American intelligence, handicapped as it was by various circumstances, had not succeeded in ascertaining all the salient facts regarding the enemy's forces and his plans. It had underestimated substantially the number of Japanese soldiers on Okinawa, largely through not taking into account the possibility of conscripting Okinawan natives. It had also not foreseen the great concentration of Japanese troops in the Shuri defense line or suspected its array of formidable defenses; these had not been indicated by the aerial photographs because most of the Shuri area had been cloud-covered during the photographic missions. But in the course of the fighting between 4 and 14 April the real nature of the Japanese defense on Okinawa was to become clear. In particular the 96th Division, grappling during 9-12 April with one of the strongest enemy positions in Okinawa, was to experience the full potency of the carefully prepared Japanese defensive plan.
Coming to Grips with the Enemy
For General Ushijima and his staff, this was still a time of watchful waiting as they were not certain that the pattern of the American attack was yet fully revealed. A new landing in the Machinato-Oyama area was considered possible. A Japanese field order of 4 April noted that "the tempo of enemy operations in the Minatoga area is increasing," and that vigilance was necessary against landings in this sector. Above all, the Japanese were concerned over the possibility of American operations in the Yonabaru area--either a new landing covered by American warships already operating in Buckner Bay or, more likely, a vigorous drive down the eastern flatlands by ground troops heavily supported by tanks and naval guns.1 Because of these American capabilities, General Ushijima continued to follow his basic plan of centering his main forces in and around the Shuri defenses, leaving outposts to slow up the American attack.
The Japanese braced themselves for the shock of battle as XXIV Corps, after cutting the island in two, turned south on 3 April for the drive toward Shuri. "Do your utmost," the enemy troops were told; "the victory of the century lies
in this battle."2 Orders went out to hold ground "regardless of whether the communications are severed or any other unfavorable conditions."3
General Hodge ordered both his divisions to continue the attack southward on 4 April-the 7th on the east and the 96th on the west. The Corps' objective was the hill mass extending from Urasoe-Mura to Hill 178 and Ouki. This was a larger assignment than anyone realized at the time, and much blood was to be shed before it could be carried out. The objective was not to be gained for three weeks, and then only partially.
Through the Outposts, 4-8 April
XXIV Corps Drives South, 4-5 AprilThe 96th Division made sweeping gains on 4 April. Its advance carried it through much of the outpost area immediately north of the Uchitomari-Tsuwa line. In the center of the island, troops of the 382d Infantry advanced more than two miles south from Nodake along the division's east boundary. On the west coast, the 96th's right-flank units swept along the flatlands from Isa to Uchitomari. Progress was only a little slower in the division's center along Route 5. Enemy resistance, which included artillery fire from the area to the south, varied from sniper fire to intense machine-gun and mortar fire directed out of scattered Japanese strong points. Rapid maneuver by infantry units supported by tanks reduced the enemy positions. Risks were taken for the sake of rapid advance, with the result that adjacent units often lost contact with one another, and advance elements occasionally were cut off by fire from supporting units.4
The deepest penetration of the Japanese area was on the west, where the 3d Battalion, 383d Infantry, preceded by elements of the 96th Reconnaissance Troop, drove rapidly from Isa to Uchitomari during the morning of 4 April. Between Mashiki and Uchitomari the troops ran into heavy fire from the south and from the ridges on their left (east). Three medium tanks from the 763d Tank Battalion ran afoul of a carefully sited and well-concealed 47-mm. antitank gun. Firing twenty rounds, Japanese gunners set the three tanks afire. The enemy later described this feat as an illustration of the effectiveness of 47-mm. guns. "Great results," Japanese combat instructions stated, "can be
Map No. 10: Through the Outposts
obtained by concealing the guns and opening surprise fire on the tanks at close range."5 As a result of continuing Japanese fire in the rough ground east of Mashiki and Oyama, the 3d Battalion, 383d Infantry, pulled back under smoke to Mashiki, where the troops dug in under artillery fire. (See Map No. 10)
For the 96th Division, 5 April marked the beginning of iron resistance on Okinawa. The 383d estimated at one time during the day that its forward elements were receiving fire from 20 machine guns and from 15 to 20 mortars, besides artillery pieces. Driving through the green, rolling country east of the Ginowan road, the 382d unmasked a series of fortified positions, many of them protected by mine fields. Each position caused American casualties and required enveloping movements. Well-camouflaged Japanese troops, supported by tanks, attacked the 1st Battalion during the afternoon, but the attack was broken up by artillery, mortar, and machine-gun fire. During the day, the 382d gained about 400 yards on the left (east) and 900 yards on the right.
The 383d on the west made little progress on 5 April. Its efforts centered on Cactus Ridge, 600 yards southeast of Mashiki, which commanded much of the ground between Uchitomari and Oyama. An infantry company supported by tanks made a direct assault on Cactus Ridge under heavy fire. The ridge was protected by a tank ditch, barbed wire, and a long mine field. When American tanks tried to pass through a gap in the mine field, they came under 47-mm. fire. Two were hit and had to be abandoned. The infantry soon came to a halt under almost continuous machine-gun, rifle, and mortar fire, and were forced to withdraw.
By the evening of 5 April the 7th Division had pulled up almost abreast of the 96th. The 7th had fallen about two miles behind on the preceding day, when its center elements encountered a high, wooded ridge paralleling the coast line just west of Kuba and defended by a group of Japanese estimated as of company strength. On this ridge a great castle had been built in the sixteenth century by a feudal lord who chose the commanding height as a vantage point from which he could observe movement through this narrow part of the island. Now there remained only attractive green terraces encased on several levels within massive stone walls intricately pieced together by Okinawans of a former day, 10,000 of whom labored for ten years to build this castle for their lord.6
XXIV CORPS TURNS SOUTH on April and meets greater opposition. Antitank gunners of the 383d Infantry, 96th Division, fire at Japanese positions in the Mashiki area, the approaches to Cactus Ridge. About the same time, on the Ginowan road, men and armor of the 382d Infantry, 96th Division (below), move through a wooded area, alert for concealed enemy positions.
Map No. 11: The Pinnacle
Whatever its strength in feudal times, the castle was good now only for one day's defense by the Japanese. On the morning of 5 April, the 7th Division found that the heights had been deserted before daylight. The division registered long advances during the day. The 32d Infantry moved more than two miles along the coast to a point east of Ukuma. The 184th advanced through Arakachi, and then was brought to a standstill by heavy and accurate fire from a rocky pinnacle located about 1,000 yards southwest of Arakachi. Company B, 184th Infantry, assaulted the hill on the 5th but was driven back. The reduction of this position-called the Pinnacle after a thin coral spike that rose 30 feet above the 450-foot ridge and served as a watchtower for the Japanese-was to be the main task of the 7th Division on the following day.
The Pinnacle: Capture of an OutpostIt was probably on this very hill that a party of Americans from Commodore Perry's expedition in 1853 raised the American flag "with hearty cheers" while exploring the island.7 The Japanese had selected the Pinnacle as an important outpost position because it dominated the adjoining ground and afforded excellent observation in all directions. Holding the Pinnacle was 1st Lt. Seiji Tanigawa's 1st Company, 24th Independent Infantry Battalion, composed of company headquarters and two rifle platoons, a total of 110 men. The third platoon was a mile to the rear in battalion reserve.
Lieutenant Tanigawa had built his defenses around eight light and two heavy machine guns sited at the base of the hill. In trenches and pits riflemen well-supplied with grenades covered the dead spaces in front of the machine guns. The defenses were connected by the usual tunnels and trenches, affording underground mobility. On the top of the ridge were four 50-mm. mortars, and on the reverse slope to the south were three more. Artillery check points had been established for 62d Division field pieces to the south. Barbed wire and mine fields protected the major approaches. Lieutenant Tanigawa could hardly have hoped to stop the Americans, but undoubtedly he expected to make the price of victory high. (See Map No. 11.)
After a 10-minute artillery preparation on the morning of 6 April, Company B, 184th Infantry, made a frontal assault on the Pinnacle, supported on the right (west) by Company C. Two platoons climbed almost to the top of the ridge, but when they started dropping grenades into caves and underground positions they stirred up a hornet's nest. The Japanese fought back with grenades,
satchel charges, and mortars. The troops held on for fifteen minutes, until mounting casualties forced a withdrawal. An hour later another infantry assault was attempted, supported by 105-mm. artillery, light tank fire, antitank guns, heavy machine guns, 60-mm. and 81-mm. mortars, 4.2-inch chemical mortars, and bazookas; but the attack was again stopped by Japanese who hid underground during the heavy fire and then rushed back to their firing positions to meet the oncoming Americans.
For the third attack of the morning, Lt. Col. Daniel G. Maybury, commanding the 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry, decided to push Company C up a draw just beyond the ridge used by Company B, but the latter was still expected to seize the peak. Company B moved up the ridge quickly to catch the enemy out of his holes, but again the troops were driven back. Company C was now working its way up the western approaches along a difficult but partially covered route. Lieutenant Tanigawa had directed the repulse of Company B from the Pinnacle watchtower but he did not know of Company C's approach on his flank. Colonel Maybury directed supporting fire in front of Company C, which quickly moved to the top without losing a man. It then proceeded leisurely and methodically to destroy the remaining Japanese with white phosphorus grenades and flame throwers. Only 20 of the 110 defenders escaped to the south. With the Pinnacle reduced, the entire 7th Division line could move forward.
The Pinnacle had been a tough position to crack, yet it was only an outpost. The Pinnacle was undermanned, and no reinforcements were provided. During the action Lieutenant Tanigawa pleaded with his superiors for artillery support, but he was provided with neither the artillery nor an explanation of the refusal. By 6-7 April the XXIV Corps had unmasked the Shuri fortified zone, composed of many positions as fanatically defended as Pinnacle outpost and also heavily supported by artillery and fed by an almost endless stream of reinforcements from local reserve units.
XXIV Corps Halted on the West, 6-8 AprilAssault units of the XXIV Corps had by 6 April penetrated the outposts held by the 12th Independent Infantry Battalion and were in contact with two other battalions of the 63d Brigade of the 62d Division. In general, the 13th Independent Infantry Battalion faced the 96th Division; the 14th opposed the 7th Division; and remnants of the 12th, which had suffered heavily in its outpost actions to the north, straddled the division boundary in the center of the island. The Japanese Independent Infantry Battalion was well adapted for outpost action. Each of its five rifle companies was equipped with nine light machine
EAST COAST BATTLES of the 184th Infantry, 7th Division, in early April centered about the hill called the Pinnacle. Its western approaches, over which Company C moved to capture it, are shown above. At high point on right is watchtower. From the Pinnacle the 2d Battalion, 184th, attacked toward Tomb Hill along the finger ridge shown in the center of the picture below. A white phosphorus shell had just burst on the hill beyond.
guns and nine grenade dischargers; the machine gun company operated ten heavy machine guns; and the infantry gun company was furnished with two 75-mm. regimental guns and two 70-mm. howitzers. Each of the three battalions had originally a strength of about 900, but Okinawan conscripts and Boeitai swelled the total to approximately 1,200.8
On 6 April the strong enemy positions on Cactus Ridge continued to hold up the Corps' west flank. An air strike early in the morning put bombs squarely on the ridge, but the assaulting troops of the 96th Division found enemy fire as intense as ever. The 2d Battalion, 383d Infantry, made frontal assaults through intense mortar fire to gain the ridge. "We figured," S/Sgt. Francis M. Rall later wrote, "that the way to get out of that knee mortar fire was to get to where it was coming from. So we stood up in waves, firing everything we had and throwing hand grenades by the dozen, and charged the Jap position."9 By such tactics the 2d Battalion gained the western half of Cactus. On the next day, 7 April, more American "banzai charges" won the rest of the ridge.
The capture of Cactus Ridge brought the 383d Infantry up against the formidable Japanese positions in the Kakazu area. On 7 and 8 April the regiment pushed down toward Kakazu Ridge, supported by planes, light and medium artillery, and naval gunfire from the battleship New York. Col. E. T. May, commanding the 383d, at this time had no conception of the enemy's strength on Kakazu. Small-scale attacks along the approaches to Kakazu by the 1st Battalion on 7 and 8 April failed with heavy losses. Spigot mortar fire was met on the 8th for the first time. The 320-mm. shells had little fragmentation effect but a terrific concussion and dug craters fifteen feet across and eight feet deep. The spigot mortar shells were dubbed "flying box cars" by the American troops, who claimed that they were able to see the huge missiles in time to run to safety.
From 6 to 8 April the 382d Infantry advanced slowly east of the Ginowan road. The enemy fought stubbornly from hilly ground north and west of Kaniku and delivered heavy fire from his strong positions on Tombstone Ridge, just south of Kaniku, and from Nishibaru Ridge, southwest of Tombstone. Quantities of rifle, machine-gun, mortar, and artillery fire were poured on the troops as they moved south. Savage hand-to-hand encounters marked the slow progress of the regiment, which suffered numerous casualties. By night of 8 April the
regiment was strung out on a wide front just north of Kaniku and Tombstone Ridge. Heavy fire from the front, from the Kakazu area on the right (west), and from its exposed left (east) flank, where the 184th was slowed by strong opposition, had brought the 382d virtually to a dead stop.
XXIV Corps Halted on the East, 7-9 AprilAfter the fall of the Pinnacle, the 184th Infantry continued to move southward over broken eroded ground on its right (west) and rocky finger ridges on the left. On the flatlands along the coast the 32d Infantry advanced with little difficulty, keeping contact with the 184th. Only when forward elements of the 32d tried to push out ahead of the 184th in force did its assault units encounter aggressive Japanese opposition, in the form of heavy fire from the heights on the right. Thus the rate of advance of the 184th governed that of the XXIV Corps' left. By 7 April it was clear to the 7th Division commander, studying the ground ahead from his observation post on the Pinnacle, that the 184th was now meeting the main Japanese defenses.
The fighting in the 7th Division's sector on 7 April centered on a low, bare hill 1,000 yards west of the town of Minami-Uebaru, called Red Hill because of its color. The enemy had made a fortress of the hill by constructing his usual system of caves and connecting trenches. A frontal assault on Red Hill by troops of the 3d Battalion, 184th Infantry, failed in the face of machine-gun and mortar fire. In a second attempt, three platoons of tanks supported the attack. Ten medium and five light tanks advanced through a cut toward Red Hill; two tanks were blown up by mines and one was satchel-charged as the column moved toward the hill and up the sides. Intense enemy artillery and machine-gun fire drove the infantry back and disabled more tanks. Japanese swarmed in among the armor and tried to destroy the tanks with satchel charges and flaming rags. Two medium tanks held off the attackers, the defending crews resorting to hand grenades, while the rest of the operative tanks withdrew.10
The 14th Independent Infantry Battalion headquarters proudly described this action as a perfect example of how to separate troops from tanks and thus break up the American infantry-tank team. The enemy dispatch stated: "The above method of isolating the troops from the tanks with surprise fire followed by close combat tactics is an example in the complete destruction of enemy tanks and will be a great factor in deciding the victories of tank warfare."11
After these two reversals the 3d Battalion, 184th, made a wide enveloping maneuver to the right. Behind fire from artillery and supporting weapons, the troops drove toward Red Hill from the west and occupied it, suffering only two casualties in the move. Once more a Japanese outpost had shown its strength against a frontal attack and its vulnerability to a flanking maneuver. The capture of Red Hill left another sector of enemy territory open for the taking. The troops advanced 100 yards south before digging in. A platoon of tanks conducted a remarkable 4,000-yard foray almost to Hill 178 and withdrew safely, despite a bombing attack by two single-engined Japanese planes.
The 184th continued to make the main effort on the Corps' east flank during the next two days, 8 and 9 April. Two formidable enemy positions built around strong points lay between Red Hill and Hill 178-Tomb Hill, 1,000 yards northwest of Ouki, and Triangulation Hill, 1,000 yards northwest of Tomb Hill. Enemy artillery fire was the heaviest yet encountered by the 7th Division. Tank-infantry teams were the special target of the Japanese shells. The heavy enemy fire drove off infantry and demolished tanks; then the attacking Japanese satchel-charged the exposed tanks and bayoneted crews when they tried to escape. The enemy reoccupied abandoned tanks and converted them into pillboxes.
Triangulation Hill fell on 8 April after two bloody assaults. Tomb Hill, so named after the numerous burial vaults along its sides, held out until the 9th, when infantry and tanks, closely supported by artillery and planes, managed to seize and hang onto the crest of the hill. Its capture enabled the Sad to seize finger ridges east of Tomb Hill that dominated the approaches to Ouki. Japanese clung tenaciously to the reverse slope of Tomb Hill, and direct enemy observation from Hill 178, now only 1,500 yards to the southwest, hindered the efforts to clean out the area south of Tomb Hill.
An ambitious flanking maneuver around the Japanese right (east) was tried on the 10th, but it was a dismal failure. The 7th Division had come up against the hard rim of the Shuri fortified zone, and maneuver was impossible. The 7th now paused, while the XXIV Corps made its main effort in the Kakazu area.
The Japanese outpost units had done their work well. They had held the XXIV Corps off from the Shuri fortified zone for eight days. For its work during this and later periods, the 14th Independent Infantry Battalion was cited by Lt. Gen. Takeo Fujioka, commander of the 62d Division, who stated: "Burning with the determination to annihilate the enemy, the soldiers carried
Map No. 12: Kakazu Ridge
out counterattacks, followed by close combat, and crushed the continuously reinforced enemy who was attacking with fierce artillery and bombardment."12 By the night of 8 April, XXIV Corps had suffered 1,510 battle casualties and had accounted for 4,489 Japanese killed and 13 captured.13 The 96th had taken the bulk of the American casualties and was about to suffer further serious losses in abortive attempts to reduce the Kakazu positions.
On 8 April Colonel May ordered the 1st and 3d Battalions of the 383d Infantry to seize the Kakazu hill mass the next day, and on the morning of 9 April the two battalions were drawn up in position for the attack. (See Map No. 12.)
Assaulting the Shuri Defenses, 9-12 April
The Japanese-held area in front of the 383d Infantry offered the enemy an ideal combination of defensive features. A deep moat, a hill studded with natural and man-made positions, a cluster of thick-walled buildings behind the hill these were the basic elements of Kakazu stronghold. The enemy had exploited each one of them. Moreover, Kakazu, unlike such outposts as the Pinnacle, was an integral element of the Shuri fortified zone and a vital rampart that could expect reinforcements and heavy fire support from within the ring of positions that surrounded the 32d Army headquarters, only 4,000 yards to the south.
The 1st and 3d Battalions were drawn up on the high ground several hundred yards northeast of the main hill of Kakazu. Between the Americans and Kakazu lay a deep gorge, half hidden by trees and brush, which could be crossed only with difficulty. The Kakazu hill mass itself, on the other side of this gorge, stretched northwest-southeast for 2,000 yards, sloping on the west toward the coastal flat and ending on the east at Highway 5. Kakazu was made up of two hills connected by a saddle. On the east was the larger of the two hills, about 500 yards long and topped by a fairly level strip of land averaging 25 yards in width; it came to be known to the American troops as Kakazu Ridge. At the western end of this ridge was a north-south saddle, sloping gently up toward the south. This saddle was dotted with tombs, as were the sides of Kakazu Ridge. West of the saddle was another portion of the Kakazu hill mass, forming the head of a T in relation to Kakazu Ridge, and stretching north-south for about 250 yards. This hill was later called "Crocker's Hill" by the 27th Division, but to the 96th
KAKAZU WEST and the west end of Kakazu Ridge, viewed from high ground north of the gorge. tombs used by the 1st Battalion, 381st Infantry, 96th Division, and a Japanese cave position can be seen. Below are caves along north slope of Kakazu West used by the 2d Battalion, 381st, while entrenched on the reverse slope of the knob.
it came to be known as "Kakazu West." On the northern slope of Kakazu West the ground fell away sharply in a steep cliff pockmarked with caves; on the east it was steep but not precipitous.
Kakazu was not formidable in appearance. It was not high, nor jagged, nor especially abrupt. Kakazu was overshadowed by the Urasoe-Mura Escarpment, 500 yards to the south, which, from the position of the American forces, seemed like a towering, insurmountable cliff, preventing passage beyond. Compared to Urasoe-Mura, Kakazu was simply an ugly, squat hill, originally covered with vegetation but soon left only with bare tree trunks standing gaunt against the skyline. Just below Kakazu Ridge on the southeast was the town of Kakazu, a compact group of tile-roofed structures, each surrounded by hedges and stone walls and somewhat in defilade to the adjoining open fields.
In and around the Kakazu hills the Japanese had created one of their strongest positions on Okinawa. Mortars dug in on the reverse slope were zeroed-in on the gorge and on vulnerable areas between the gorge and the crest of Kakazu. Several spigot mortars also protected the hill. In an intricate system of coordinated pillboxes, tunnels, and caves Japanese machine guns were sited to cover all avenues of approach. The enemy was also supported by many artillery pieces within the Shuri fortified zone. The heavy walls and the hedges of the town of Kakazu-and eventually its rubble-afforded the Japanese countless defensive positions.
The 1st Battalion of the 383d, commanded by Lt. Col. Byron F. King, was to capture Kakazu Ridge; the 3d Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Edward W. Stare, was to take Kakazu West.14 The companies were to attack before dawn without an artillery preparation in order to surprise the enemy. The men had only a vague conception of the ground over which they were to attack. The air photographs and maps were inaccurate or lacking in detail. From the jump-off position the gorge between the men and Kakazu was not visible.
Rifle Companies Storm KakazuThe predawn darkness hid the movement of the troops as they moved out. From east to west the companies were C and A of the 1st Battalion and L and 1 of the 3d Battalion. Companies C and A crossed the gorge, picked their way up the slopes of Kakazu Ridge, and were on the top by dawn without being discovered. Company L's forward elements killed several Japanese on the way up Kakazu West without arousing the bulk of the defenders. Company I on
the far west was delayed in its jump-off and by daylight was in open ground 150 yards south of Uchitomari.
Shortly after 0600 the enemy was alerted. A lone Japanese in a pillbox spotted Company A and opened fire. Almost immediately a terrific hail of mortar fire fell along the entire front, punctuated by staccato bursts from machine guns. The Americans were in poor positions. Most of Companies A and C were on the ridge, but they had separated in the approach and had not yet regained contact. Likewise there was no contact between Company A and Company L, which was part way up Kakazu West. Company L at first escaped most of the fire, which blanketed the gorge after L had crossed it, but the same fire cut off Company 1 in the open ground to the west and thus left L isolated on Kakazu West.
While the men of Companies A and C huddled in holes on the crest and forward (northeast) slopes of Kakazu Ridge to escape the murderous fire, Company L made a dash to gain the top of Kakazu West. In the face of machinegun fire 1st Lt. Willard F. Mitchell, commander of Company L, a stocky Louisianian whose favorite expression was "Watch out! Here comes `the Hoss' and God's on the Hoss's side," urged his men to the top. They made it with fixed bayonets and immediately became engaged in a close-quarters fight that was to last all morning.
Just as Company L gained the top of Kakazu West the situation was becoming desperate on Kakazu Ridge. The Japanese charged through their own mortar barrage into the American lines. Hand-to-hand fighting, especially in Company A's section, raged without a lull until 0745. Since the support platoons were pinned down in the open ground between the gorge and the hill, reinforcement was impossible; yet more and more of the enemy closed in.
Capt. Jack A. Royster, commander of Company A, reported that it would be forced to withdraw or would be wiped out unless reinforcements could be brought up or the 3d Battalion could come abreast on the right (west).15 He evidently did not know that only Company L of the 3d Battalion had made the top of Kakazu West and that it was now fighting for its life. Company B was ordered to move up behind A but was stopped by the fire blanketing the gorge. The enemy was keeping over the gorge a curtain of steel and explosive which prevented more Americans from moving up, while Japanese counterattacking elements were attempting to finish off the small force on the top.
"Hold the Ridge at All Costs!"At 0830 Company C was being heavily attacked on its exposed left (east) flank. Colonel King, 1st Battalion commander, had ordered Captain Royster to hold at all costs, but now knew that the game was up. He radioed Colonel May:
Have 50 men on ridge. Support elements pinned down. Heavy concentrations of mortars and artillery being laid down on troops beside MG crossfire. If we do not get reinforcements, we will have to withdraw.16
Colonel May was acting under a division field order which called for a "vigorous" attack to the south.17 He was unwilling to relinquish his toe hold on Kakazu; to do so meant giving up vital high ground. Furthermore, he felt that the 1st Battalion would lose as many men in attempting a retreat as in trying to hang on. Colonel May therefore radioed to the 1st Battalion:
Sending G Company to reinforce you . . . if the Battalion CO is jumpy, have the executive officer take over. Hold the ridge at all costs.18
He then ordered the 2d Battalion to fill the gap between the 1st and 3d Battalions by sending Company G forward. Company G, however, was 1,000 yards to the rear and did not arrive in time to help the 1st Battalion out.
Up on Kakazu Ridge, Captain Royster felt his position was untenable. Although almost blind from a mortar burst, he kept rallying his men until a smoke barrage gave them concealment for the move back. The first smoke from a chemical company blew over the lines, but at 1000 it was effective enough for C and A to begin their withdrawal. A rear guard held the crest while the wounded men were carried out. The remaining troops on Kakazu, along with those who had been pinned down in the open ground near the gorge, moved back through mortar fire.
The first members of A and C to reach the gorge were met there at 1030 by Capt. John C. Van Vulpen of Company B, who had been trying to move up to reinforce them. Under orders from battalion to attack, Captain Van Vulpen led the forty-six able-bodied men of his company up the south bank of the gorge onto the open ground. They had gone only a few yards when a hail of mortar shells and machine-gun fire wounded seven of the men. Advance was impossible as the enemy had both the gorge and the area north of the gorge under artillery and mortar fire. During the afternoon the survivors of the three companies
straggled back to the battalion lines. For many the trip was a nightmare of hairbreadth escapes; the battalion surgeon considered none of the survivors fit for further duty.
Company L Fights OnWith the withdrawal of Companies C and A during the morning of 9 April, Company L was the sole American unit on Kakazu. Lieutenant Mitchell and his men held the northernmost of two knolls that made up Kakazu West. Although Mitchell and his men had seized enough of the saddle to set up machine guns in its slight defilade, they were unable to seize the southern knoll. The Japanese, who were making their main effort against Companies C and A on Kakazu Ridge, were unable to push the Americans off the northern knoll of Kakazu West, although they drove in close enough to engage in hand-grenade and even satchel-charge duels.
About noon the enemy apparently realized that the American force on Kakazu West was not as strong as its fierce resistance had seemed to indicate. He launched four hard counterattacks during the afternoon with forces of from platoon to company strength. The Japanese infantry attacked through their own mortar fire, throwing potato mashers and satchel charges. Lieutenant Mitchell's booming voice could be heard above the din of battle as he directed the defense.
Heroism was commonplace on Kakazu West that afternoon. Both machine gunners took their weapons out into the open for better fields of fire; one of them, Sgt. James Pritchard, fired six boxes of ammunition and killed many Japanese charging up the west slopes of Kakazu West before he was mortally wounded. When ammunition was exhausted in the mortar section, which was supporting the company from a position at the base of the steep cliff on the north of Kakazu West, S/Sgt. Erby L. Boyd, section leader, volunteered to go to the rear through the fire-swept gorge for more ammunition. He was killed in the attempt. Pfc. Joseph Solch stood up in full view of the enemy and emptied three BAR clips into their midst, killing fifteen Japanese. Solch was the only survivor of six men who earlier in the day had knocked out a spigot mortar at the base of the reverse slope of Kakazu West, after watching four enemy soldiers pull the huge launcher out of a cave on a 40-foot track, fire the mortar, and pull the launcher back into the cave.
Desperate efforts to relieve the pressure on Company L were fruitless. Colonel May had ordered the 2d Battalion to send Company G on Kakazu
Map No. 13: Kakazu Ridge
between L on Kakazu West and A on Kakazu Ridge. Company G did not reach the gorge until midafternoon. By this time Company 1, which had been pinned down in the open area just south of Uchitomari, had managed to work its way forward by one's and two's to more covered positions. Together Companies 1 and G tried at 1400 to reach L's left (east) flank. But because of heavy Japanese fire they were not able to cross the ravine. The enemy's curtain of fire along the gorge was still impassable.
Retreat From Kakazu WestBy 1600 Lieutenant Mitchell realized that his position was hopeless. Of eighty-nine men who had reached the top of Kakazu West, fifteen had now been killed and only three were uninjured. One man had just been blown thirty feet into the air by what Lieutenant Mitchell suspected was American naval gunfire. Worst of all, the company was almost out of ammunition. Those who still had a few rounds had obtained them by stripping the dead and wounded of ammunition; others had none at all. The machine guns stood idle, their belts empty. The last counterattack at 1530 had been launched by from 100 to 150 Japanese, and Lieutenant Mitchell knew that his small force could not withstand another such onslaught.
Deciding to withdraw, Lieutenant Mitchell called for supporting fires, and these were expertly handled. The 4.2-inch chemical smoke on the south side of Kakazu West was interspersed with high explosive artillery shells to keep the enemy pinned down. Under cover of the smoke the survivors of Company L pulled back off the hill to the gorge, carrying their wounded with them. Lieutenant Mitchell then had the concentration moved to the top and north slopes of Kakazu West. Nevertheless Japanese machine gunners, firing blindly into the smoke, killed two of the men on the way back.
It had been a black day for the 383d Infantry. The regiment had suffered 326 casualties--23 killed, 256 wounded, 47 missing.19 The 1st Battalion was at half strength and was considered ineffective. Colonel May had relieved Colonel King of the 1st Battalion and had placed the battalion's executive officer, Maj. Kenny W. Erickson, in command. Company L had only thirty-eight men left, including the company headquarters. The regiment had gained no ground. However, it had killed about 420 of the enemy. Company L was later awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation for its tenacity in holding on against great odds. 20
"Powerhouse Attack" on Kakazu, 10 AprilEven before the attack of 9 April disintegrated, Brig. Gen. Claudius M. Easley, assistant division commander, Colonel May, commander of the 383d, and Col. M. E. Halloran, commander of the 381st, had met at the 383d command post to plan a "powerhouse attack" for 10 April.21 One regiment had assailed Kakazu unsuccessfully on 9 April; now two regiments were to do the job, under the direction of General Easley. The 381st was to assault Kakazu West from positions south of Uchitomari; the 383d was to attack Kakazu Ridge from positions north of the gorge. (See Map No. 13.)
No tanks wore to move out with the assault battalions. They could not negotiate the gorge at the base of Kakazu; if the tanks tried to make a wide flanking move on the right (west) south of Uchitomari, they would encounter a jumble of rice paddies and terraced fields under direct fire from the enemy; similarly a wide sweep on the left, east of the deepest part of the gorge, would bring the tanks into the open, fire-swept ground where the 382d was inching ahead. As a result, the infantry-tank team, which proved to be so indispensable a weapon in the final reduction of the Shuri defenses, could not be used in the attack on Kakazu. The two regiments, however, were to have exceptionally heavy artillery support from seven battalions of field artillery, including Marine battalions attached to the 96th.22 Naval gunfire and three squadrons of Navy fighter planes were also on call.
Artillery opened a 15-minute preparation at 0645 on 10 April, but, as General Easley felt that it had not fallen close enough to the lines to be effective, he ordered another 15-minute bombardment. The 2d Battalion, 381st Infantry, then jumped off from the outskirts of Uchitomari toward Kakazu West; it soon came under intense mortar and machine-gun fire. The 1st Battalion, 381st, moved up behind the 2d. At first the 383d met little resistance; thus during the morning the attack on Kakazu revolved around the efforts of the 381st.
A part of the 2d Battalion, 381st Infantry, soon was pinned down by fire in the open area north of the gorge-about the same place where Company 1, 383d, had been stopped on the previous day-but some troops managed to reach it. Already the enemy had his curtain of fire established along the length of the gorge, and the men of the 2d Battalion were forced to cling to overhanging rocks on the south side to escape the fire. A heavy mortar barrage dropped on the gorge as more troops moved up.
At 0805 leading elements of the 2d Battalion moved out of the gorge and started up the north slope of Kakazu West in a skirmish line. Resistance was not strong; machine guns on the crest of Kakazu West were knocked out by small flanking movements. By 0930 the troops were on the crest of Kakazu West, where they hastily consolidated their position, knowing that Company L of the 383d had been forced off this very height on the previous day. Soon two companies were on the hill. Here they waited for the 383d to move up on their left (east) flank onto Kakazu Ridge.
Checkmate at Kakazu RidgeThe 383d, however, was not making much progress. Both battalions, the 3d on the right (west) and the 2d on the left, advanced until they were stopped by enemy fire just short of the gorge, which on 10 April, as on 9 April, was the dominant element of the action. Although Colonel May believed that enemy fire was negligible and radioed both battalions to move forward toward Kakazu Ridge, the battalions could not advance.23 As a result, both battalions became involved in flanking movements. Part of the 2d Battalion never left the area north of the gorge, but other elements moved southeast along the Uchitomari Kaniku road, turned right (south) on Highway 5, and infiltrated through houses along the highway to flank the gorge. They were still no better off, however, for the enemy had the open area here under control by fire. The 2d Battalion stayed in this position, at the eastern end of the gorge in front of Kakazu Ridge, for the rest of the day.
When stopped at the gorge, the 3d Battalion, 383d Infantry, made a flanking move in a direction opposite to that taken by the 2d Battalion, moving west toward the 381st regimental sector. The 3d Battalion managed to cross the gorge at the north base of Kakazu West in the 381st sector. It then attacked up the north slopes of that hill, connecting with the 2d Battalion, 381st, in the latter's sector on the northeast side. By 1100 elements of the 381st and 383d held the top of Kakazu West, its northern slopes, and part of the saddle between Kakazu West and Kakazu Ridge. The hold was none too secure, for the enemy had troops available for counterattack and was placing intermittent machine-gun and mortar fire on Kakazu West.
Kakazu Ridge was still unconquered. About noon the 2d Battalion, 383d, attacked east along the saddle connecting Kakazu Ridge and Kakazu West, in an effort to take the ridge. The attempt was abortive; the troops advanced about
KAKAZU GORGE from the saddle between Kakazu Ridge and Kakazu West, giving an idea of its depth. Path shown was used by the 381st Infantry, 96th Division, to reach Kakazu hills. (Photo taken some time after action.)
100 yards and then were pinned down by machine-gun and mortar fire from Kakazu Ridge. It was now raining, and movement was more difficult than ever. The 2d Battalion, 381st, tried to push south along the crest of Kakazu West in order to gain ground dominating the town of Kakazu and the reverse slope of Kakazu Ridge. The troops made a small gain; then quickly a vicious counterattack drove them back to their original positions on the north knob of Kakazu West.
At this point the struggle for Kakazu had become a stalemate. The Japanese had stopped the American troops, but they could not mount enough power to drive them off Kakazu as they had done the previous day. The Americans were facing a situation that was to be repeated many times on Okinawa: the enemy had more strength on the reverse slope of the hill than on the crest or forward slope, since on the reverse slope he had considerable concealment and cover from hostile fire.
The situation was now critical, for the 3d Battalion, 383d, had suffered many casualties during the day, especially among the small-unit commanders, and was now being vigorously attacked. At 1345 General Easley attempted to break the deadlock. He ordered the 1st Battalion, 381st Infantry, to pass through the right (west) flank of the 383d in the saddle, and instructed the latter to hold on until help arrived.
By 1400 the 1st Battalion, 381st, was on the move in a column of companies, following the same route of approach that had been used by the 2d Battalion in the morning. About half the battalion was across the gorge when the enemy again placed his prearranged mortar concentrations and machine-gun fire on this vulnerable point. Cut off from some of their supporting elements, the forward troops of the 1st Battalion made their way up the steep slopes of Kakazu West in the pouring rain. Some of the near elements later joined them; others never reached Kakazu West that day.
At about 1530 the 1st Battalion of the 381st finally arrived to relieve the 3d Battalion of the 383d in the saddle. But it was too late for an effective relief. A part of the 3d Battalion had given way before the fierce enemy attack, and the relieving troops discovered a horde of Japanese where they had expected to find only Americans. Nevertheless, the 1st Battalion attacked southeast along Kakazu Ridge. The attack was not delivered -in strength, however, and it failed. Later, some of the elements of the 1st Battalion which were cut off at the gorge rejoined the unit, and by darkness the troops had worked their way up the north slopes of Kakazu Ridge to within twenty yards of the crest.
The Enemy Clings to Kakazu Ridge, 11-12 AprilUnder regimental orders to seize Kakazu Ridge, the 1st Battalion, 381st Infantry, attacked across the saddle at 0700 on 21 April. The troops worked up the western slope of the ridge but then came under severe flat trajectory gunfire from the area south of Kakazu and under high-angle mortar fire from the reverse (southern) slope of Kakazu Ridge. The Japanese also threw satchel charges at them from the crest of Kakazu Ridge. Although the attacking troops were supported by fire from the top of Kakazu West, they finally were forced to dig in short of the crest of the ridge. Here the enemy made two sharp counterattacks, which were stopped mainly by one man, T/Sgt. Alfred C. Robertson. With BAR, rifle, grenades, bayonet, and trench knife Robertson killed about twenty-eight of the enemy, and in addition directed mortar fire when his radio operator was seriously wounded.
The 3d Battalion, 383d Infantry, spent the morning in its position on the north slope of the saddle, receiving rations and ammunition brought through the gorge under heavy fire. At 1300 this battalion, with the 1st Battalion, 381st, on the right (southwest), drove up the northwest slopes of Kakazu Ridge. Since the commander of the 1st had been unable to cross the gorge, Colonel Stare, commander of the 3d Battalion, directed the attack.
After advancing about 150 yards the attacking troops came under severe mortar and machine-gun fire from the crest and reverse slope of Kakazu Ridge. Even heavier fire was coming from the reverse (south) slope of Kakazu West, which was still in enemy hands. Colonel Stare decided that his assault could continue only if the 2d Battalion of the 381st, occupying the northern part of the top of Kakazu West, attacked and destroyed the Japanese who still clung to the southern portion of Kakazu West.
Through heavy fire Colonel Stare made his way to the 2d Battalion command post to plan this attack with Lt. Col. Russell Graybill, 2d Battalion commander. Just as the attack was about to be launched the Japanese counterattacked on Kakazu West, and Colonel Graybill's men had all they could do to hold their positions. Colonel Stare then called off further attacks on Kakazu Ridge and ordered casualties evacuated under a smoke screen. The two battalions on the northwest slopes of Kakazu Ridge drew back to their original positions. Once again the enemy had retained his grip on the main portions of Kakazu.
During the night of 11-12 April the Japanese bombarded the Uchitomari Kakazu area with huge mortar shells, some of them 320-mm. One fell squarely on the aid station of the 1st Battalion of the 381st, killing the two medical
Map No. 14: XXIV Corps Advance
officers and eleven soldiers and wounding nine others. On 12 April the 96th Division made its final attempt to take Kakazu. After planes bombed and rocketed the crest and reverse slope of Kakazu Ridge, the 1st Battalion, 381st, attacked up the northwest slopes of the ridge. The Japanese waited for the planes to leave and then opened up with one of the heaviest mortar concentrations the 96th had ever met. For over an hour mortar shells burst on the rocky slopes at a rate faster than one a second. Three times the troops of the 381st attacked; each time, in the face not only of this mortar fire, but also of machine-gun and rifle fire, grenades, and satchel charges, the attack disintegrated. The battalion lost forty-five men. Although the mortar fire stopped as soon as the Americans pulled back, the enemy was still very much in control of the situation on Kakazu Ridge.
In the midst of the bitter struggle for the Shuri line the troops received almost unbelievable news. Early on 12 April word flashed through the bivouac areas and along the front lines on Okinawa that President Roosevelt had died. The enemy also heard the news, and attempted to capitalize on it. Shortly afterward a Japanese propaganda leaflet was found which stated:
We must express our deep regret over the death of President Roosevelt. The "American Tragedy" is now raised here at Okinawa with his death. You must have seen 70% of your CV's and 73% of your B's sink or be damaged causing 150,000 casualties. Not only the late President but anyone else would die in the excess of worry to hear such an annihilative damage. The dreadful loss that led your late leader to death will make you orphans on this island. The Japanese special attack corps will sink your vessels to the last destroyer. You will witness it realized in the near future.24
American Attack on the East Flank Halted, 10-12 AprilWhile elements of the 96th Division were attempting fruitlessly to take Kakazu Ridge, other elements of that division, together with units of the 7th Division, were trying to continue the advance on the east flank that had begun with the success of the 184th Infantry on 8-9 April. The capture of Tomb Hill by the 184th on 9 April, after an infantry attack supported by the massed fire of mortars and guns, made it possible for the 7th Division to advance several hundred yards on 9 and 10 April. The 32d Infantry continued to push ahead on the east along the flat coastal plain, while the 184th moved along the rough high ground farther inland. Despite bad weather conditions the troops were supported by naval gunfire and artillery. Enemy resistance was stiffening.
Japanese artillery fire increased in intensity, and the 7th experienced several small but well-organized counterattacks. (See Map No. 14.)
On 10 and 11 April the Sad Infantry tried to advance into the town of Ouki, while the 184th on the heights warded off small counterattacks, sealed up caves, and consolidated its positions. The Japanese had made Ouki into a strong point, covered by their artillery and protected on the north by a well-laid mine field, pillboxes, and trenches. A chill, penetrating rain made advance difficult and the troops miserable. The 2d Battalion of the Sad, coordinating with the 184th Infantry on the west, moved slowly over a series of small spurs overlooking the plain, while the 1st Battalion of the Sad advanced against Ouki below.
On 11 April troops of the 1st Battalion entered Ouki on the heels of an artillery preparation, killing forty-five Japanese soldiers in the attack. The supporting tanks, however, were held up by a mined antitank ditch north of Ouki. Japanese heavy weapons opened up on the tanks and mine-clearing squads, cutting off the troops in Ouki from their supporting elements just as they had done in the Kakazu fight when they covered the gorge with fire. The troops in Ouki had to retreat from their exposed position. On 11 April the 1st Battalion sent patrols into Ouki, and the 2d Battalion reconnoitered Ishin, 400 yards to the west, but neither made advances. The 7th Division lines were now stabilized a few hundred yards northeast of Hill 178, a strongly held enemy position.25
The 382d Infantry of the 96th Division, in the center of the XXIV Corps line, also came to a standstill during 9-12 April. The 382d had three battalions on line by 10 April--the 2d on the right (west), the 1st in the center, and the 3d on the left. On the west the 2d Battalion tied in loosely with the 383d Infantry on Highway 5; on the east a large gap lay between the 184th Infantry of the 7th Division and the 382d. The terrain fronting the 382d was notable for its irregularity but had a few prominent features lending themselves to defense. The enemy had fortified Tombstone Ridge, a long low hill running northeast southwest just south of Kaniku, as well as high ground south of Nishibaru. Kakazu Ridge extended across much of the regiment's right (west) front; and the upper part of the gorge, east of Highway 5, was an effective obstacle even if less precipitous here than on the other side of the highway north of Kakazu.
The main effort of the 382d during this period was made on 10 April, while the 381st and 383d on the west were attempting their "powerhouse" attack on
Kakazu. The 382d attacked southwest with three battalions in line. On the west the 2d Battalion advanced several hundred yards and crossed the gorge, only to halt in the face of heavy fire from its front and flanks. On the regimental left (east) the 3d Battalion gained one of the knobs east of Tombstone Ridge, but continual rain, which bogged down the tanks and decreased visibility, combined with heavy enemy mortar, machine-gun, and 47-mm. fire to force the battalion to withdraw to its original position north of the Ginowan road.
The 382d suffered its worst setbacks of 10 April in the center of its line. The 1st Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Charles W. Johnson, attacked Tombstone Ridge, which dominated the ground across the entire regimental front. By 0840 Company A had seized the northern nose of the ridge, but it was stopped by small-arms fire from the steep slopes of the ridge and by heavy artillery and mortar fire. Colonel Johnson then swung Companies B and C around west of Kaniku for an assault on the ridge from the northwest. The Japanese were unusually quiet while Companies B and C advanced to the crest, but shortly afterward they delivered a 15-minute concentration of mortar and artillery fire, at the conclusion of which they swarmed out of pillboxes, trenches, and caves.
A furious struggle followed. From the reverse slope of Tombstone machine guns opened up on the Americans at almost point-blank range. The Americans used portable flame throwers, but the Japanese brought forward flame throwers of their own. Spigot mortar shells burst on the hill. Colonel Johnson, who had previously extricated Company A from its deadlocked position on the north of Tombstone, now committed it on the right (southwest) of the other two companies. It was of no avail. On the northeast flank, now open, the Japanese overran a machine-gun position; only one man was able to escape. The American troops on the right made a few more yards in a desperate effort to gain a firm foothold on the ridge. By 1415 it was obvious to Colonel Johnson that further attack would be fruitless, and he secured permission from regiment to pull out of the fire-swept area. The men made an orderly retreat to high ground north of Kaniku. More spigot mortar fire fell during the withdrawal, but the troops remained calm; they were "too tired to give a damn."26
The abortive attacks of the 382d Infantry on 20 April were its last attempts to move forward until the Corps' offensive opened on 19 April. On 11 and 12 April this regiment, like the 7th Division to the east, mopped up small bypassed
TOMBSTONE RIDGE AREA (photographed 10 July 1945).
groups of the enemy and sent out patrols to probe enemy positions on the front and flanks. Intelligence sections of the combat units redoubled their efforts to discover the strength and the weaknesses of the Shuri defensive system.
From 8 to 12 April the enemy had delivered intense fires, concentrating on the American front lines, observation posts, and forward command posts. The 7th Division reported that more than 1,000 rounds of 75-mm., 105-mm., and 150-mm. artillery fell in its sector on 8 April, and more than 2,000 rounds on 10 April. Evidently in order to minimize counterbattery fire, artillery units received orders from General Ushijima to cooperate "secretly"--that is, with all precautions to conceal their location--in the 62d Division fighting.27 Some of the enemy's fires were extremely accurate. He knocked out one medium tank with a series of direct hits, damaged the control tower at Kadena airfield seven miles from his front lines, and dropped a concentration on a battalion command post and aid station that took a toll of forty-one casualties. The Japanese showed themselves fully aware of the value of artillery in supporting a coordinated attack. A captured map, showing artillery position areas, indicated a well conceived plan for use of artillery and mortars. However, because of the great dispersion of their pieces and the inadequacy of their communications, they did not show themselves capable of massing the fires of more than one battery. Moreover, the Japanese did not exploit the capabilities of their heavy artillery by delivering persistent harassing or interdictory fires deep within opposing lines.28
Despite the effective defensive fighting of the enemy during 9-12 April, his strategy, as he was fully aware, was essentially a negative one. He was losing men faster than the Americans; by 1600 on 12 April about 5,750 of the enemy were estimated to have been killed, as against 451 of the XXIV Corps. The Corps had suffered approximately 2,900 casualties, including 2,198 wounded and 241 missing. The enemy had lost heavily in some of his key combat units. The 12th Independent Infantry Battalion had been reduced to 475 effectives by 12 April, little more than one-third of its original strength.29 XXIV Corps had captured or destroyed 17 artillery pieces, 40 mortars, including 32 knee mortars, 20 antitank guns, 79 machine guns, 262 rifles, and moderate amounts of ammunition and supplies. Although these losses represented only a small
decrease in over-all strength, they were irreplaceable, whereas American losses both in personnel and in equipment, though moderately heavy, could be replaced.
American control of the air and sea meant that the enemy's capabilities rested on an ever-diminishing supply of men, weapons, and ammunition. Probably it was this consideration which in April, and again in May, strengthened the hands of the aggressive members of the 32d Army staff with their visions of victory through all-out attack.
Eager for offensive action, aggressive-minded members of the staff of the Japanese 32d Army proposed at a conference on 6 April that an all-out attack be made to drive the Americans out of southern Okinawa. In the proposed plan, the 62d Division was to spearhead the attack and advance northeast of Yontan airfield. The 24th Division was to drive up the east coast, and the 44th Independent Mixed Brigade would be held in reserve. The plan was vigorously opposed by Colonel Yahara and other cooler heads among the staff officers. They reasoned that, even if the attacks should succeed initially, the Japanese troops would be at the mercy of American bombardment since no positions had been prepared in the area. Furthermore, the south would be left defenseless against new landings. The majority of the staff members were convinced that only a madman could envision the success of such a venture. Accordingly the plan was dropped--reluctantly by the so-called radical element.30
The Enemy Takes the Offensive
The decision did not dispose of the basic issue between the radicals and the conservatives in the 32d Army staff. The "fire-eaters," as Colonel Yahara called them, continued to chafe at the static defensive strategy followed by the Japanese during early April. When, on 9-10 April, the Americans came to a virtual standstill at the approaches to the Shuri defenses, those who had favored aggressive action continued to advocate an all-out offensive despite their earlier rebuff at the hands of the more cautious staff members. At a staff meeting on the night of 9 or 10 April, General Ushijima gave in, over Colonel Yahara's protests, to this aggressive element. It was decided that three battalions of the 62d Division and three of the 24th would attack toward Kishaba on the evening of 12 April.31
Map No. 15: Japanese Plan of Attack
Map No. 16: Japanese Attack
The enemy's choice of the time of attack seemed a shrewd one. The American forces had suffered heavy casualties, and reinforcements were not yet in line. The events of 9-12 April, not only at Kakazu but across the entire front, had seen the American drive lose momentum in the face of the Shuri defenses. The failure of the American attack and the unyielding Japanese defense set the stage for an enemy counteroffensive during 12-13 April.
The Enemy Prepares to AttackThe main obstacle to a successful attack, the 32d Army staff believed, would be American field artillery and naval gunfire. In previous campaigns Japanese offensives had failed largely because the area over which the troops advanced was smothered with gunfire within a few moments of the opening of the attack. As a result, the enemy plan for 12-13 April called for a mass infiltration in force through American lines across almost the entire front. After a bombardment by Japanese artillery, three battalions of the 62d Division on the west and three of the 22d Regiment of the 24th Division on the east were to penetrate the American lines during the night of 12-13 April; then the troops were to scatter through the American-held area as far north as Kishaba, one and a half miles northeast of Futema, each battalion taking an assigned area. The Japanese were to hide in caves and tombs, awaiting an opportunity to fall upon Tenth Army rear elements on 13 April. They would then be able to engage the Americans in hand-to-hand combat, at which they considered themselves superior. American guns would be silent since their fire would endanger friendly troops as much as Japanese.32 (See Map No. 15.)
The 62d Division, already in line, pulled some of its units to the west to enable the 22d Regiment to move into position. The 22d was located on Oroku Peninsula south of Naha. Moving into line was in itself a major effort since the entire route was exposed to bombardment. Lt. Col. Masaru Yoshida, commander of the 22d, on 10 April instructed his troops on the importance of secrecy:
Although you will be traveling in darkness over bad roads and under severe shelling, the secrecy of our plans must be maintained to the last. March in a sinuous "eel line." Although you are going to an unfamiliar place, do not make any noise when you arrive, but dig foxholes in hard ground, and camouflage them skillfully by dawn tomorrow.
Carrying 110-lb. packs and hiding in canefields during the day, the troops pushed east and north along slippery roads in heavy rain.33
The 62d Division was ordered to maintain its existing line from Kakazu to Ouki "at all costs." While the 22d Regiment passed through the 62d Division positions on the east for a "sweeping attack" toward Kishaba, the 63d Brigade was to "advance the Army's attack by recapturing and holding front-line positions after the Army's offense had developed."34 By this means the enemy presumably hoped to maintain pressure on American forward combat elements while his infiltration units went to work on rear echelons. Meanwhile, the 272d Independent Infantry Battalion, attached to the 62d Division, together with other elements of that division, were to attack in the Kakazu area in coordination with the move of the 22d Regiment.
At the last minute there was a change in plans. Colonel Yahara and the other conservatives, considering the entire scheme too bold, succeeded in reducing the forces participating to four battalions. There was also some fear that the Americans might attempt a landing in the Yonabaru area, and it was therefore considered necessary to hold forces in reserve near that town.35 Nevertheless, Colonel Yoshida's order to his 22d Regiment on the eve of the attack showed no change in the objective of the audacious plan. At 1900 on is April Japanese artillery was to open up a 30-minute bombardment. Supported by a "maximum of infantry fire power," forward infiltration squads were to penetrate American lines.and seize strategic points on the ridge line along Buckner Bay. Other infiltration squads were to follow. By dawn the Japanese would be infiltrating into American bivouac areas as far north as Kishaba, and the close-quarters combat would be under way.36
Enemy Attack Crushed, 13 AprilBrilliant enemy flares exploded over the battle lines shortly after dusk on 12 April. Two of them were red parachute flares; another seemed to be a dragon flare. American intelligence officers consulted a Japanese signal code, captured a few days before. The red bursts meant, "We are attacking with full strength tonight"; the dragon flare stood for, "Make all-out attack."37
Shortly after the first flare Japanese artillery opened up an intense bombardment. Hundreds of enemy 105-mm. and 150-mm. shells burst throughout areas just behind the American lines--most of them around command posts,
observation posts, and artillery positions. Regiments reported receiving the heaviest barrages in their experience. In the 96th Division area, more than 1,000 rounds fell on the 381st Infantry, approximately 1,200 on the 383d. The troops were well dug in, however, and losses were light. The 3d Battalion of the 184th Infantry, 7th Division, estimated that 200 rounds of 105-mm- fire landed in front of them within the space of five minutes, but no casualties resulted.
The attack on the 32d and 184th Infantry was not in regimental strength, as planned. Two infiltration attempts by about a squad each were repulsed by the 184th before midnight. Two squads also attacked the 3d Battalion of the 382d Infantry, just to the west of the 184th, and a savage fight ensued, during which an American private killed a Japanese officer with his bare hands, but the enemy did not follow through with this assault. While groups of two or three tried to infiltrate behind the 7th Division front, the only attack of any weight came shortly after midnight against Company G of the 184th. By the light of flares it discovered to its front from thirty to forty-five Japanese, carrying rifles and demolitions; the company opened fire and sent the enemy running for the cover of caves and trenches. Perhaps, as Colonel Yahara later said, the 22d Regiment, which was not familiar with this part of the island as was the 62d Division, was bewildered by the terrain and became too broken up for a coordinated attack. Perhaps another change of plans further weakened the enemy's attack on the east. Possibly the 22d Regiment moved by design or by chance to the west and ended by taking part in the attacks on the 96th Division.
The assault on the 96th was heavy, sustained, and well organized. The enemy artillery and mortar preparation began promptly at 1900 as planned and continued in heavy volume until about midnight, when it lifted over the center of the division line. Japanese in groups ranging from platoon to company size, with radio communications to their own command posts, began to infiltrate in strength into the American lines in the general area between Kakazu Ridge and Tombstone Ridge. (See Map No. 16.)
The 96th Division front in the area under attack was thinly held by the 382d and 383d Regiments. There was a large bulge in the lines where the 382d had been held up by strong enemy positions in the Nishibaru Kaniku Tombstone Ridge area. A series of fire fights broke out as the Japanese closed with elements of the 382d strung along Highway 5 and with troops of the 383d just west of the highway. Troops of the 2d Battalion, 383d Infantry, saw a group of sixty soldiers coming down the highway in a column of two's. Thinking they were
troops of the 382d, the 383d let twenty of them through before realizing that they were Japanese; then it opened fire and killed most of the enemy group. At 0100 the 2d Battalion of the 382d, calling for artillery fire, repulsed an attack by a group estimated as of company strength. Although troops of the two regiments in this sector killed at least a hundred Japanese during the night, a number of the enemy managed to make their way into the Ginowan area.38 Japanese proved to be the only ones who attained any measure of success in the entire offensive of 12-13 April.
By far the heaviest blow was delivered by the 272d Independent Infantry Battalion, commanded by Captain Shimada and operating under control of the 62d Division. The 272d had the mission of attacking Kakazu and breaking through at that point. This was no banzai charge; the battalion had a precise knowledge of American positions and a carefully drawn-up plan. It was a fresh unit, having moved up for the attack from the Shuri area on 10 and 11 April. Composed of three rifle companies and a machine gun unit, the 272d was smaller than the other independent infantry battalions. The men were well supplied with grenades and carried sacks of food.39
From dusk of 12 April until past midnight a terrific artillery and mortar barrage blanketed the 1st Battalion, 381st Infantry, on the north slopes of Kakazu Ridge, and the 2d Battalion, 381st, on Kakazu West. The barrage knocked out the dual wire communication of the 1st Battalion but casualties were slight. At 0300 the enemy fire intensified on the north slopes of Kakazu West and Kakazu Ridge. This was the signal for the 272d Battalion to move out of Kakazu town up into the draw separating Kakazu Ridge from Kakazu West, in an effort to break through the American lines, while smaller groups tried to flank Kakazu West on the west.
Naval illumination was asked, but because of an air raid alert an hour passed before it was provided. During that hour, as the Japanese advanced up the south slopes of Kakazu and through the draw, a handful of men guarding the draw on its lower northern end fought off the attackers until heavier fire power could be brought to bear.
As the enemy, carrying knee mortars and machine guns, advanced down the draw into the American lines on the northwest slopes of Kakazu Ridge, a
mortar squad of the 1st Battalion of the 381st, led by S/Sgt. Beauford T. Anderson, holed up in a tomb where it commanded the draw. Ordering his men to stay under cover, Anderson went out into the dark to face the enemy alone. He grenaded the enemy column until his supply of grenades was exhausted, but the Japanese kept advancing. In desperation Anderson turned to his squad's mortar ammunition. He tore a mortar shell from its casing, pulled the safety pin, banged the projectile against the wall to release the set-back pin, and threw it football-fashion into the midst of the enemy. Its explosion was followed by screams. Anderson threw fourteen more shells and the enemy advance in this area came to a halt. In the morning twenty-five dead Japanese were found here, weighted down with ammunition and explosives. For this feat Anderson was later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Other Japanese infiltrated into the lines of the 2d Battalion on Kakazu West. A BAR man was in position along its rocky crest when a Japanese officer approached him and asked whether he was a Jap. The BAR man said "No," then shot the Japanese officer and ten more of the enemy who were following single-file behind him. Personnel of a company command post sallied forth from their position in a tomb to kill twenty of the enemy. On the west slopes of Kakazu West, an American killed twenty-three more Japanese with his heavy machine gun.
Bright naval illumination robbed the enemy of protective darkness and allowed effective use of support fire on the general Kakazu area in front of the Americans. The 1st Battalion brought the fire of its 81-mm. mortars to bear on the positions of its own forward elements, hoping that American troops would remain in their holes. More than 800 rounds of high explosive were successfully used in this fashion. The 2d Battalion ordered fire from its attached Marine artillery to within 150 yards of its front, successfully risking a clearance of 15 feet.
A member of the 272d Independent Infantry Battalion who tried to storm Kakazu during the night and later escaped by cutting back across American territory east of Kakazu wrote in his dairy:
We started to move again at 0800, and entered the shelter on Hill 70, after advancing individually under enemy aerial attack. The other side of the hill is enemy territory . . . . Two platoons were organized, including the wounded, etc., for infiltration. Before we crossed the hill, the master sergeant was killed and two others were wounded. 1 was leader of the first team of the platoon and started out with four other men. Since the company commander got lost on the way, we were pinned down by concentrated mortar
SADDLE BETWEEN KAKAZU WEST AND KAKAZU RIDGE, though which enemy advanced on the night of 12-13 April. Tomb (left) was used by S/Sgt. Beauford T. Anderson and his mortar squad. Sergeant Anderson is shown below (center) displaying trophies of the battle.
fire before we could cross the hill. Continuous mortar and machine-gun fire lasted until dawn, when we, having suffered heavy casualties, withdrew, taking heavy punishment from concussions. . . . Only four of us . . . were left. . . . The Akiyama Tai (1st Company, 272d) was wiped out while infiltrating. The Shimuzu Tai (2d Company) also suffered heavy losses. The company fell apart during withdrawal.40
After several hours of fighting, during which a few Japanese tried to come in across the sea wall near Uchitomari, the remnants of the enemy force withdrew. In the morning 317 enemy dead were counted in the 381st and 383d areas. Patrols sent to the crest of Kakazu, which had been a target for American artillery and mortar fire, reported that "dead were stacked up like cordwood." Nine light machine guns, 4 knee mortars, 125 rifles, and 1 radio were captured in the Kakazu area. Casualties in the 381st and 383d during the fight totaled about 50.41
During the day of 13 April the 7th Division noted several large concentrations of Japanese in front of its lines but it was not attacked. The 96th continued to hunt down and destroy Japanese who had infiltrated into its rear areas; some enemy soldiers blew themselves up when cornered. Just before midnight the 9th Company, 22d Regiment, which that day had been held in reserve in the Kuhazu area, attacked the 184th after an artillery preparation. The assault was quickly broken up by artillery, mortars, and machine guns. The enemy intensified his artillery fire on Kakazu at dusk and launched an attack in the same direction as on the previous night, but this attempt also was soon frustrated by artillery. At 0315 on 14 April the enemy attacked for the last time. The attackers, estimated at company strength, had heavy supporting fire but were repulsed, 116 Japanese being killed. Infiltration attempts were made across the Corps line, with little success.
By dawn of 14 April the Japanese counterattack on the XXIV Corps was over. It had been almost a total failure and had confirmed the worst fears of the 32d Army staff. Its chief effect had been to bring the enemy out of his stout positions and render his troops vulnerable to the enormous fire power of the Americans. On the 14th there was practically no enemy activity; it was clear that the Japanese had reverted to the defensive. A survivor of the 272d Battalion well summarized the situation in his diary entry for that day: "Back to the trenches," he wrote. "Heavy mortar fire continues as usual."42
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (4) * Next Chapter (6)
1. Tenth Army Transl. No. 182, 23 June 45; No. 199, 1 Jul 45; No. 264, 12 Jul 45.
2. 7th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 10. 11 Apr 45.
4. The account of operations of the 96th Division is based on Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div History, Pts. I and II, and 96th Div G-2 and G-3 Periodic Rpts for the period 4-14 Apr 45.
5. 7th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 10, 11 Apr 45: 32d Army Combat Instructions, 5 Apr 45.
6. The account of operations of the 7th Division is based on Gugeler, 7th Div History, pp. 36-57; Tenth Army Int Monograph, Pt. I, Sec. C, Ch II: Japanese Defense of the Pinnacle (prepared in part by Lt Gugeler); 7th Div G-2 and G-3 Periodic Rpts for the period 4-14 Apr 45.
7. See Francis L. Hawks, Expedition of an American Squadron to the China Seas and Japan (Washington, 18-56), pp. 167-69.
8. Tenth Army Int Monograph, Pt 1, Sec B: Japanese Order of Battle, p. 9; XXIV Corps G-2 Summary No. 4, 12 Apr 45; XXIV Corps PW Interrog Rpt No. 54, 6 May 45.
9. Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div History, Pt II, pp. 25-26.
10. See 711th Tank Bn (7th Div) Actn Rpt, pp. 7-9.
11. Incl to 7th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 10, 11 Apr 45.
12. 7th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 62, 1 Jun 45.
13. XXIV Corps G-3 Periodic Rpt No. 9, 9 Apr 45.
14. 383d Inf (96th Div) FO No.21, 8 Apr 45.
15. 1st Bn, 383d Inf, Unit Jnl, Entry No. 5, 9 Apr 45.
16. 383d Inf Jnl, Msg No. 8, 9 Apr 45.
17. 96th Div FO No. 14, 3 Apr 45; FO No. 15, 7 Apr 45.
18. 383d Inf Jnl, Msg No. 9, 9 Apr 45.
19. 383d Inf Jnl, Msg No. 24, 9 Apr 45.
20. Tenth Army GO No. 104, 23 Jun 45.
21. 383d Inf Jnl, Msg No. 16, 9 Apr 45.
22. 96th Div FO No. 16, 9 Apr 45.
23. 383d Inf Jnl, Msg Nos. 18 and 19, 10 Apr 45.
24. 7th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 23, 23 Apr 45.
25. 7th Div Actn Rpt, pp. 49-50; 184th Inf Actn Rpt, pp. 12-13; 32d Inf Actn Rpt, pp. 10-12; XXIV Corps G-3 Periodic Rpts Nos. 9-14, 9-14 Apr 45.
26. Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div History, Pt. I, pp. 41-42, 49-55; 96th Div Actn Rpt, pp. 11-23; 382d Inf Actn Rpt, pp. 2-4.
27. Tenth Army Transl No. 265, 12 Jul 45: 32d Army Ord No. 146, 9 Apr 45.
28. Tenth Army Int Monograph, Pt. I, Sec. D, Ch. I: Artillery, p. 2; XXIV Corps G-2 Summary No. 5, 17 Apr 45, PP. 5-6.
29. XXIV Corps G-2 Summary No. 9, 15 May 45: JOB Summary.
30. Tenth Army PW Interrog Rpt No. 28 (cited hereafter as Interrog Yahara), 6 Aug 45.
33. 96th Div Periodic Rpt No. 48,19 May 45, Translations: 22d Regt Ord, 11 Apr 45; No. 45, 16 May 45, diary of member of 22d Regt.
34. 7th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 27, 27 Apr 45.
35. Interrog Yahara; see also XXIV Corps PW Interrog Rpt No. 54, 6 May 45, and No. 36, 6 May 45.
36. Tenth Army Transl No. 198, 1 Jul 45: 22d Regt Op Ord No. 63, 12 Apr 45.
37. 96th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 13, 14 Apr 45; for the captured signal code, see 7th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 7, 7 Apr 45.
38. Interrog Yahara. Colonel Yahara's statement that a battalion reached the Ginowan area is probably highly exaggerated.
39. Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div History, Pt. I, p. 62; XXIV Corps G-2 Summary No. 7, 30 Apr 45, App. I. p. 3.
40. CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bull No. 147-45, 16 Jun 45, P. 52, transl Interrog No. 32.
41. XXIV Corps G-3 Periodic Rpt No. 13, 13 Apr. 45; 96th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 13. 14 Apr 45; Mulford and Rogers, 96th Div History, Pt. I, pp. 59-64.
42. CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bull No. 147-45, P- 53.