio C. Woodhouse, to seize high ground west and north of
Map No. 41: Sugar Loaf Hill
Map No. 42: Sugar Loaf Hill
Sugar Loaf, and from this ground to launch an assault against Sugar Loaf. (See Map No. 41.) The marines were able to seize the forward slopes of the protecting hills north of Sugar Loaf, but intense fire met them whenever they tried to move around or over these hills. Of fifty men who made an attempt to advance, only ten returned, and most of the morning was spent in evacuating casualties on amtracks. Nevertheless, the marines launched a successful attack on Queen Hill which protected Sugar Loaf to the north. The first attack on Sugar Loaf stalled under heavy fire. One platoon, consolidated from the remnants of two platoons, made another attempt at dusk. By 2000 the platoon leader was dead and most of the platoon had been killed or wounded as a result of intense mortar fire, but the survivors clung to the slope. The executive officer of the 2d Battalion then rallied the available members of Company G, 22d Marines, numbering twenty, and twenty-six marines from supply elements for an attempt to reinforce the survivors. He and his men moved across the little valley and advanced up the slopes of Sugar Loaf. About forty feet up the hill they set up two machine guns with fire teams to support each. Twenty replacements arrived from the shore party with two officers who had never seen combat. Grenades and knee mortar shells were falling among the troops so heavily that the executive officer moved his force to the crest of the hill. "The only way," he declared, "we can take the top of this hill is to make a Jap banzai charge ourselves."
The small Marine force on Sugar Loaf was now so close to the reverse slope that the enemy could not effectively throw grenades, but the mortar shelling increased. The executive officer, crouching in his foxhole, was killed instantly when a fragment hit him in the neck. One of the platoon leaders on the hill was also killed, and another was wounded as he was bringing up reinforcements. Four or five men grouped together for a moment froze as a shell dropped among them.
Mortar fire and infiltration steadily cut down the small force, until at dawn on 15 May the position on Sugar Loaf was held by only one officer and nineteen exhausted men. Daylight made the situation even more precarious, for now the enemy entrenched on the Horseshoe and on Crescent Hill could put accurate fire on the Americans. Orders arrived from Battalion at 2000 stating that relief was on the way. The marines had already given some ground; the enemy was now massing fire on the crest and Japanese infantrymen were creeping up the hill from their caves on the reverse slope. The relief was exceptionally difficult because of the heavy fire. A platoon of Company D, 29th Marines, attempting to
reach the crest, quickly discovered that an effective relief would require an attack against the Japanese who were trying to retake the crest of the hill. The platoon leader, 1st Lt. George Murphy, ordered an assault with fixed bayonets. The marines reached the top and immediately became involved in a grenade battle with the enemy. Their supply of 350 grenades was soon exhausted. Lieutenant Murphy asked his company commander, Capt. Howard L. Mabie, for permission to withdraw, but Captain Mabie ordered him to hold the hill at all costs. By now the whole forward slope of Sugar Loaf was alive with gray eddies of smoke from mortar blasts, and Murphy ordered a withdrawal on his own initiative. Covering the men as they pulled back down the slope, Murphy was killed by a fragment when he paused to help a wounded marine.
Captain Mabie advanced his company to protect the survivors as they withdrew. He at the same time notified Colonel Woodhouse: "Request permission to withdraw. Irish George Murphy has been hit. Has 11 men left in platoon of original 60."
Two minutes later Colonel Woodhouse replied: "You must hold."
In five minutes the answer came from Mabie: "Platoon has withdrawn. Position was untenable. Could not evacuate wounded. Believe Japs now hold ridge."
By now the Japanese were shelling the area around Sugar Loaf and were attacking the left sector of the 6th Marine Division in at least battalion strength. By midmorning the enemy effort had spread over a 900-yard front. As a result of the bitter fighting for Sugar Loaf and in front of Crescent Hill the entire left sector of the division was weak. The 2d Battalion gave up the ground immediately north of Sugar Loaf, but the enemy did not press through with his advantage. By 1315 his attack had lost momentum. Later in the day the 2d Battalion, 22d Marines, was withdrawn from the action; it had suffered 400 casualties during the preceding three days.
Attacks on Sugar Loaf Continue, 16-17 MayAnother attack, more heavily supported, was made on 16 May, but this was also a failure. (See Map No. 42.) At 0800 five companies on a 1,000-yard front advanced on the Sugar Loaf-Crescent Hill area. Affairs went badly from the beginning. Support planes were half an hour late, delaying the attack, and several tanks lost their way in the approach. Two platoons reached the crest of Sugar Loaf after moving up the steep north slope under mortar, grenade, and automatic weapons fire. Immediately the difficulties of the previous days presented themselves again. The Japanese on the reverse slope could not be
Map No. 43: Sugar Loaf Hill
dislodged by mortar or artillery fire; tanks were unable to creep around the west slope of Sugar Loaf because of antitank fire from several directions; and infantrymen accompanying the tanks were helpless under that fire. The integration of the Japanese position was fully evident; marines on Sugar Loaf could not advance over the crest because of fire from adjacent hills; marines fighting for those hills were held up by fire from Sugar Loaf. Maneuver was impossible. After savage close-in fighting around the crest of Sugar Loaf, the marines withdrew to their positions of the previous night.
The veterans of the 6th Marine Division who fought in this action later called 16 May their bitterest day of fighting during the Okinawa campaign. Two regiments had attacked with all their available strength and had failed. Intelligence officers reported that the Sugar Loaf defenses had been greatly strengthened in the previous twenty-four hours. Marine casualties continued to be heavy.
The plan for 17 May called for a flanking attack on Sugar Loaf from the east. The 1st and 3d Battalions, 29th Marines, were to assault Crescent Hill, then to hold there and support the 2d Battalion, 29th Marines, in an attempt to seize Sugar Loaf. A heavy bombardment by 16-inch guns, howitzers, and planes carrying 1,000-pound bombs preceded the attack. At 0830 elements of the 1st and 3d Battalions attacked the western end of Crescent Hill. Tank-infantry teams supported by artillery destroyed many fortified positions. As this advance uncovered the east side of Sugar Loaf, Company E of the 2d Battalion began a flanking attack around the left of that key terrain feature.
While the attack on Crescent Hill was still going on, elements of the 2d Battalion moved toward Sugar Loaf. The first effort was a wide movement attempting to employ the railroad cut, but this proved unsuccessful because of fire received from the left. An attempt at a close flanking movement failed because of the precipitous slopes. Then, using the northeast slopes of the hill, two platoons of Company E gained the top. On reaching the crest the attacking force was struck by a heavy enemy charge which drove them back off the hilltop. A platoon of Company F also tried to advance along the ridge toward the west, but the leader was killed and the platoon withdrew under heavy mortar fire. Three times more Company E drove to the hilltop. Twice they were thrown back after hand-to-hand fighting. The third time the marines beat off the Japanese, but in doing so they exhausted their ammunition. The company was forced to withdraw, relinquishing the position for which 160 marines had been killed or wounded during the day.
Capture of Sugar Loaf, 18-19 MayThroughout the four seemingly fruitless days of battle for the Sugar Loaf area the tedious work of destroying Japanese positions had been proceeding everywhere in the area. Progress in this work steadily reduced the amount of fire which the Japanese could place on Sugar Loaf. On 18 May a skillful, coordinated attack by Company D, 29th Marines, took advantage of the progress of the past days and succeeded in reducing Sugar Loaf. (See Map No. 43.)
Captain Mabie, commanding Company D, maneuvered his company onto the edge of the low ground north of Sugar Loaf on the morning of the 18th. Artillery and mortars placed a heavy preparation on the objectives. Immediately afterward three tanks moved around the eastern slope of Sugar Loaf and fired into the reverse slope as the Japanese swarmed out of their caves to repel an expected attack. The tanks retired, shooting down two satchel teams that dashed out of caves. Then Captain Mabie opened up with a rocket barrage; trucks carrying rocket racks came over a saddle, loosed their missiles, and raced away to escape artillery fire. Field pieces opened up again as the troops moved forward.
One platoon climbed the vest nose, peeling off fire teams to keep a continuous line from the base of the hill. Another platoon drove directly up the northeastern slope. The two parties reached the summit at about the same time, then moved on to destroy positions on the reverse slope. The position was secure by 0946. A few minutes later Captain Mabie received word to "send up the PX supplies." The rest of Company D soon followed to the crest. By noon the wounded had been evacuated and a line firmly established. Meanwhile Company F seized part of the Horseshoe, thereby decreasing fire from that point and enabling positions to be consolidated on the north slopes of Crescent Hill.
That night 60-mm. mortars of three companies on and behind Sugar Loaf shot up flares every two minutes to illuminate the area. At 2300 the marines heard yelling and jabbering southwest of Sugar Loaf, and enemy mortar fire increased. At 0230 the full force of a Japanese attack hit the marines on Horseshoe. Enemy troops along the road cut west of Sugar Loaf set up a machine gun that could enfilade the Marine lines. Marine machine gunners knocked out this gun, but the Japanese manned others. Two platoons pulled back to the forward (north) slope of Sugar Loaf, and fire teams, using their own reverse-slope tactics, killed thirty-three Japanese as small groups attempted to reoccupy the hill. The counterattack was stopped by dawn.
On the next day, 19 May, the 4th Marines relieved the exhausted 29th Marines. During the 10-day period up to and including the capture of Sugar
Loaf the 6th Marine Division had lost 2,662 killed or wounded; there were also 1,289 cases of combat fatigue. In the 22d and 29th Marines three battalion commanders and eleven company commanders had been killed or wounded. On 20 May the 4th Marines gained more of the Horseshoe but were still unable to reach the crest of Crescent Hill. An attack by an enemy force estimated as of battalion strength was repulsed by the combined fire of six artillery battalions and infantry weapons. Although forced to commit part of its regimental reserve, the 4th Marines broke up the attack and inflicted on the enemy more than 200 casualties.
On 21 May the 4th Marines continued the attack toward the Asato River line. Troops advanced 250 yards into the Horseshoe but were unable to complete the seizure of Crescent Hill because of intense enemy artillery and mortar fire. Much of this fire came from Shuri Heights. The next moves of the 6th Marine Division would depend on the outcome of the fierce struggle for those heights that was still being waged by the 1st Marine Division.
Attack of the 1st Marine Division on Shuri HeightsWhile the 6th Marine Division was advancing slowly toward the Asato River from 11 to 20 May, the 1st Marine Division was making vigorous efforts to seize Shuri Heights. The key Japanese positions in this area were built into Dakeshi Ridge, Wana Ridge, Wana Draw, and the towns of Dakeshi and Wana, all protecting Shuri on the northwest. Although other ground around Shuri was higher and even more precipitous, the term "Shuri Heights" was used by III Amphibious Corps to denote the Japanese positions in this area which afforded a view of almost the entire Marine front. (See Map No. 40.)
The ridges, draws, and ruins of Shuri Heights gave the enemy a perfect combination for his type of defensive warfare. Dakeshi Ridge, which the marines had reached by 10 May, had typical reverse-slope defenses supported by many positions in the town of Dakeshi. The Japanese had exploited this situation as fully as they had capitalized on the relationship of the town and ridge of Kakazu and on that of the town of Maeda and Urasoe-Mura Escarpment. Another ridge, Wana, lay directly south of the town of Dakeshi. West of these positions steep declivities of from 50 to 100 yards protected the Japanese against a flank attack from their left. South of Wana Ridge was Wana Draw, which began as a narrow, rocky defile just north of Shuri and widened out broadly to the west, giving its defenders a full view of the ground below.11
CRESCENT HILL held out until 21 May. Troops of the 4th Marines, 6th Division, crossing open ground to Crescent were under constant observation and fire from Japanese positions on Shuri Heights to the east.
FIGHTING AT SUGAR LOAF cost the Americans many armored vehicles. They are shown wrecked and abandoned in this photo taken from a Japanese gun position after fall of Sugar Loaf 18 May.
These positions in the Dakeshi-Wana area were considered by General Ushijima a vital sector of the Shuri perimeter, which his forces were to "hold without fail." The 62d Division, which by 11 May had seen continuous action for five weeks, still held this area. The entire 12th Independent Infantry Battalion and most of the 21st and 23d Battalions had been destroyed. Only 800 troops remained of the original division. General Ushijima transferred the survivors of the 64th Brigade to the 63d Brigade and reconstructed the latter by assigning to it airfield construction troops, a machine cannon unit, and a suicide boat group, bringing the 63d up to a strength of 6,700. He bolstered the Dakeshi sector with elements of the 44th Brigade, whom he ordered to defend the ridge to the last man.12
Capture of Dakeshi Ridge, 10-13 MayIn the Tenth Army attack of 11 May the part played by the 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, represented an intensification of the attack on Dakeshi Ridge begun on the previous day. The regimental attack of 20 May had been abortive. The enemy had put intense mortar and machine-gun fire on the attacking marines from his positions on and behind the long ridge. By nightfall the 7th Marines had been forced back to its original lines.13
The plan for 11 May was designed to take advantage of the natural formation of Dakeshi Ridge, which was shaped roughly like a horseshoe, with the prongs extending north along the boundaries of the 7th regimental sector. The bowl between the ends of the ridge was impassable because of enemy fire; the routes of attack were along the extensions of the ridge. The 2d Battalion attacked the western end of the ridge on the regimental right, while the 1st Battalion attacked on the left. Both battalions had to move over rough ground.
Using tank-infantry teams, the 1st Battalion slowly pushed up the eastern slope of Dakeshi under heavy enemy fire and reached the ridge line during the afternoon. The 2d Battalion also managed to reach the crest of the ridge in its sector but immediately came under intense fire from Wana Ridge directly to the south. It was impossible to continue the attack; a marine could hardly raise his head without receiving fire. Evacuating casualties was extremely difficult. When one marine was set on fire by a Japanese flame thrower, several of his comrades tried to cross open ground to put out the flames, but each one was
wounded in the attempt. The Americans were forced back a short distance but held most of their gains. The attacking company had lost its commander and every squad leader in the two assault platoons.
The 7th Marines extended its hold on Dakeshi during is May. The fighting in the 1st Battalion sector revolved around a pinnacle on the east end of Dakeshi Ridge. As usual, the enemy occupied the reverse slope in such favorable positions that flank or frontal assault attacks were virtually impossible. There was room enough only for a platoon to maneuver. Well supplied with grenades, four marines tried to occupy the pinnacle by stealth, but the attempt failed. After a 60-mm. mortar concentration, twelve marines assaulted the position only to find the enemy waiting unscathed; they pulled back under a hand-grenade barrage. Then demolitions men put 400 pounds of charges below the position. The blasting was an exciting spectacle to watch but ineffective.
There was still another trick in the Marine repertory, and this one worked. The platoon secured a medium tank and two flame-thrower tanks and directed them through the saddle on the right (west) of the pinnacle to a point where they could operate against the reverse slope. While the tank put 75-mm. shells and machine-gun fire into the enemy positions, the flame thrower sprayed fire over the whole slope. Immediately afterward the infantry assaulted the pinnacle and won it without much difficulty.
By nightfall the 7th Marines held firmly most of Dakeshi Ridge. Shortly before midnight the Japanese made a counterattack against the 2d Battalion on the ridge. This was the third counterattack against this regiment in as many nights. The Americans killed about forty of a force estimated as of company strength, including two Japanese officers with excellent maps of the area. Tank-infantry teams secured the rest of Dakeshi Ridge on the 13th.
A savage fight developed on 13 May when the 2d Battalion tried to move through the town of Dakeshi in preparation for an assault on Wana Ridge. Dakeshi was a network of tunnels, shafts, and caves--ideal for a large defending force. Snipers were among ruins, behind walls, and in cisterns and wells. The forward platoon was caught in the open by mortar and automatic fire from the front and both flanks. The radio broke down. Tanks and artillery supported the men and tried to screen them with smoke, but the Japanese crawled forward through the smoke and grenaded the platoon. One marine, wounded so badly that he begged to be shot, was being helped by two comrades when a grenade exploded among them, killing all three. The platoon pulled back after thirty-two of its original forty-nine had been killed or wounded.
DAKESHI RIDGE was attacked by these tank-infantry teams of the 7th Marines, 1st Division, in attempting to reach the eastern slope. Below, 7th Marine troops closing in on a Japanese-held cave in the Dakeshi Ridge hug the ground as an enemy mortar shell burst on crest. Cave is in the depression to right of shell burst.
On 14 May the 1st Battalion relieved the 2d Battalion, which had been in the attack for four days. On the next day the 1st Battalion consolidated ground already taken, and artillery, naval guns, and air strikes were directed against Japanese defenses on Shuri Heights. Wana Ridge was the next objective of the 1st Marine Division elements on the high ground. Operations against the ridge were to be coordinated with the fighting around Wana Draw.
The 1st Marines Advances on the RightWhile the 7th Marines fought for Dakeshi Ridge during 10-13 May, the 1st Marines moved south along the rolling ground below Shuri Heights. After capturing Hill 60 on 9 May, the 1st Marines found its zone of action sloping downward and exposed to enemy observation and fire from Shuri Heights and from Hill 55, which was just below Wana Draw. Immediately before the regiment lay the low basin drained by the Asa River. On the marines' right the railroad from Naha ran along an embankment.
When the 1st Marines attempted to push past the western nose of Dakeshi Ridge on 10 and 11 May, fire from Shuri Heights was so severe that the advance stalled. Consequently the attack was reoriented, and the marines, giving Dakeshi Ridge a wide berth, advanced west of the railroad. Here the 1st Marines made good progress in coordination with the 6th Marine Division. The farther the troops advanced on the right, however, the greater was the difficulty in supplying the forward elements; all routes of approach were under fire. Japanese artillery shelled the area between Dakeshi Ridge and the railroad. On 15 May it was necessary to use air drops, but these were only partially successful because some of the parachutes drifted into areas under enemy fire.
The attack of the 1st Marines on 13 May was coordinated with the moves of the 7th Marines on Dakeshi Ridge. Artillery, naval guns, mortars, and 37-mm. guns pounded the areas in front of the marines. By noon the 3d Battalion was near Hill 55. This hill, forming part of the south wall of Wana Draw, presented to the marines a steep incline. Its defenses were well integrated with those of Wana Ridge and Draw. One company, supported by tanks, assaulted Hill 55 during the afternoon but was hit by heavy fire from the heights. Japanese machine guns, mortars, and 20-MM. automatic guns forced the company to withdraw under a smoke screen.
The plan for 14 May was an attack on Wana Ridge in coordination with the 7th Marines. Wana Ridge formed the northern wall of Wana Draw. The ridge, a long coral spine running out of the northern part of Shuri, was lined on both sides with fortified tombs, many of which looked out on the low ground
below. The 1st Marines was a part of the way up the ridge by noon of the 14th, but was unable to make contact with the 7th Marines. The ridge seemed to be swarming with Japanese. Before dusk the enemy launched a counterattack which for a time threatened to cut off the forward company. The marines pulled back to lower ground under cover of smoke.
Fight for Wana DrawThe 5th Marine Regiment relieved the 1st Marines during the evening of 14 May. The plan now was to attack Wana Draw and the neighboring heights with all available weapons. Four self-propelled guns and twelve tanks for direct fire arrived on 16 May. The tanks, working in relays and escorted by infantry fire teams, moved into the low ground at the mouth of Wana Draw and began firing into the high ground. The enemy responded almost immediately with 47-mm. antitank fire, destroying two tanks; he also dropped in mortar shells to kill the accompanying infantry. The marines pulled back with their casualties. Observers, however, had spotted two of the Japanese antitank gun positions and main batteries of the Colorado destroyed both of them later in the afternoon.
The tanks and M-7's (self-propelled guns) continued to press up into Wana Draw. On the 17th the 2d Battalion attempted to storm Hill 55, but the attack was premature. Japanese machine guns and mortars in Wana Ridge stopped the infantry, and 47-mm. guns knocked out two tanks. The marines were able to hold only the west slope of the hill. On the next day tanks and self-propelled guns fired more than 7,000 rounds of 75 mm. and 105 mm. into the Japanese positions. Engineers with demolitions and flame throwers destroyed enemy weapons on the lower slopes of Wana Ridge.14
Naval guns, field artillery, tanks, and M-7's pounded Shuri Heights and Hill 55 as the marines moved to the crest of the hill on the morning of 20 May. The infantry destroyed some Japanese on the crest after a brief hand-to-hand encounter. Tank-infantry teams moved up into Wana Draw and with point-blank fire killed many Japanese dug in on the reverse slope of Hill 55. Seizure of this position made possible some further advances on the ground below Hill 55. Marines overran many spider traps manned by Japanese soldiers equipped with satchel charges. By 21 May the 1st Marine Division was attacking Shuri Ridge, the high barrier which was the last natural feature protecting Shuri Castle on the west.
Deadlock at Wana Ridge, 16-21 MayDespite the advances of the 5th Marines in the Wana Draw and Hill 55 area and the firm grip of the 7th Marines on Dakeshi Ridge, the Japanese continued to hold Wana Ridge. Their positions on this ridge overlooked both regimental sectors. On the 16th the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, sent patrols to probe around the west nose of Wana Ridge. When infantrymen moved up behind the patrol, the Japanese launched a series of counterattacks which drove the marines back to the northern base of Wana Ridge.
After relieving the 1st Battalion on the morning of 17 May, the 3d Battalion attacked up Wana Ridge on three successive days; each time it was forced to fall back to its positions on the southern edge of Dakeshi town. The attackers were usually able to reach the top, but were subjected immediately to intense mortar and automatic fire from front and both flanks, making the crest untenable. On 19 May the 7th Marines was replaced by the 1st Marines. The 7th, which had lost more than 1,000 killed, wounded, and missing since 10 May, was later awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for its participation in the battle for Shuri Heights.
By the time the 1st Marines took over, progress in the Wana Draw-Hill 55 area was beginning to make itself felt in the Wana Ridge fighting. Tanks, M-7's, and artillery had been pounding the northern wall of Wana Draw, which was the reverse slope of Wana Ridge. Nevertheless, Japanese artillery and lighter weapons that were "zeroed in" on Wana Ridge from Shuri town still controlled the craggy ridge line. Some Japanese positions were built into the sheer, 200-foot walls of the upper part of Wana Draw and were almost unassailable.
The 1st Marines opened a two-pronged assault on Wana Ridge on the morning of 10 May. The 3d Battalion was to attack southeast up Wana Ridge, while the 2d Battalion was to advance against 100 Meter Hill, the eastern extension of the ridge. Supported by tanks, self-propelled guns, and 37-mm. guns, the 2d Battalion advanced rapidly to the base of 100 Meter Hill. Three forward platoons were stopped on the slope by fire from Wana Ridge and from the south, but another company passed through them and continued the attack. By dusk the 2d Battalion held part of the ridge but not 100 Meter Hill. In heavy close-range fighting the 3d Battalion gained only 200 yards on the west slope.
The attack continued on 21 May, but progress was even slower than on the day before. Like so many previous attempts on Okinawa, the attack faltered as troops were forced to make the most strenuous efforts to destroy particular
REVERSE SLOPE OF WANA RIDGE as it appeared from slope of Wana Draw. High, treeless point on right side of photo is 100 Meter Hill. Below appear remains of a Japanese 47-mm. antitank gun and a crewman burned by flame-throwing tank.
positions with shell fire, grenades, and demolitions. The 2d Battalion poured napalm into Wana Draw and then ignited it; this drove some of the enemy into the open, where they were exposed to mortar fire. Bazookas, rifle grenades, and hundreds of white phosphorus and fragmentation grenades were used against the caves on the reverse slope of Wana. Japanese mortar and sniper fire was intense, forcing the marines to take cover in native tombs and coral formations. The 3d Battalion advanced seventy-five yards through the broken ground on Wana Ridge, but then had to pull back to previous positions for the night. The 2d Battalion had been stopped short in another attempt to take 100 Meter Hill.
Shortly after midnight of 21 May an enemy force of about 200 troops tried to drive the 1st Marines off the forward slope of Wana Ridge. After climbing the steep reverse slope by means of ropes, picks, and ladders, the Japanese surged through a small cut on the ridge and charged the Marine positions. Company C, holding a thin line between the 2d and 3d Battalions, used automatic and rifle fire, but the most effective weapon at such short range was the grenade. The marines threw them until their arms ached; at the same time, mortarmen put heavy concentrations on the reverse slope of Wana. The Japanese attack was checked. Company C lost 4 killed and 26 wounded in the attack, but counted 140 dead Japanese in its sector in the morning.
In the 77th Division's sector the Tenth Army's attack of 11 May marked a resumption of the snail-like frontal advance on Shuri. The division's two regiments, fighting on opposite sides of a long open valley southeast of Route 5, had to coordinate more closely with neighboring divisions than with each other. The progress of the 305th on the 77th's right (west) was dependent largely on the advance of the 1st Marine Division on Dakeshi Ridge; the 306th, on the division left, worked closely with the 96th Division along high ground west and southwest of Kochi Ridge. (See Map No. 40.) Enemy forces facing the 77th consisted of two battalions of the 32d Regiment, 24th Division, supported by elements of four independent battalions, including a Shuri guard unit.15
The Attack in the Center
The sector of the 305th Infantry was a jumble of ground extending south from Hill 187 toward Shuri. In contrast to the bold terrain features east and
northwest of Shuri, this area was a rough plateau pitted with innumerable knolls, ravines, and draws. By the middle of May the ground was even more broken by shell holes, trenches, and gaping cave mouths. Hardly a living plant was visible. The 305th pressed on, although every advance of a few yards uncovered more positions to be destroyed. The attack took a steady toll of Americans; by 15 May the 305th was fighting at about one-fourth strength.16
Ordinarily on Okinawa the Americans attacked in the morning, dug in on the new position late in the afternoon, and held a tight perimeter defense during the night. On a few occasions, however, the 77th Division made night attacks. Such an attack was made on 17 May by the 307th Infantry, which had relieved the 306th on the division left on 15 May in an attempt to capture Ishimmi Ridge, lying west of the town of Ishimmi. This attack, which developed into a desperate effort to hold a position surrounded by the enemy, was typical of the ordeal that many infantrymen had to go through on Okinawa to register even minor gains.
Through the Japanese Lines to Ishimmi RidgeShortly before dark of 16 May 1st Lt. Theodore S. Bell, commanding Company E, 307th Infantry, took his platoon leaders up to the 2d Battalion observation post atop a coral pinnacle, pointed out Ishimmi Ridge, dimly visible in the dusk, 1,200 yards to the south, and announced that Company E had been ordered to make a surprise night attack on the ridge. In the few minutes remaining before dark the officers studied the lay of the land. A heavy machine gun section from Company H and a reinforced rifle platoon from Company C were attached to Company E for the attack. The members of the reinforced company, many of them replacements without previous combat experience, were ordered to load and lock their weapons and to fix bayonets.17
Company E moved out in the dark at 0300, 17 May. Going down through the west part of the valley, the troops at 0400 reached the line of departure, where they were joined by the platoon from Company C. Fifteen minutes later the reinforced company was silently picking its way along low ground. Several gaunt trees on Ishimmi Ridge, showing dimly in the light of the frequent flares, served as guide points. Although Japanese controlled the ground, the Americans were not detected. Troops froze in their tracks whenever flares exploded overhead.
The sound of battle--rifle and automatic fire and the whir of artillery shells--was always around them.
The company reached Ishimmi Ridge just before dawn and began taking up positions along a 125-yard sector of the flat crest. Digging in was difficult because of the coral and rock formation. The crest of Ishimmi was hardly ten yards wide at the center but flared out on either end. The 3d Platoon moved to the left, the 2d Platoon formed the center, the platoon from Company C took the right flank, and the 1st Platoon protected the rear. Lieutenant Bell established his command post in a pocket twenty yards north of the narrow part of the ridge.
By dawn the men were in position but the enemy was still unaware of their presence. A Japanese officer and his aide, talking and laughing as they emerged from a tunnel, were killed before they noticed the Americans. The 2d Platoon found a dozen sleeping Japanese in one trench and dispatched them with bayonets and rifle fire. By 0530, however, the enemy was fully alerted. Japanese troops began to pour out of tunnels in a ridge south of Ishimmi and tried to cross the intervening valley. American machine-gun fire cut them down. Soon enemy artillery, mortar, machine-gun, and rifle fire was sweeping the bare crest, forcing the troops to lie flat in their shallow holes. The Japanese were firing from all directions, including the rear, and were delivering mortar fire even from tunnel openings along the lower slopes of Ishimmi Ridge itself.
The First DayThe Japanese quickly spotted Company E's automatic weapons. One heavy machine gun was blown to pieces as its crew was setting it on the tripod; the other heavy was destroyed before it had fired one box of ammunition. Almost all the members of the crews were killed. Both light machine guns had been knocked out by 0700, one being completely buried. All but one of the light mortars were out of action by 1000. Lieutenant Bell's communications with Battalion were also a target. Of five radios brought along by his company and by the artillery forward observer, one was smashed by mortar shells, another was set on fire, and two had their aerials shot off. Only one remained intact.
As the American fire power was reduced, the Japanese tried to close in to destroy the beleaguered force. The 3d Platoon, occupying an exposed position on the eastern part of the ridge, repulsed three bayonet charges on its left. The Americans suffered many casualties from grenades. Japanese in the ridge south of Ishimmi took a heavy toll of the 2d Platoon, occupying the center. Two knee mortars, firing in unison 100 yards off either flank, systematically swept the
ISHIMMI RIDGE, extending from right foreground almost to spinner of airplane from which this picture was taken, rises out of flat ground northeast of Shuri. Immediately behind the ridge is the village of Ishimmi and the draw before Okinawa's ancient capital. From these positions the enemy could pour mortar fire into the small group of the 307th Infantry, 77th Division, on the hill.
American positions from one end to another. The dead lay in pools of blood where they fell, or were pushed from the holes to make room for the living. An aid man, although wounded himself, continued his work until his supplies were exhausted.
During the day the 307th Infantry could not reinforce the company over the fire-swept approaches, but supported the force with artillery and self-propelled guns. Cannon company weapons put direct fire on Japanese trying to storm the hill. Many American shells landed so close to the encircled troops that the men were showered with rock. The one remaining radio enabled Lieutenant Bell to pinpoint targets for support fire. Mortars and heavy machine guns also helped to break up enemy charges.
The combined fire piled up the Japanese on the slopes of Ishimmi, but their attacks continued. By midday the 2d and 3d Platoons were at half strength and the rest of the company also had suffered heavily. Realizing that he could not possibly hold his extended positions during the night, Lieutenant Bell ordered the 2d and 3d Platoons late in the afternoon to pull into the command post and form a perimeter around it. Withdrawal was difficult, for the 2d Platoon had six badly mangled men in its sector. These were placed on ponchos and dragged out sled-fashion. One casualty was killed by machine-gun fire on the way out.
During the night a rescue force tried to get through to Company E, but the Japanese ambushed it and the survivors turned back. The Americans on Ishimmi Ridge, bombarded during the night by artillery, mortars, and "buzz bombs," repelled several attempts at infiltration. Flares kept the area well lighted and enabled Company E to see the approaching Japanese. Sleep was impossible. The tired, tense men hunched in their foxholes and waited for the dawn.
The Second DayThe order came by radio in the morning of 18 May to stay at all costs. Lieutenant Bell said firmly, "We stay." The men resigned themselves to a last-ditch stand. Their grenades exhausted and their machine guns and mortars destroyed, the remaining men salvaged every clip of ammunition from the bandoleers of the dead. Spare workable rifles were loaded and bayonets laid alongside. Enemy pressure increased steadily during the day. Some Americans were shot at close range as they darted from hole to hole to escape grenades. At one time eight knee mortars were pounding the ridge, firing in pairs. Friendly artillery could to some extent keep off the charging Japanese but seemed unable to ferret out the enemy mortars, which were well protected.
The moans of wounded men, many of whom were in pitiful condition from lack of water and of medical aid, added to the strain. All canteens had been emptied the previous night. Nevertheless, battle discipline remained excellent. The worst problem concerned the replacements, who were courageous but inexperienced. Thrust suddenly into a desperate situation, some of them failed at crucial moments. One man saw two Japanese attacking a sergeant thirty feet away, but his finger froze on the trigger. Another shouted wildly for a comrade to shoot some Japanese while his own rifle lay in his hands. Another saw an enemy soldier a few yards from his hole, pulled the trigger, and discovered that he had forgotten to reload. By the end of the ordeal, however, the replacements who survived were battle-hardened veterans.
During the afternoon the 307th attempted to reinforce the small group. Elements of Company C tried to cross the open ground north of Ishimmi Ridge. Only the commander and five men reached Company E. The men scrambled safely into foxholes, but the commander, shot through the head while racing toward the command post, fell dead on the parapet of the command post foxhole. Spirits rose considerably when word came later in the afternoon that a litter-bearing unit of eighty men would try to get through in the evening.
Enemy fire slackened after dark, and the first of the litter bearers arrived at about 2200. They immediately started back carrying casualties. Walking wounded accompanied them. The litter bearers moved swiftly and managed to avoid being seen in the light of flares. Through splendid discipline and good luck eighteen men were carried out in two and a half hours, and others walked out. The litter teams had brought some water and ammunition and the troops drank for the first time since the day before. The second sleepless night on the ridge passed.
The Third DayOn 19 May the enemy seemed to intensify his efforts to recapture Ishimmi Ridge. The besieged troops wondered whether his supply of men and ammunition was inexhaustible. The Japanese launched several attacks which were repulsed with great difficulty. Only the support of artillery and mortars, together with self-propelled mounts firing with precision on both flanks of Ishimmi Ridge, prevented the enemy from making an attack in strength which would have overrun the American positions. One enemy attack of platoon strength was dispersed by mortar and machine-gun fire and by a four-battalion time-on-target artillery concentration. Japanese mortar fire continued to fall on Ishimmi, however, and took its toll during the day.
A message arrived during the morning that Company E would be relieved that evening. By noon the radio had become so weak that further communication with the company was impossible. The day wore slowly on. By 2100 there was still no sign of the relief. Shortly afterward, however, rifle fire intensified to the rear, a sign of activity there. At 2200 Company L, 3d Battalion, 306th Infantry, arrived. The relief was carried out in pitch darkness; each member of Company E left as soon as a replacement reached his position. As the haggard survivors were about to descend the ridge at 0300, a bursting shell hit two of the newcomers; one of them had to be evacuated on a poncho. Carrying its own wounded, Company E followed a white tape to the rear and arrived safely.
Of the 204 officers and men of the reinforced company that had made the night attack on Ishimmi, 156 had been killed or wounded. There were 28 privates, 1 noncommissioned officer, and 2 officers left of the original 129 members of Company E. The platoon sent in relief by Company C had gone out with 58 effectives and returned with 13. Of the 17 men in the heavy weapons section only 4 came back. Company E had spearheaded a several-hundred-yard advance toward Shuri, however, and with the help of supporting weapons had killed hundreds of Japanese around Ishimmi.
During the battle to hold Ishimmi Ridge, the 305th Infantry had continued its attack along Route 5. The enemy held tenaciously to his positions in the finger ridges running west from the highway. Fierce fire fights flared up, often holding up the advance for a substantial time. The network of small hills and ridges afforded the Japanese almost complete interlocking fire; many positions were covered by five or six others. Even though the 305th utilized all its supporting arms, including medium tanks, self-propelled howitzers, antitank guns, and armored flame throwers, it was almost impossible to keep all the supporting strong points neutralized at the same time. The 306th Infantry relieved the 305th on 21 May, as the troops were reaching the northern outskirts of Shuri.18
The Reduction of Chocolate Drop HillOf all the strongly defended terrain features that made up the concentric ring of defenses around Shuri, Chocolate Drop Hill was undoubtedly the most insignificant in appearance. Its name, which was coined by 77th Division troops while headquarters was still calling it Hill 130, was aptly descriptive. The hill,
a bare, brown hump of earth with a slightly peaked crest, rising abruptly from a flat expanse of ground, did indeed resemble a chocolate drop resting on a slightly tilted saucer.19
Several circumstances made the "Drop" an almost impregnable position. Movement across the saucer was extremely difficult. Except for low scrub growth in a few spots there was no cover on the surrounding ground. The west part of the saucer, near Route 5, was low and marshy--unsuited for tanks and other heavy weapons. Near Chocolate Drop was one of the largest mine fields on Okinawa. This area was covered by fire from Flattop Hill on the east, from Ishimmi Ridge on the southwest, and from other heights the entire way around the circle except to the north where the Americans were advancing. The Japanese also had the usual reverse-slope defenses on Chocolate Drop and on Wart Hill, a knob 500 yards east of Chocolate Drop on the long ridge running southwest between Flattop and Chocolate Drop.
At 0700 on 11 May, immediately after the 31-minute artillery preparation, the infantry moved out. The 3d Battalion, 306th Infantry, was to make the main effort on the left (east) of the 77th Division sector. The troops had advanced a little more than 200 yards when they were stopped by a hail of artillery and mortar fire. Fields of crossed machine-gun fire, converging just north of Chocolate Drop, also barred the way. By 0900 one company was engaged in close-in fighting near the north base of the hill. Other troops tried to advance on the left but were stopped by enemy entrenched around the base of Wart Hill.20
Tanks, self-propelled guns, artillery, mortars, and other infantry heavy weapons supported the attack, but no weapon seemed capable of reaching the Japanese dug in on the reverse slope of the Drop. Japanese weapons on Flattop took a heavy toll. One platoon, exposed to Flattop, sustained eleven casualties in the first few minutes of its attack. Japanese 4.7-mm. antitank guns raised havoc with tanks attempting to cross the open ground. Two tanks were destroyed and six others damaged by this fire. Another tank threw a track and was later destroyed by a Japanese satchel charge. After sustaining fifty-three casualties during the day, the battalion was withdrawn to the previous night's positions.
CHOCOLATE DROP HILL under attack 13 May from the west by tanks and armored flame thrower. Tanks which moved through the draw (below) between the "Drop" and Flattop were knocked out by fire from reverse slopes of these hills.
On the following day, 12 May, the 306th held its position and aided the advance of friendly forces on both flanks. The 2d Battalion, 306th, supported by a platoon of tanks, anchored the right flank of the 96th Division. The 1st Battalion, 306th, supported the advance of the 305th Infantry. This regiment was having extremely hard going in the broken ground west of Route 5. Japanese here held positions in large, well-protected caves. One such cave had two Japanese 2 1/2-ton trucks parked end-to-end inside it.
The plan for 13 May was a combined attack on Flattop Hill and Chocolate Drop. After a short but intense artillery preparation, the 306th renewed its attack on the Drop. The 2d Battalion led the assault, moving down the high ground on the northeast. The leading company reached the hill in thirteen minutes, only to stall at its northern base under intense artillery and mortar fire. An effort to swing left into the area between Chocolate Drop and Flattop was stopped quickly: there the troops were more exposed than ever. The infantry managed to secure part of the slope of Chocolate Drop but was soon forced back to the base of the hill. At 1400 the enemy scored twenty hits with 150-mm. artillery in the area just north of Chocolate Drop. Supported by all available artillery pieces, tanks, and self-propelled guns, the battalion made a third attempt to seize the hill. The troops, however, could not gain a tenable position, and they withdrew 300 yards to a fold of ground north of the hill. Two American medium tanks, one of them equipped with a 105-mm. howitzer, were destroyed during the day.
Some troops managed to dig in at the base of Wart Hill and to hold their position despite withdrawal of the forces on Chocolate Drop. Japanese who occupied trenches on the other side of Wart attacked this small group during the night. The fight was so fierce that the Americans were driven out of their holes. In the dark they did not dare to shoot for fear of hitting comrades. With grenades, bayonets, and entrenching tools, the men stormed back to their holes, now occupied by a dozen Japanese, and quickly regained their position.
By 14 May the 306th Infantry was so depleted in strength that the remaining riflemen were grouped into one battalion. Led by five tanks, this composite battalion attempted to advance beyond Wart Hill. As soon as the assault platoon reached the slope of Wart, a holocaust of fire from the front and both flanks hit the troops. In a few minutes the platoon was cut down to half strength, and the platoon leader, a platoon sergeant, and a squad leader were all casualties. Enemy antitank fire hit six tanks soon after they appeared on the crest. The line of dead infantrymen at one place near Chocolate Drop looked to one
observer like a skirmish line that had lain down to rest. Further efforts to take Chocolate Drop and the high ground to the east were fruitless. On the next morning the 306th Infantry, which had suffered 471 casualties since 6 May, was replaced by the 307th.
The 307th Infantry attacked through the 306th at 0900 on 15 May. The scheme of maneuver was a simultaneous assault on Flattop on the left (east) and on Chocolate Drop on the right. The troops moved slowly toward their objectives under heavy fire from rifles, machine guns, and mortars. Simultaneously elements of the 96th Division were making progress in their sector east of the 77th, and this aided the 77th's advance. By noon the 3d Battalion was at the north base of the Drop and was working up the north slopes of Flattop. The 2d Battalion moved around to the right of the 3d Battalion and advanced about 500 yards before being held up by intense mortar and machine-gun fire. But the Americans were still unable to capitalize on their advances. To move through the saddle between Chocolate Drop and Flattop was to invite fire from the reverse slope of the Drop as well as from the entire system of defenses to the south. Several more tanks were disabled before the advance ended.
For the first time, however, the assault elements of the 77th Division were able to hold their positions directly north of Chocolate Drop and just below the crest on the north slope of Flattop. During the night the enemy tried to break the 307th's hold on the immediate approaches to Chocolate Drop. From huge caves on the reverse slope of the hill, groups of Japanese armed with knee mortars attacked the Americans twice during the dark. These attacks were warded off. During the night, however, the Japanese discovered in a ditch just east of Chocolate Drop, five men who had been cut off after the assault company withdrew from the hill on the previous evening; they killed two of the group and wounded one.
The 307th continued the attack on 16 May, but this was another day of frustration. One platoon of the 3d Battalion reached the crest of Flattop; then enemy mortar and machine-gun fire forced the troops back. Four times more during the day the 3d Battalion reached and attempted to hold the crest, but each time the troops fell back to the north slope. The 2d Battalion continued to probe around the sides of Chocolate Drop in an effort to reach the enemy on top and on the reverse slope. One platoon was forced off Chocolate Drop late in the afternoon, but other infantrymen were able to hold positions gained during the day on the saddle east of the hill.
Slowly the 77th Division forces between Flattop and Route 5 were reducing
Map No. 44: Flattop and Dick Hills
enemy positions bearing on the area in front of the 307th Infantry. By 17 May this progress began to show in the advances of the foot troops around Chocolate Drop. Covered by company heavy weapons out on both flanks, infantrymen worked around both sides of the hill to the huge caves on the reverse slope. Inside were 4 antitank guns, 1 field piece, 4 machine guns, 4 heavy mortars, and a American 60-mm. mortars. By nightfall the caves had been partially sealed off. During the night an enemy force launched a counterattack against the American positions around the hill but was repulsed with the loss of twenty-five Japanese killed.
During the next two days the 3d Battalion consolidated and expanded its positions around Chocolate Drop. Reducing the tiny hill continued to be ticklish work because enemy positions to the south still overlooked the area. The fighting was still so confused that three wounded Americans lay south of Chocolate Drop for two days before relief arrived. By that time two had died and the third was so delirious that he thought he was still fighting Japanese and had to be forcibly subdued. By 20 May the caves were completely sealed off. The enemy made a final attempt to retake Chocolate Drop, attacking in company strength, but was repelled with the loss of half his force. On the same day the 3d Battalion, using tanks, flame throwers, and demolition teams, finally secured the crest of Flattop.
Some days later Tokyo Radio broadcast a message in English to the American troops on Okinawa:
Sugar Loaf Hill . . . Chocolate Drop . . . Strawberry Hill. Gee, those places sound wonderful! You can just see the candy houses with the white picket fences around them and the candy canes hanging from the trees, their red and white stripes glistening in the sun. But the only thing red about those places is the blood of Americans. Yes, sir, those are the names of hills in southern Okinawa where the fighting's so close that you get down to bayonets and sometimes your bare fists. Artillery and naval gunfire are all right when the enemy is far off but they don't do you any good when he's right in the same foxhole with you. I guess it's natural to idealize the worst places with pretty names to make them seem less awful. Why Sugar Loaf has changed hands so often it looks like Dante's Inferno. Yes, sir, Sugar Loaf Hill . . . Chocolate Drop . ./ . Strawberry Hill. They sound good, don't they? Only those who've been there know what they're really like.21
Flattop and Dick HillsThe right elements of the 96th Division were still fighting for Zebra Hill when the Tenth Army attack order went into effect on 21 May. Southwest of Zebra were other formidable positions that were to engage elements of both
the 96th and 77th for ten days. These positions were built into Flattop and into the Dick Hills, east of Flattop. The Dick Hills and Flattop were so close to one another that their reduction depended on close coordination of troops of the 96th and 77th across the divisional boundary. A captured Japanese map showed these hills to be on the perimeter of the inner core of the Shuri defenses.
The Japanese had a miscellaneous collection of troops in the Flattop-Dick Hills area. Although heavily reduced during the past weeks, the 22d Regiment, 24th Division, was still ably commanded and capable of effective defense in the scores of available positions in the Flattop area. Supporting the 32d Regiment were troops of the 24th Transport Regiment, the 29th Independent Battalion, and the 27th Tank Regiment. The remaining six tanks of the 27th were dug in behind Flattop and used as stationary pillboxes. Engineers from the tank regiment had mined roads and other approaches and had constructed bell-shaped foxholes from which satchel charges could be thrown against American tanks. The Japanese had salvaged a number of 7.7-mm. machine guns from destroyed tanks to round out their defenses.22
The Dick Hill mass consisted of four heights, known officially as Dick Baker, Dick Able, Dick Right, and Dick Left. The highest and most heavily fortified of these was Dick Right (ordinarily called Dick Hill), which was a companion hill mass to Flattop and lay just southeast of it. Dick Baker was close to Zebra and just west of the narrow road running southwest from Onaga along the southeast slope of Zebra. Dick Able was southeast of Dick Baker. Dick Left, another well-fortified and strongly defended height, was the southern elevation of the ridge running south from Dick Right. (See Map No. 44. )
During the night of 10-11 May a fight raged on the crest of Zebra Hill as the Japanese tried to oust the Americans from positions occupied on the previous day. Not until 0730 was the enemy forced off the hill, leaving 122 of his number dead. During the 11th, the 382d Infantry, 96th Division, commanded by Col. M. L. Dill, consolidated its positions on Zebra. Operating on the reverse slope of the hill was difficult since Japanese positions in the Dick Hills area commanded that slope. An attempt to move over open ground to Dick Baker, undertaken later in the day, proved abortive because of accurate enemy fire. One assault platoon lost all its noncommissioned officers and a private first class was in command at the end of the day.23
Map No. 45: Flattop and Dick Hills
DICK HILLS AND FLATTOP, photographed 23 May 1945, two days after reduction of these positions. Enemy was still dropping harassing fire on farther slopes, with battle moving closer to Shuri. American foxholes, some covered by shelter halves, can be seen in profusion on the hillsides.
The 382d attacked again on 11 May, with the 1st Battalion on the right (west) and the 3d Battalion on the left. Block and tackle were used to haul 37-mm. antitank guns up to the top of Zebra for direct fire into Japanese positions on heights to the south. Artillery fire and the 37-mm. fire enabled the attack of the 3d Battalion to get off to a good start toward Baker Hill. While the tank-infantry teams of the 1st Battalion cleared out the reverse slope of Zebra, the 3d Battalion advanced slowly between Zebra and Item Hills. The 1st Battalion attacked toward Dick Baker but was surprised by fire from its rear. Despite the efforts of the two battalions, some Japanese on the reverse slope of Zebra had survived. Nevertheless, assault troops of the 1st Battalion reached Dick Baker and dug in on the crest under a heavy smoke screen. Heavy fire soon forced them to withdraw.
In the afternoon Company A attacked up the east slope of Dick Baker. The troops were halfway to the top when most of them were pinned down by heavy fire from the south. Lt. Woodrow W. Anderson and three soldiers continued the assault. Anderson covered two huge caves on the east face of Dick Baker by fire while Pfc. Amador G. Duran made a dash between them to the crest. Anderson and the two other men joined him. Suddenly a terrific mortar barrage descended on the hill. Anderson and Duran were killed instantly when a shell landed squarely in their foxhole; the two survivors ran down the north-west slope to friendly territory. No further progress was made during the day. The regiment's only success of the day was the 3d Battalion's capture of Baker Hill, 600 yards south of Zebra.
The effort of 13 May was closely coordinated with the advance on the right made by the 306th Infantry, 77th Division. The 1st Battalion, 382d Infantry, pushed off shortly after 1100. The plan was for Company A, leading, to attack Dick Baker while Company B swung out to the left toward Dick Able. For a time everything went smoothly. Both companies reached the crests of their objectives, meeting little fire, and they promptly began blowing up caves and pillboxes. But Japanese gunners were waiting. Suddenly a storm of explosives hit the forces on Dick Able. Over 200 rounds of 90-mm. mortar fire, together with 150-mm. artillery rounds and knee mortar shells, fell on the small, exposed crest. The commander of Company B and all but one or two of the fourteen men with him were killed. Company A was able to hold its position on Dick Baker. (See Map No. 45.)
The Japanese reinforced their positions in the Dick Hills area during the night of 13-14 May. On the next morning enemy fire was so strong that tanks
Map No. 46: Flattop and Dick Hills
had to be used to transport supplies to the forward troops. It was a risky procedure to leave a foxhole on Dick Baker even to receive supplies from tanks at the base of the hill. In the afternoon, after coordinating with the 306th Infantry on his right, Colonel Dill launched an attack on Dick Able and Dick Right. Supported by Company A on Dick Baker, Company B managed to reach the crest of Able without difficulty. The heavy pounding of support weapons during the morning had evidently knocked out many of the mortars covering this position. A platoon of Company C then attacked Dick Right from the north. Five infantrymen advanced halfway up the slope, but the first three were killed by rifle fire. The enemy also opened up on the platoon with mortars, and the Americans were forced to withdraw.
The 3d Battalion also attacked Dick Right, advancing from the Baker Hill area toward the east fingers of Dick. Company K managed to reach the military crest on the north slopes of the fingers. As Company L, supported by a platoon of tanks, started up a draw leading to Dick Right, a barrage of mortar shells descended on it. Some of the rounds hit the tanks and had the same effect on the accompanying foot troops as air bursts. All but two of the twenty-three men in the leading platoon were killed or wounded. Despite the continuing mortar fire, the company commander rallied his remaining men and led them to the military crest on Dick Right, where they tied in on the right of Company K. In obtaining this precarious hold on Dick, the 3d Battalion had lost six killed and forty-seven wounded.
During the night heavy rain fell, adding to the difficulties the troops already were having with the steep terrain. Before the rain the soft earth had made climbing much like scaling a sand dune; now the hillsides were slick with wet clay. During the morning the 3d Battalion, 382d, was able to consolidate its position. It was still difficult, however, to move from the military crest to the topographical crest of Dick Hill; one platoon made seven attempts to seize and hold positions on the skyline but each time was forced back just below the crest. Troops were able only to extend their hold westward along the north slope of the long ridge. These attacks brought the 382d Infantry into close conjunction with the fighting around Flattop on the west, toward which the left elements of the 77th had been driving for several days. (See Map No. 46)
Seen from the north, Flattop resembled what its name implied--a long, tabletop ridge, dropping abruptly to narrow saddles at both ends. It stood on the right flank of the rugged hill masses extending southeast to Conical Hill and constituting the eastern defenses of Shuri. Flattop dominated the Kochi Valley
for 1,300 yards to the north, including Chocolate Drop on the northwest. Just to the east, on the other side of a saddle deepened by a road cut, was Dick Hill, objective of the 96th Division. Flattop had a fairly steep reverse slope with the usual profusion of enemy defenses.24
Flattop was one objective of the 306th Infantry, 77th Division, when that regiment moved out in the Tenth Army attack of 11 May. Chocolate Drop was the other objective. Flattop commanded both Chocolate Drop and the west slopes of Dick Hill, and only after Flattop was taken could the others be entirely reduced. On it May elements of the 3d Battalion started to work slowly along the extended swell of ground north of Flattop. On the 12th, tank-infantry teams tried to reach Flattop but failed. Japanese fire power prevented the troops from coming within range of the height. Similar efforts on the 13th and 14th were frustrated, but each day artillery and other support weapons heavily pounded the hill. The 307th relieved the 306th Infantry on the morning of 15 May.
Throughout the rainy night of 14-15 May, artillery pounded Flattop and the neighboring hills. The 3d Battalion, 307th Infantry, attacked at 0900 in the morning. Troops moved up the slippery face of Flattop with grenades, satchel charges, and portable flame throwers. Tanks put direct fire on the crest and face of the hill. The troops spent the afternoon in a grenade battle with the enemy and dug in for the night just below the crest. On the next day a platoon reached the top of the hill, but shortly afterward a heavy mortar concentration from enemy positions on Tom Hill, 1,000 yards to the south, forced the Americans off the crest. Meanwhile, support tanks had quickly knocked out the six enemy tanks dug in around Flattop. A member of the Japanese 27th Tank Regiment, amazed by the accuracy of American tank fire, described it as "100 shots-100 bulls eyes." The destruction of these tanks with their 37-mm. guns scarcely affected the Flattop fighting. The real trouble was with mines and 47-mm. anti-tank fire, which together knocked out three American tanks during the day.
On the 17th another bitter struggle raged on Flattop. The struggle swayed back and forth across the narrow crest of the hill. Company K, the assaulting unit, had been reduced to fourteen infantrymen by the end of the day; finally it was forced back off the top. Tanks tried to go through the road cut between Flattop and Dick Hill, but two of them were disabled by mines, leaving the cut blocked. The road cut was later blown along its entire length by seven tons of bangalore torpedoes to remove the mines. The infantry continued its close-in
fighting with the enemy on 18 May while more tanks tried to move through the cut. A 47-mm. antitank gun destroyed one of the first tanks to emerge from the cut, but it was knocked out in turn by an American 105-mm. self-propelled gun. Other tanks of the 77th and 96th Divisions came up in support.
Now for the first time the Americans could place direct fire on the reverse slopes of Flattop and Dick Hill. This was to prove decisive. Tanks and assault guns put destructive fires on Japanese positions throughout the next day, 19 May. Bayonet charges by the enemy from southwest of Flattop were dispersed by artillery and mortar fire. On 20 May the final American attack started with a saturation shower of grenades. A chain of men extending from the base of Flattop passed hand grenades to the troops lined up along the crest, who threw the missiles as fast as they could pull out the pins. Having seized the advantage, the infantry moved down the reverse slope blasting caves with satchel charges and flame throwers. Tanks along the road cut accounted for many of the Japanese. BY 1545 Flattop had fallen. More than 250 enemy bodies lay on the crest and reverse slope of the hill.
In the zone of the 382d Infantry, 96th Division, the bitter struggle for Dick Hill continued from 15 to 20 May. All attempts to move over the crest of the hill were met by grazing machine-gun fire from Oboe Hill to the left (east) and from Flattop to the right. The 2d Battalion relieved the 1st Battalion on the morning of the 16th. During the previous night the American lines had been pushed back down the south slope of Dick Hill; thus a part of the work had to be done over again. There seemed to be no decrease in Japanese resistance, and the battle raged into the night. Efforts to hold the crest of Dick Hill on the west exposed the men to fire from Flattop. The 382d made little more progress on the 17th.
The seizure of the road cut between Flattop and Dick Hill on 18 May was the turning point in the Dick Hill fighting as it had also been in the struggle for Flattop. On 19 and 20 May the hold of the 382d on the reverse slope of Dick Hill was steadily enlarged. Despite continuing heavy antitank fire from enemy positions to the south, tank-infantry teams methodically destroyed Japanese strong points in the immediate Dick Hills area. On one occasion an armored flame thrower flushed fifty Japanese out of a cave; all fifty were cut down as they fled. Pockets remained to be cleaned out as late as 21 May. By that time, however, the 382d was involved in another grinding effort to take Oboe Hill on the regimental left.25
ADVANCE AROUND DICK HILLS AND FLATTOP was difficult. Above appear troops of the 382d Infantry, 77th Division, on Dick Baker supporting advance to Dick Right. Below, Flattop is seen receiving American tank fire.
Map No. 47: Conical Hill
Colonel Nist, XXIV Corps G-2, summed up the action along the Shuri front during the first week following the attack of 11 May in these words:
During the past week's action, as our troops continued to fight their way into the enemy's main defenses, the Japanese demonstrated a complete willingness to suffer annihilation rather than to sacrifice ground. There was no variation in this pattern during the period.26
When an opening was finally made in the Shuri line it was on the extreme left, along Buckner Bay. This opening was made by an advance up Conical Hill on 13 May which, in the opinion of General Buckner, who watched it, was the most spectacular of the campaign. The break, when it came, was a twofold surprise. General Hodge had believed that the high ground east of Shuri would have to be taken before Conical Hill, which is farther to the south, somewhat lower, and one of the strongest natural positions on Okinawa, could be successfully assaulted. For his part, General Bradley, commanding the 96th Division, was convinced after his reconnaissance of the terrain that Conical Hill would have to be approached from the northwest, by advances down the ridge line of the chain of hills. As events turned out, Conical Hill was reduced before Oboe Hill and the high ground at Shuri, and by attack from another direction. Furious fighting was still in progress in the inner areas for many days after capture of Conical's eastern face had opened the way for American troops to pass down the coast to Yonabaru and spill out into southern Okinawa.27
Opening the East Coast Corridor
Conical--the Million Dollar HillThe Navy, pouring expensive shells into Conical Hill from Buckner Bay, marked it with a "Million Dollar" price tag. The peak rose 476 feet high above the Yonabaru coastal plain, less than two miles south of Hill 178. From it radiated six long, sharp ridges. A long eastern spur ran down toward Buckner Bay; a second jutted northeast to Gaja Ridge, and another due north. Others ran northwest to King Hill, due west to Love, and due south for 800 yards along the coast to end in a rounded knob called Sugar Hill, just northwest of Yonabaru. The flat plain between Conical Hill and Buckner Bay was about 400 yards wide, and Route 13, the important east coast thoroughfare, passed through it. (See Map No. 47.)
A mile northeast of Conical Peak on the coastal flat was the enemy's projected Yonabaru airstrip, grass-covered and barely distinguishable. Unaha lay west of the airstrip, and behind that village the ground rose steeply to Hill 178. This high ground formed the northern edge of a U-shaped bowl the open end of which faced the bay. A chain of hills known from north to south as Tare, William, Easy, Charlie, and King shaped the base of the U, while Conical itself was the southern arm. The enclosed area was flat and sometimes swampy, except for Gaja Ridge, which rose by the village of Yonagusuku (or Gala) near the middle of the southern arm.
A valley running behind Fox, Charlie, King, and Conical Hills, the entire way down to the Naha-Yonabaru road, separated the Conical Hill sector from the inner ring of Shuri defenses. The Oboe Hill mass, guarding Shuri's eastern flank, lay a mile northwest of the peak of Conical, across the valley.28
About 1,000 Japanese, heavily armed with mortars and organic 75-mm artillery, occupied positions on Conical Hill itself. Defense of the sector was entrusted to Col. Hotishi Kanayama's 89th Regiment of the 24th Division, reinforced by the 27th Independent Battalion, one of a number of harbor construction battalions which had changed their designation to "Sea Raiding Battalions." Also attached were one company of the 3d Independent Machine Gun Battalion and the 23d Antitank Company. A captured Japanese map dated 8 May placed two battalions of the 44th Independent Mixed Brigade as guarding the ground between the peak of Conical and Yonabaru, but it appears that these units were moved to the Dakeshi sector soon afterward. Their place was taken by the converted airdrome-maintenance squadron from the Naha airfield and also by the 29th Independent Battalion.29
The Attack That FailedThe task given the 383d Infantry, 96th Division, when on 10 May it relieved the 184th Infantry, 7th Division, was the capture of Conical Hill. The 1st Battalion, which was to make the main effort, effected the relief on William Hill and the eastern slopes of Easy Hill. Easy was a symmetrical, oblong hill on a north-south axis, with steep sides. A deep, narrow cut separated Easy from Charlie Hill on the south. Charlie Hill on its eastern side was also steep. It was roughly circular and had three prominent noses: one to the northeast offering an approach, one on the southwest pointing to Love Hill, and a third
running almost due south to a cut separating it from a U-shaped hill called King. Fox Hill lay to the west of Easy, its southern tip ending in a steep little rise west of Charlie known as Fox Pinnacle.
The big attack on 11 May started auspiciously. After a thorough mortar preparation Company B took Easy Hill without too much difficulty and then moved through the cut between Easy and Charlie to flank Fox from the southeast and gain positions on its crest. Company C, after jockeying for favorable jumping-off positions, managed to establish itself on top of Charlie Hill, though not at its summit. The Americans then began the first of a long series of grenade duels with Japanese dug into the reverse slope twenty or thirty yards away. Two days later Company B attacked the summit of Charlie from Fox, but it was stopped by withering fire from King Hill and from enemy positions close to those of Company C on Charlie. Machine-gun fire from Conical Hill and mortar fire from the reverse slopes of Love were added as four Americans moved over the skyline and attacked Charlie's reverse slope. Company B was forced to withdraw.
Some progress was made on 14 May. Company B attacked Charlie Hill again, securing a foothold on its northern end, and Company C extended its positions down Charlie's southern nose. Every man, however, in the platoon of Company A which attacked down the west side of Charlie was killed or injured. Another platoon from the same company tried unsuccessfully to take Fox Pinnacle. On the same day Company L, 3d Battalion, which on 13 May had taken up positions to seal the draw between Charlie and King Hills and thus close a gap between the 1st and 2d Battalions, attacked King and gained the entire crest.
Although the reverse slopes of Charlie and King had not been reduced, an attack on Love Hill, a low, bare ridge running generally east and west, was launched on 16 May as part of a plan which was intended to clean out Charlie and put Company L on the western end of King to supply a base of fire. From Love Hill, fire could reach the reverse slope positions on the southwest side of Conical Hill and support the 382d Infantry's attack on Oboe. Because of the inherent strength of Love's defenses the attack did not succeed; nor was progress made on Charlie's southern slopes against the large number of caves, swarming with Japanese. Tanks helped a platoon of Company C to reach Love Hill but ran out of ammunition and withdrew. A murderous barrage, from an estimated fifty machine guns firing from Love itself and from Conical and Oboe Hills and the reverse slopes of King and Charlie, then hit the platoon. Six men, all of them
CONICAL HILL and the adjoining enemy positions to the north and west
EAST COAST FLATLANDS, over which the 184th Infantry, 7th Division, advanced to Yonabaru after of the east slope of Conical Hill.
wounded, made their way back to the American lines that night; twenty were left on the objective.
Before dawn on 20 May five more survivors, who had spent the intervening four days behind enemy lines, returned. One of them, Sgt. Donald B. Williams, had hidden in a cave to tend a wounded comrade. Enemy soldiers had fired a bazooka into the cave, and Williams had killed a Japanese who had tried to enter. Williams returned only after his comrade's condition was hopeless and he himself was growing weak for want of food and water. The other four men, Sgt. R. D. Turner, Pvt. William Schweneger, Pvt. Keith Cochran, and Pvt. Kenneth Boynton, the first two of whom were wounded, had stayed in a tomb near the foot of Love Hill. Their attempts to escape at night were thwarted by machine-gun and mortar fire trained on the tomb's entrance. On the second night four Okinawans--an old man, two old women, and a 10-year-old girl-had moved into the tomb with them, and one of the women went out and filled two of their canteens with water. On the fourth day a heavy American air strike hit the hill, and an American machine gun poured lead at a 3-inch opening in the tomb from a distance of 100 yards. The four members of Company C made their escape that night when loud singing and women's voices indicated that the Japanese near by were having a party.
On 19 May Company E established itself on the western end of King Hill but was driven off by fire from Charlie and Love Hills and the reverse slope of King. Since the 96th Division had taken over this sector, more than 300 had been killed or wounded in trying to move down this series of hills. Constant attack and the use of tanks and demolitions had been unavailing, and the strain was beginning to tell on the troops. On 20 May an air strike was run against the reverse slopes of Charlie, toward the American lines, but, although the planes dropped their 500-pound bombs accurately from an altitude of only a few yards, the Charlie pocket continued to withstand assault. It was still alive with Japanese, and supporting fire from Love Hill was deadly. Charlie pocket was not to be finally eliminated or Love Hill taken until 30 May, after nineteen days of bitter struggle.
The Hole in the DikeThe 13th of May, hot and clear, was a turning point in the battle for Okinawa. On the two preceding days the 2d Battalion, 383d Infantry, had cleaned out Gaja Ridge and, by working south from Yonagusuku (Gaja) and the twin villages of Tobaru and Amaru, had opened the possibility of reaching Conical's peak from the north and northeast. On the 12th a toe hold had been gained on
Conical's northern spur, which ran down to Tobaru and Amaru, and Company G had made an extensive reconnaissance and destroyed many enemy positions up the draw on the west side of this spur. When General Hodge read the 96th Division's report that evening, he immediately telephoned its commander, General Bradley, and directed that the frontal assault on Conical Hill from the north be pushed. "We'll have the key to the Shuri line if he can make it," General Hodge told his associates.30
At 1100 on the 13th General Buckner arrived at the observation post of Colonel May, who had decided that the time was ripe for the assault on Conical Hill. Company F had spent the morning clearing Yonagusuku (Gaja) of Japanese who had infiltrated during the night; two platoons of tanks from Company B, 763d Tank Battalion, working with Company E, had pounded enemy positions in Conical's northern slopes all morning; but Company G, attacking strong points west of Conical's northern spur, was prevented from climbing to the crest by fire from Charlie Hill in its rear and from Conical itself. Colonel May ordered Lt. Col. Lee Morris, 2d Battalion commander, to attack Conical frontally with Companies E and F and to have tanks move with the infantry up the hill.
Two platoons of Company F on the left drove toward Conical's northeast spur and reached a series of boulders halfway up with surprising ease. The two platoon sergeants, T/Sgt. Guy J. Dale and T/Sgt. Dennis O. Duniphan, held a hasty consultation and decided to move up to the crest without waiting for orders from the company commander, 1st Lt. Owen R. O'Neill. By 1300 the men had reached the northeast crest of the ridge.
Japanese reaction was intense. Knee-mortar fire fell on the two platoons as they dug in, and at 1525 a counterattack of at least company strength struck frontally and on Company F's exposed left flank. Sergeant Duniphan stood up and emptied a BAR into enemy soldiers ten feet away, then grabbed a rifle and continued to fire at the attackers. Lieutenant O'Neill sent a runner down the hill to order 1st Lt. Richard W. Frothinger, leader of the 2d Platoon, to come up immediately. Lieutenant Frothinger led his platoon up the hill in a headlong dash through hostile machine-gun fire. An American artillery spotting plane flying over Conical watched the fight and called for fire. Suddenly an overwhelming concentration of artillery air bursts and 4.2-inch mortar fire splattered the area just beyond the crest. The fire was perfectly timed, and the Japanese were repulsed.
Map No. 48: Conical Hill
Meanwhile Company E had climbed the eastern slopes of Conical's northern spur and the steep sides of the peak itself, taking positions on Company F's right, fifty yards east of Conical's peak. At dusk Company G dug in facing west along the northern spur; thus the lines extended continuously in a generally east-west direction high up on Conical's northern slopes. The eastern anchor of the Shuri line was weakening. The Japanese, having surmised correctly that the main effort against Conical Hill would be down the Charlie-King ridge line, had disposed their forces to meet the threat from that quarter. But the 383d Infantry had discovered and used a naturally stronger but less heavily defended avenue of approach; two American platoon leaders had taken the initiative and led their men up the hill at a moment of precious opportunity.
South to Sugar HillIn what Colonel May called "the greatest display of courage of any group of men I have ever seen," two platoons of Company G, 383d Infantry, on 15 May moved up the northwest spur of Conical Hill from King Hill through extremely thick mortar fire. They dug in not far below Conical Peak. An earlier attempt by the company's reserve platoon to establish physical contact with the rest of the company from Conical's north spur around the base of the peak itself had been stymied when the six men engaged in the maneuver were all hit and tumbled seventy-five feet to the bottom of the peak.
Tanks worked over Japanese positions on Conical's eastern slopes and advanced as far south as the outskirts of Yonabaru on 16 May, and Company F secured slightly better positions, preparatory to a main attack down the east side of Conical Hill. On the following day the 3d Battalion, 381st Infantry, relieved Companies E and F of the 383d, placing all three regiments of the 96th Division in the line. If the fresh battalion succeeded in clearing the eastern slopes of Conical Hill, the 7th Division could be called from reserve to sweep down the coast and flank the Shuri line. (See Map No. 48.)
Sugar Hill, at the southern end of the 800-yard hogback that extended south from Conical's peak, was the objective of the 38rst Infantry. On the eastern face of the hogback a number of finger ridges ran down into the Yonabaru coastal flats. Reducing the Japanese emplacements which covered the finger ridges from the west would be difficult, for the crest of the hogback would continue to be untenable because of fire from Love, Mike, and other hills to the west. It would be necessary to deny the crest to the enemy and to guard every inch of the military crest as soon as it was captured, to ward off Japanese attempts to establish positions on the skyline.
Second Lieutenant Leonard K. Warner, a Hawaiian, on 18 May led a platoon of Company K, 381st Infantry, down to the third finger ridge. On the way Lieutenant Warner had dashed up the second finger with two satchel charges and crossed the crest of the hogback to throw them into a heavy machine gun emplacement. On the third finger the platoon was receiving heavy fire from its rear, chiefly from emplacements between the first and second fingers, when Lieutenant Warner's company commander called him and asked whether he could move on to Sugar Hill.
"Hell yes," said Warner. "The way the Japs are shooting me in the back they'll chase me all the way down there."31
Fire from Cutaway Hill, a peak shaped like an eyetooth and located on the hogback two-thirds of the way between Sugar Hill and Conical's peak, added to the platoon's troubles, and it had to withdraw under smoke. An outpost line on the first finger was held during the night. During the day, tanks working from the flats had had a difficult time and in the end had been forced to withdraw by heavy fire from Chinen Peninsula.
Lt. Col. Daniel A. Nolan, commander of the 3d Battalion, 381st Infantry, on 19 May sent fifteen men with demolitions to attack the enemy emplacements between the first and second fingers. After they failed in an attempt to climb the precipitous slope during the day, 2d Lt. Donald Walsh led the men after dark to the northernmost of the machine-gun positions. They killed its occupants and discovered that it commanded the Japanese defensive system on the reverse slopes of the Conical hogback. The enemy counterattacked persistently but unsuccessfully all night. On the next day the battalion engaged in fierce fighting southward to within 200 yards of Cutaway Hill, and Company L consolidated for the night between the second and third fingers. That night Company K secured the area between the peak of Conical Hill and the second finger, and fought bitter grenade battles with Japanese twenty yards away on the other side of the ridge line. On the 21st the company used 1,100 grenades in hanging on to its position.
On 21 May, while Company L was heavily engaging the enemy on Cutaway Hill and on the hogback to the north of it, Companies I and F attacked across the heavily serrated ground on the east side of the hogback toward Sugar Hill. The men paused at each ridge to set up a base of fire and pound the reverse slopes of the next fold with hundreds of mortar shells, then moved on with tanks to
flush the Japanese from their caves and pillboxes. The company's 60-mm. mortars and heavy machine guns, giving heavy and effective support, were advanced from ridge to ridge just behind the troops. Artillery fire pounded the reverse slopes of Sugar Hill and broke up a strong attempt to reinforce this position by small groups of enemy advancing from the southwest across open ground. Company F, on the right, had to send its men by individual rushes across the open fields below Cutaway Hill to the north slopes of Sugar. This company consolidated its lines on Sugar Hill, but plunging fire from Cutaway was to plague the men for a week. Company I captured the eastern part of Sugar without much difficulty, and Company G came up to strengthen the line against the anticipated counterattack. Company F took the brunt of the attack that night and killed fifty Japanese. The day's gain had cost the 381st Infantry 56 casualties, but the regiment had disposed of 403 Japanese.32
All of Conical Hill's eastern slopes were now in American hands, and the 7th Division could proceed down the corridor by Buckner Bay without molestation from its right flank. The western side of Conical and the reverse slope of Cutaway remained firmly in the hands of the Japanese.
The month of May saw major changes in the chain of command, involving a transfer of additional responsibility to Tenth Army. On 17 May Admiral Turner was replaced as Commander Task Force 51 by Admiral Harry W. Hill, who was to control the air defenses of Okinawa and the naval forces in the area. The Commanding General of Tenth Army now reported directly to Admiral Spruance. General Buckner was given command of all forces ashore, direct responsibility for the defense and development of captured positions in the Ryukyus area, and, to assist in this mission, operational command of Task Force 51. On 27 May Admiral Spruance was relieved as Commander Fifth Fleet by Admiral William F. Halsey, who commanded the Ryukyus operation until 27 June, when, with the formation of the Ryukyus Force, Tenth Army came directly under CINCPOA.33
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (12) * Next Chapter (14)
1. Notes on Tenth Army staff meeting, 4 May 45, in Okinawa Diary kept by Stevens and Burns, entry 4 May 45.
2. Tenth Army G-3 JnI, outgoing Msg No. 7, 3 May 45; Opns Ord 7-45, 5 May 45; XXIV Corps FO No. 50, 9 May 45; interv 1st I & H Off with Gen Buckner, to May 45.
3. Tenth Army Opns Ord 8-45, 7 May 45; interv 1st I & H Off with Brig Gen Walter A. Dumas, ACofS, G-3, Tenth Army, 9 Jul 45. There is still some question as to the precise scheme of maneuver. The Tenth Army operation plan overlay, which according to the text of the plan was to show the scheme of maneuver more precisely than the order itself, indicated a very close envelopment of Shuri by the two divisions immediately north of the Japanese headquarters city. The XXIV Corps field order indicated pressure across the line by both its divisions rather than major effort near the center of the Army line. Despite the scheme of maneuver outlined on the Tenth Army overlay, it seems that the actual plan was for uniform pressure across the line which would crack the Japanese defenses at some point and be immediately exploited wherever the particular break might come.
4. Interv 1st I & H Off with Gen Buckner, 10 May 45.
5. Change No. 1, to Tenth Army Opns Ord 8-45, 9 May 45; interv XXIV Corps Hist Off with Brig Gen Josef R. Sheetz, CG XXIV Corps Arty, 23 Jun 45.
6. Tenth Army Transl No. 294, 10 Jul 45: 32d Army Ord No. A to, 11 May 45; Transl No. 176, 21 Jun 45, 32d Army Ord No. A 23, 14 May 45; Transl No. 300, 10 Jul 45: 32d Army Ord No. A 19, 12 May 45; Interrog Shimada.
7. The account of operations of the 6th Marine Division is taken from Carleton, 6th Mar Div History, Ch. II, supplemented and corrected by III Amph Corps G-3 Periodic Rpts for the period and 6th Mar Div Actn Rpt, a detailed and well-balanced narrative.
8. 6th Mar Div Tng Ord No. 23-45, 6 May 45, cited in Carleton, 6th Mar Div History, Ch. II, pp. 5-7.
9. Tenth Army PW Interrog Summary No. 4, 1 Aug 45: 44th Independent Mixed Brigade, p. 4.
10. Personal obsn of Lt Col John Stevens, Tenth Army historian, and Maj Roy Appleman, XXIV Corps historian.
11. Personal Obsn of Lt Col John Stevens, Tenth Army historian.
12. Tenth Army Transl No. 176, 21 Jun 45: 32d Army Ord No. A 23, 14 May 45; PW Interrog Summary No. 2, 2 Aug 45: 62d Division; 96th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 55, 26 May 45.
13. The account of operations of the 1st Marine Division is based on Stockman, 1st Mar. Div History, and III Amph Corps G-3 Periodic Rpts for the period.
14. Some confusion had arisen as to the location of the town of Wana because the standard target map showed it on the southwest slopes of Warta Ridge. Study of the ground by historians indicated that the town actually may have been located southeast of Dakeshi and northeast of Wana Ridge.
15. 77th Div G2 Periodic Rpt No. 48, 13 May 45; Appleman, XXIV Corps History, p.338.
16. Appleman, XXIV Corps History, p.353; XXIV Corps G-3 Periodic Rpt No. 45, 15 May 45.
17. The account of the night attack of Company E, 307th Infantry, is based entirely on the signed statement of 2d Lt Robert F. Meiser, commanding 2d Platoon, Company E. This statement is recorded in Leach, 77th Div History Okinawa, Vol. II, Ch. III, pp. 67-81.
18. 77th Div G3 Periodic Rpts Nos. 54-57, 18-21 May 45; Leach, 77th Div History Okinawa, Vol. II, Ch. III, pp. 85-86.
19. Personal Obsn of 1st I & H Off. The precise location of Chocolate Drop Hill is not clear. While XXIV Corps and 77th Division records place it in Target Area 8073P of the 1:25,000 map of Okinawa, observation of the ground and study of photographs indicate that the hill is located from 200 to 300 yards northeast of that point.
20. The account of the capture of Chocolate Drop is taken from Leach, 77th Div History Okinawa, Vol. II, Ch. III, pp. 48-87; Appleman, XXIV Corps History, pp. 341-51; 77th Div Actn Rpt Okinawa; 306th Inf Actn Rpt; 307th Inf Actn Rpt; 706th Tk Bn Actn Rpt.
21. Appleman, XXIV Corps History, p. 347.
22. 96th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 47, 15 May 45; Appleman, XXIV Corps History, pp. 369-70.
23. The account of operations of the 96th Divisions at Dick Hills is based on Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div History, Pt. IV, pp. 25-31, 58-62, 64-67, 72-74.
24. The account of operations of the 77th Division at Flattop Hill is based on Appleman, XXIV Corps History, pp. 366-77, and Leach, 77th Div History Okinawa, Vol. II.
25. Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div History, Pt. IV, PP. 78-81, 95-97, 103-06, 110-11, 719-21.
26. XXIV Corps G-2 Weekly Summary No. 10, 13-19 May 45.
27. Interv 1st I & H Off with Gen Buckner, 15 Jun 45: 96th Div FO No. 21, 10 May 45; Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div History, Pt. IV, pp. 13, 14.
28. Appleman, XXIV Corps History, pp. 385-87; Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div History, Pt. IV, pp. 7-10.
29. The account of operations of the 96th Division at Conical Hill is taken from Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div History, Pt. IV; 96th Div Actn Rpt, Ch. VII; G-2 Periodic Rpts for the period.
30. Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div History, Pt. IV, p. 49.
31. Ibid., p. 101.
32. Casualty figures from 381st Inf Jul, Msg No. 65, 21 May 45.
33. Tenth Army Actn Rpt, 7-III-21.