Ryukyu Islands--KERAMA GROUP
JAPANESE SUICIDE CRASH BOATS SEIZED IN THE KERAMAS
Troops of the U.S. 77th Infantry Division were put ashore on the small islands of the Kerama Group, 15 to 20 miles off Okinawa's southwestern tip on 26 March, 1945. Successful landings were made on Geruma, Aka, Kuba, Amuro, Tokashiki, Zamami, Hokaji, and Yakabi Islands, well supported by ship's gunfire and carrier aircraft. There was light opposition. Geruma and Hokaji were secured by noon and Yakabi, Kuba, and Amuro occupied by evening. Tokashiki was under control by noon of the 27th but sniper fire continued on Aka and Zamami until the 28th. At Zamami and Tokashiki we captured, among a great quantity of supplies, a large number of Japanese small suicide, crash boats which had been based on the Keramas. These boats were 18 feet long, with 4 cylinder engines and equipped with a depth charge at the stern and a "torpedo bomb" at the bow. 331 of the enemy were killed and 100 captured, while some 140 more were sealed in caves on the various islands. Many Japanese civilians were found dead or dying as the result of mass suicide attempts.
COAST GUARD LST's IN KERAMA ASSAULT
From Coast Guard manned LST's assault waves of American infantrymen, had swarmed ashore on Geruma, Hokaji and Tokashiki islands to open the invasion of the Ryukyus. Landing on the beaches of the small rugged islands, the troops encountered only sporadic resistance, except in scattered instances. American casualties, both on the beach and inland, were extremely light. On the fifth day after the initial landings, except for garrison troops which remained on the islands, the assault troops returned to their LST's. They brought stories of Japanese civilians who had to be coaxed out of caves, of children who smiled and bowed as they accepted candy from American soldiers, of men and women gazing in awe at the tanks, ships, and planes which were everywhere. Soldiers vividly described the construction of the Japanese homes, the dress of the natives, the weirdness of the Japanese burial vaults and the general ruggedness of the islands. They described the raising of the first American flag in the Ryukyus.
THE STRATEGIC AREA
LST-24 AT KERAMA
On 21 March, 1945, the Coast Guard manned LST-24 sailed from Ulithi bound for Kerama Islands where she arrived 28 March. That evening the LST, which was loaded with about 1,300 tons of ammunition, put to sea in convoy for night retirement during which the convoy underwent several air attacks. Returning to the anchorage on the 29th the LST remained until 24, June, servicing units of the Fifth Fleet. During this time the LST was frequently under attack from enemy aircraft, including many suicide planes, in some cases even while loading or unloading ammunition. On several occasions the LST fired all guns at enemy aircraft but no positive kills were noted. Many vessels about the LST were hit by bombs and suicide planes, in some instances resulting in the sinking and loss of the hit vessel, but no damage or casualties were sustained by the LST-24.
LST-830 IN KAMIKAZE ATTACK
The Coast Guard manned LST-830 departed Saipan on 26 March, 1945, as part of a convoy of landing craft and merchant ships under the command of CTG 51.13.4. On 2 April the LST-830 in company with LST-799 and two merchant ships proceeded to Kerama Rhetto. By the morning of the 6th only two LST's and three LSM's remained at anchor from what had originally been a large number of ships. Believing her position to be vulnerable, the LST shifted anchorage that morning, with the LST-647 anchored 750 yards from her. During the early afternoon three Victory ships and an LST entered the anchorage. At about 1620 the LST-447 entered the harbor and was still underway when a Japanese plane was seen making a long, slow gliding approach on her. All ships opened fire on the plane but it succeeded in crashing into LST-447, The entire ship was enveloped in a sheet of flame which subsided immediately into a steady fire at the point of impact. At 1631 a second Japanese plane appeared heading for the three remaining LST's which opened fire and the plane disappeared behind a hill. Reappearing it glided for a Victory ship and splashed under heavy fire. At 1638 a third plane appeared and the LST-830 opened fire being the only ship to which the plane was visible until it appeared to the others from behind Mt. Koba. The plane changed course abruptly and glided into Logan Victory. That ship was enveloped in flames which subsided to steady fire. At 1644, a plane appeared over Mt. Fukashi flying low and at slow speed heading for the LST-830, All ships opened fire but when the plane was identified as a Hellcat, the LST-830 ceased fire. The plane burst into flames, however, and crashed into the water. The pilot was seen to parachute and was quickly picked up by an LCVP from the LST-334, At 1837 a Japanese torpedo plane made a long, fast run on ships anchored in the Western anchorage. He missed with his torpedo and crashed into the hills behind the anchorage. At 1845 a Victory ship was approached by an enemy plane. The run began two miles away about 125 feet above the surface of the water. The Victory ship opened fire but a solid hit was not scored until the plane was 500 yards off. Then a flame burst from the plane. It did not deviate however, and crashed the Victory ship amidship as a terrific flame shot into the sky.
LST-829 LANDS FIRST TROOPS ON JAPANESE COLONIAL SOIL AT GERUMA
The Coast Guard manned LST-829 has the special distinction of landing the first troops in World War II to invade and secure Japanese colonial soil (Iwo Jima being a Japanese mandate.) In the early morning of 26 March, 1945, the LST landed Company A, 1st Bn, 306 Infantry, 77th Army
TROOPS OF 306TH INFANTRY STALKING SNIPERS IN THE VILLAGE OF GERUMA SHIMA, KERAMA RETTO, PRIOR TO OKINAWA LANDINGS
Division on Geruma Shima in the Kerama Retto. Swiftly overrunning the island and smothering Japanese resistance, these troops raised the American flag over Geruma Heights. The flag symbolizing the first conquest is now at Coast Guard Headquarters, Washington, D.C. That afternoon, our troops were reloaded and on the 27th were sent against Tokashiki Shima. Anchored close to the projecting coral shelf, the crew of the 829 watched 25 waves of Corsairs, Helldivers, and TBFs from Navy carriers fire their rockets at possible machine gun and mortar emplacements on the beach and in the surrounding cliffs and strafe the hills. Simultaneously, three destroyers threw hundreds of rounds of shells into the beach and back country. As the waves of LCTs slowly rumbled toward the beach, LCIs, LCSs, and LSTs opened up with 40 MM to cover their approach. Once ashore, the 77th met stubborn opposition in the hills. Troops from the 829 uncovered and destroyed scores of Japanese suicide power boats, hidden in caves and under brush all over the island, and captured charts and intelligence papers which showed the proposed use of these craft to combat the invasion of Okinawa. The attack routes to the probable American anchorages had been carefully planned. Apparently, the Japs overlooked the fact that the Kerama Retto might be invaded first. It is difficult to estimate the importance of these boats and plans on the outcome of the entire Okinawa campaign, but their success in the Philippines when used on a small scale testifies as to what might have happened.
RESISTANCE LIGHT ON BEACHES
After nine days of intensive bombing and shelling by carrier aircraft and surface vessels of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, troops of the Tenth Army landed on the Southwest coast of Okinawa, largest and most important island of the Ryukyus Group, at 0830 on 1 April 1945 [Easter Sunday]. The two corps which invaded Okinawa were the Marine Third Amphibious Corps under Major General Roy S. Geiger, and the Twenty-fourth Army Corps commanded by Major General John R. Hodge. The Tenth Army was commanded by Lieutenant General Simon B. Buckner, Jr. The troops landed on an 8 mile stretch of beach opposite Yontan and Katena airfields, about 20 miles north of Naha, the capital. Before noon, the two airfields had been seized. Resistance on the beaches was unexpectedly light. Within 48 hours our forces had driven across to the east coast. Many enemy troops, whose total number on the island was eventually disclosed as nearly 120,000, remained to the south of our beachhead where most of the major military and naval installations were located; others retired to the rugged northern part of the island. There was no enemy fire against our ships offshore and very little against the landing boats. Some artillery and mortar fire was received on the beaches later in the morning. The area south of the landing beaches contained numerous tombs, caves, and pillboxes which had all been abandoned. By 1800, our troops controlled about 7 miles of the main north-south highway, and in some places the beachhead was two and a half miles deep. There was little enemy activity during the night, and on the 2nd, good progress was made against light resistance. The Marines, to the north, cleared the Zampa Peninsula and the 7th Division of the Twenty-fourth Army Corps jade extensive advances to the east and south, reaching the east coast, just south of Peninsula, near the village of Tabaro, early in the afternoon.
On the west coast more difficult terrain and stiffening resistance was met about 7 miles north of Naha, with heavy enemy concentration and much activity observed from the air southeast of Naha airfields. On the 3rd the Marines moved northeast along the coast beyond Nagahama and reached Nakadomari, on the 2 mile isthmus forming the narrowest part of the island. Other Marine units sealed off the Katchin Peninsula by reaching the east coast in the vicinity of Sunan. The 7th Division cleared the whole area to Awase and moved along the shores of Nakagusuku Bay to the village of Kuba.
JAPANESE AIR ATTACK DEVELOPS
On 6 April, Japanese aircraft began strong counter-attacks against our surface units off Okinawa, in a series of strikes as intense as those of the first days of the Philippines invasion. Our fighter patrol and anti-aircraft guns shot down at least 245 enemy planes on the 6th and the number may have reached 400. Three U.S. destroyers were sunk and several others, together with a number of smaller vessels were damaged. On the following day 12 out of a force of 20 enemy planes were shot down approaching our ships, while on the night of the 8th, eight more planes were downed and six were destroyed on the night of the 9th. As resistance increased in the southern part of the island, stronger support was furnished in that area by our ships and carrier aircraft.
JAPANESE RESISTANCE STIFFENS
The Japanese had set up their defense line across the island from a point just north of Machinato to the vicinity of the Yonabaru airstrip on the east coast, with a secondary defense line just to the south running from Naha, through Shuri to the village of Yonabaru. Troops of the Twenty-fourth Corps reached the first line about the 4th and were thenceforth subjected to heavy enemy artillery and mortar fire. As the week ended violent artillery barrages were being laid down by both sides. To the north, however, the Marines made wide gains against little opposition, and by the 9th had cleared the enemy from practically all the narrow peninsula joining the northern and southern sections of the island and had advanced more than halfway across the Motobu Peninsula. To the east, other Marine units pushed into the wooded hills of northern Okinawa against little opposition. In southern Okinawa, meanwhile, more determined resistance was being met as our troops moved into the enemy's prepared defenses. By nightfall of the 8th our right flank was within 2,500 yards of the Machinato airstrip, while the 7th Division on the east was within 1,500 yards of the incomplete Yonabaru strip. By the 10th, Kakazu Ridge, near the west coast, had been taken and lost three times, witnessing the heaviest Japanese mortar and artillery fire ever encountered in the Pacific, except possibly at Iwo. Marine units landed on the inshore beaches of the islands at the mouth of Kinmu Bay on the 7th and secured all the islands without opposition. On the 10th, elements of the 24th Corps went ashore on Tsugen Island where initial light opposition increased as our troops neared Tsugen town in the northern part of the island. This opposition was knocked out by late afternoon and the island secured. During the first nine days of the Okinawa operation our total casualties were 432 killed, 2,103 wounded and 160 missing while Japanese casualties through the 8th included 5,009 known dead and 222 prisoners of war.
COAST GUARD MANNED AND NAVY LANDING CRAFT OF ALL KINDS BLACKEN THE SEA OUT TO THE HORIZON, WHERE STAND THE BATTLEWAGONS, CRUISERS AND DESTROYERS AT OKINAWA
The Marines reached the northern tip of Okinawa on the afternoon of the 14th and also occupied Motobu Peninsula completely, except for an area south of the Manna Paver. On the 16th, Army troops landed on Ie Island, off the northwestern tip of the peninsula, secured the airfield and moved against the remnants of the enemy garrison preparing for a last stand on Mt. Iegusu. It was on Ie that Ernie Pyle, noted war correspondent, was killed on the 18th. On the 12th and 16th the enemy launched furious air assaults, and by the 17th we had destroyed 368 of their aircraft, the total mounting to at least 600 for the week. More than 500 enemy caves were cleared before the Army in Southern Okinawa launched an offensive on the 19th. Though we captured the village of Machinato and entered Kakazu, resistance increased as we penetrated the enemy's defense system, organized in great depth to exploit the defensive value of the terrain. Enemy resistance continued, determined and strong, but on the 23rd we captured an important position on high ground west of Ishin and by the end of the week the initial Japanese defense zone had been captured and an attack begun on the second zone. Meanwhile, the pocket on the Manna Paver had been eliminated and organized resistance on Motobu Peninsula had come to an end. Likewise, by the 21st the garrison on Ie Island had been completely destroyed with 2,062 enemy dead and 21 prisoners. Occupation of Sesoko, Kouri and Yagachi Islands, off the Motobu Peninsula was accomplished during the week as well as that of Taka and Heanza Islands on the east coast. Through the 22nd of April, Tenth Army casualties totaled 7,424, including 1,146 killed, 5,982 wounded and 296 missing. 21,269 Japanese had been killed and 399 prisoners taken.
Machinato airfield was captured on the 29th of April by troops of the 27th Division while units of the 7th Division took Kuhazu. At the end of the week the First Marine Division relieved the 27th Army Division on the right flank, while the 77th Army Division moved into the center of the line to replace the 96th Division. More than 29 small suicide crash boats were destroyed by our ships and many others were believed damaged by bombardment on pens at Naha by our Fleet units. On the night of the 27th some 75 enemy aircraft attacked our ships and shore positions and all but 8 were accounted for. The following afternoon about 200 Japanese planes made 44 separate raids on our forces. Most of these were intercepted by combat air patrols. One of our auxiliary vessels was sunk in the earlier raid and some damage was done our ships in the later raids. 137 enemy planes were shot down on the 28th, but the raids continued through the 29th and 30th, when 40 more enemy planes were eliminated. Beginning on the 3rd of May, the Japanese counter-attacked furiously all along the line in Southern Okinawa, but were limited to small gains. At the end of the week our troops began to advance on the right and in the center and by the 7th our positions had been consolidated along an irregular line from the mouth of the Awa River to the northern end of the Yonabaru airstrip. The 77th Division, scaling heights with cargo nets and rope ladders, was nearing the fortified city of Shuri, while the Marines reached the village of Dakeshi, a mile from Naha's outskirts. By the morning of the 7th, 36,535 Japanese had been killed, 13,202 wounded and 539 missing. Our naval losses were 1,131 killed, 2,816 wounded and 1,604 missing. On the
THE JAPS TALK BACK ON OKINAWA
3rd two of our vessels were sunk and three others damaged in an enemy air attack south of Kume Island. Again on the morning of the 4th, 70 Japanese planes attacked our ships near Okinawa and sunk five light surface units and damaged a number of others, but 54 enemy planes were destroyed. Three enemy counter-landings, one west of Machinato airfield, one near the village of Chiyunna and one in Nakagasuku Bay were effected on the 3rd but all were broken up and the enemy forces eliminated.
NAHA IS ENTERED
Marines of the Sixth Division entered the line on the 9th of May on the extreme right flank and fought their way into the northern suburbs of Naha across the Asato River and into the city itself. On the 11th we launched a general assault along the entire Tenth Army front. The First Marines drove into the village of Dakeshi eliminating a strong enemy position and reducing a, salient which had been causing difficulty for more than a week. This put our troops on high ground overlooking Shuri, the main Japanese resistance center. On the 12th troops of the 96th Division cleared the town of Kibara and on the 13th its 383rd Regiment drove nearly to the summit of Conical Hill, a strong point protecting both Shuri and Yonabaru. Our patrols inside Naha picked their way among blasted buildings and along streets littered with rubble and the bodies of hundreds of enemy soldiers and civilians. On the 17th the 77th Division entered Ishimmi. The Sixth Marines after withdrawing from "Sugar Loaf Hill" that night occupied the summit for the fifth time next day. Japanese resistance remained extremely strong before the fortress town of Shuri while the enemy launched several unsuccessful counterattacks at Naha. "Sugar Loaf Hill" was finally secured on the 21st after changing hands 11 times. There were increasing indications that the enemy's supply lines south of Shuri were being sealed off and that when they lost their communications, their forces would probably disintegrate and break into small pockets. By midnight of the 21st, 53,458 Japanese had been killed and 1,014 prisoners taken, while our killed or missing totaled 8,310 with 22,216 wounded. More than 60 Japanese planes had been destroyed during the week, as the enemy continued to harass our shipping and shore positions in daily attacks. 51 of these had been destroyed while five of our light surface units were damaged.
JAPANESE DEFENSES CRUMBLE
In spite of a ten day period of heavy rainfall ending on the 30th of May, big gains were made in every sector. Shuri, the heavily fortified keystone of the enemy's main defense line, fell to the Marines First Division and the 77th Infantry on the 30th and all of Naha north of the harbor was cleared by the Sixth Marines, who crossed the Oroku Peninsula to seize the Naha airfield. The 7th Division of the Army, on the extreme left flank broke the crumbling Japanese defenses below Yonabaru and cleared all of Chinen Peninsula, at the southern end of Nakagasuku Bay, reaching the south coast of Okinawa at several points. A general drive southward was begun by the Tenth Army with the major handicap to their progress being the deep mud and intermittent rains. It was thought that the Japanese might attempt last-ditch stands in the three peninsulas forming the points of the triangle which comprise Southern Okinawa, but it was pointed out that artillery and naval gunfire had so depleted the enemy's supply of heavy weapons that he lacked the firepower to support any defense line across
IN FOREGROUND, AN ANTI-AIRCRAFT GUN ON A COAST GUARD-MANNED LST IS ALERTED FOR POSSIBLE JAPANESE AIR ATTACKS AGAINST THE INVADERS AT OKINAWA
the island. Japanese aerial activity had dwindled to the smallest since the very early days of the Okinawa campaign. Since the beginning of the Okinawa operations, 1,442 Japanese planes, including Kamikaze, had been destroyed by our planes and AA batteries, both afloat and ashore.
ENEMY REFUSES TO SURRENDER
On the 10th of June, messages were dropped behind the enemy's line on Southern Okinawa requesting the Japanese commander to open negotiations by 1800 on the 11th. The message offered "honorable cessation of hostilities" and a promise of humane treatment to surrendering troops. No signal, as arranged, that the Japanese were willing to negotiate was seen at the designated hour. Apparently the Japanese intended to continue the bitter Okinawa battle to the last man. This offer came after a week of swift thrusts into the enemy's shattered defenses and substantial gains in all parts of southern Okinawa, during which our troops compressed the remnants of the 15,000-20,000 enemy troops remaining on the island into two small isolated pockets. Most of them were dug in on the formidable Yaeju escarpment, which curves across the southern tip of Okinawa from a point below Itoman on the west coast, to the town of Hanagusuku, on the south coast. A second much smaller area along the south shore of Naha harbor was still under Japanese control but by the 13th had been so reduced, in spite of bitter opposition, that organized resistance was virtually at an end. A general assault on the Yaeju escarpment was under way at that time, with all three U.S. Divisions moving along its approaches and receiving heavy supporting fire from ship's guns, artillery, and aircraft. On the 11th, the top of the escarpment was reached at a point just south of Yunagusuku.
OKINAWA FINALLY SECURED
On the 21st of June, Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz announced that organized resistance on Okinawa had ended. Remnants of the once powerful Japanese garrison, however, continued to fight with unabated fury from small pockets in the extreme southern part of the island. By this date our troops were so intermingled with the last bitterly resisting Japanese that U.S. Commanders called off all artillery and naval gunfire support, leaving the destruction of the dispersed enemy force to individual units in the field. The remaining enemy forces, virtually surrounded by our troops, continued fighting from strongly-constructed fortifications which had evidently been built to guard against landings on the southern beaches. Many Japanese jumped off the cliffs into the sea near the village of Udo. Lieutenant General Simon B. Buckner, Jr., U.S.A., commanding general of the U.S. Tenth Army and Ryukyu Forces was killed in action on the afternoon of the 18th of June and the command was assumed by Major General Roy S. Geiger, USMC, commander of the Third Amphibious Corps, his nomination to be Lieutenant General being confirmed by the U.S. Senate on the 19th. The flag of the United States was formally raised over Okinawa on the 22nd. Some Japanese were still holding out but a great many were surrendering. Japanese casualties in the Okinawa campaign to the 26th of June totaled 111,351 and prisoners of war totaled 9,398. Total U.S. casualties were 46,319 including 11,897 dead or missing and 34,422 wounded. Included were 4,907 Navy dead and 4,824 Navy wounded.
OVER THE MIGHTY AMERICAN ARMADA OFF OKINAWA'S SHORES DROPS THE GLORIOUS GOLDEN DISK OF THE SUN, TO LOSE ITSELF IN THE EAST CHINA SEA
ENEMY AIR ATTACKS ON SHIPPING CONTINUE
Japanese planes heavily attacked our shipping off Okinawa during the evening of 21 June and the morning of the 22nd, with more than 30 raids. Only a few stragglers were able to get through the screen and those that did were knocked down by anti-aircraft fire. During the period 59 enemy planes were destroyed. An attack on the Keramas on the 21st sunk two light Fleet units. The carrier Bunker HillL, Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher's flagship, was announced to have been badly damaged off Okinawa on May 11th, with 373 killed, 19 missing and 264 wounded.
COAST GUARD BEACH PARTIES WAGE BLOODLESS BATTLE
"On the bloodless beachhead of Okinawa" wrote a Coast Guard correspondent, "the toughest fight was waged by beachmaster crews, who fought the worst shore conditions of the battle of the Pacific, to keep up with troops that were marching virtually unopposed on L day across the Jap-held island. The jagged offshore coral, potholes, and sea walls could be passed only at high tides, making unloading operations from LCVP's and LCM's possible but six hours each day. Working parties constantly blasted coral reefs, sending up gigantic geysers of water among the 1,400 ships of the convoy. A crane and a bulldozer transferred cargo from landing craft to DUKW's and amtracks, which carried it inland. Daring high tides, cargo was piled high on the beaches, being moved off during low tide periods when boats couldn't get in. The medical section of the beach party treated only 14 minor casualties who had been wounded by snipers."
NO ACTION SEEN
"On L day we had expected a lot of action, we didn't see any" wrote another correspondent. "There were no planes in the sky, and outside of two machine gun nests on the beach, we received no land opposition. Assault troops pushed inland several miles before encountering Jap snipers." The absence of aerial opposition was very surprising. Some thought that landing so close to the main island of Japan may have caught the Japanese completely by surprise. Others surmized that the pre-invasion shelling was too terrific and must have driven the defender into the hills. Okinawa was not to be taken without a terrific struggle, however, involving the greatest loss of American lives of any of the Pacific invasions.
ATTACK FROM AIR BEGINS
On the eve of L plus five, nine Japanese dive bombers broke through the outer rim of defense and attempted to strafe and bomb Coast Guard and Navy ships in the vicinity of Okinawa, The ack-ack put up by our ships was terrific and proved very effective, for after fifteen minutes of action, not a plane was left in the sky. One of the planes dove for a Coast Guard manned LST, but accurate fire from 40 mm's turned him away, and a moment later he hit the water just astern of it. As targets for hit and run Japanese bombing and straffing attacks, for many days after that, the Coast Guardsmen stopped their duties of getting supplies ashore only long enough to fight off the fanatical enemy attacks. Sleep was out of the question. "The most determined Japanese attack took place this afternoon" wrote one correspondent, "when low flying aircraft tried to sneak through the anti-aircraft screen of the night invasion force. This transport became the center of fire.
USS Joseph T. Dickman (APA-13)
American and Japanese machine gun bullets filled the air. Tracer fire smashed into an ammunition dump inland and caused an island shaking explosion. Meanwhile the gun crew stood ready waiting tensely for the planes to come within their range. Fire from the other ships in the armada downed the enemy before our gunners could open up. By nightfall, the attack had been beaten off. Eight planes had been shot down within sight of this ship. The crew went back to its job of unloading and waiting for the next attack."
USS CAMBRIA APA-36 AT OKINAWA
Easter morning, April 1, 1945, the Coast Guard manned USS Cambria (APA-36) arrived at the outer transport area off the southwest coast of Okinawa and experienced four air raid alerts before 0700; there were seven alerts in all on the first day. The first three days were spent unloading troops and cargo, and on April 3 the beach party of 3 officers and 43 enlisted men went ashore to assist in the unloading. CIC and gun crews were constantly alerted and proved themselves to be a well coordinated team. This, together with the use of smoke screens, served to good advantage in the protection from enemy aircraft. On the 6th, over 100 Japanese suicide planes were shot down by surface and air support within 30 miles of the Cambria, four reaching the transport area, all of which were destroyed. Instead of leaving the area after unloading, the Cambria, as Flagship of ComTransRon 12, remained and assisted in the unloading of other transports, LST's, and cargo ships. When she left the scene of action on the 10th there were only two minor casualties among the personnel,
DICKMAN AT OKINAWA
The USS Joseph T. Dickman (APA-13) under the command of Captain Frank A. Leamy, USCG, was part of the TRANSDIV 12 (temporary) which trained at Guadalcanal for a month before the Okinawa invasion. Other Coast Guard manned vessels in this division were USS Cepheus (AKA-18) and USS Theenim (AKA-63). TRANSDIV 12 remained in the transport area off the beachhead from 1 April to 9 April except for a night withdrawal on "L" day, during which time the formation was subjected to many air attacks. Unloading of both troops and cargo was slow, not because of enemy action or adverse weather conditions but due, primarily, to the heterogeneous troops and miscellaneous cargo carried. Some of the troop passengers were not to debark until L plus seven. The same was true of some of the cargo. The prolonged stay offered the enemy numerous targets of which he took good advantage. Besides air attacks, midget submarines, suicide boats and swimmers were a constant menace. No battle damage was received by the DICKMAN and during the entire operation only two LCVP's were lost, neither the result of enemy action. During the entire action there were no casualties to the personnel of the vessel or its attached landing craft. The DICKMAN departed the transport area on the 9th of April and proceeded to Saipan.
LST-782 IN OKINAWA INVASION
The Joint Expeditionary Force for Phase One of the Okinawa operation consisted of Task Force 51. This comprised Task Force 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, and 56 under Vice Admiral Turner, USN, with Rear Admiral Blandy, USN, as second in command for the amphibious features of the operation. LST Group 85 included Coast Guard manned LST's 758, 759, 760, 782, 762, and 785 operating at Okinawa.
THE U.S. COAST GUARD CUTTER Bibb
The LST-782 was flagship for Commander W. B. Millington, USCG, of LST Unit 12 (55.3.8) which embarked Army troops of the Third Battalion, 38lst and 383rd Infantry of the 96th Division at Leyte between 14 and 21 March, 1945. The LST then became flagship for Commander S. R. Sands, USCG, of LST Unit 11 (55.3.2) under Captain Peterson, USCG, as part of the Tractor Flotilla (55.3) Captain Brereton, USN, commanding. The LST-782 arrived on station in LST Area Two at Okinawa at 0701 on 1 April, 1945, and one minute later LCVP guide boats were water borne. By 0752 seventeen officers and 326 enlisted men out of a total of 576 personnel aboard were disembarked in 17 LVT's. At sunset two enemy planes were seen and at 1911 the LST-782 opened fire and probably hit one plane, which subsequently crashed into an attack transport about one mile on the starboard bow. The LST then participated in night retirement. Arriving on station off White Beach I, next morning at 0650, the LST launched four pontoon barges and continued unloading her 518 tons of vehicles, small arms, high explosives and other cargo. The 3rd was marked by five separate and distinct flashes RED. On the 4th the wind increased sharply in velocity and veered to the north and northwest, but did not cause any difficulty until early evening when an LST broached to the north as did an LSM, falling down on the LST-782 and causing some damage. All vessels concerned were beached with no more than 100 yards clearance. On the 6th about 6 hours were spent at General Quarters and a number of planes were observed shot down, just north of her position. On the 15th observers on the LST-782 watched a suicide plane attempt to crash into a liberty ship or an APA and at 2124 opened fire on a Betty which escaped apparently unharmed. One enemy plane probably a Zeke, was destroyed. On the 16th the LST sortied and departed Okinawa. The ship's log recorded 46 flash RED's in the fifteen days at Okinawa or an average of three per day. Orders to make smoke were received 29 times for a total of 22.6 hours.
LST-790 LAUNCHES LVT's
The Coast Guard manned LST-790 sortied from Leyte Gulf on 25 March, 1945, as a part of Tractor Group Easy under Captain C. H. Peterson, USCG, and LST Unit 11 under Commander S. R. Sands, USCG. With the ship crowded and overloaded, moderate and fresh NE breezes, and frequent rain, made the trip uncomfortable but it was otherwise uneventful. On 1 April, 1945 the LST approached Okinawa landing beaches and at 0702 both LCVP's were lowered to serve as wave guides. Between 0715 and 0731 seventeen LVT's, loaded with the 5th and 6th assault waves, were launched. During the day mortar ammunition was transferred to LCI's alongside. At 1908 the LST fired 225 rounds, firing at 2 planes identified as Jap Oscars. Other air alerts were frequent but the other planes sighted were not within range and this was the only occasion the LST fired during the operation. After retiring on the nights of April 1st and 2nd the LST anchored off White III beach until the 8th, when she beached on the extreme southern flank of White I beach and completed unloading by the morning of the 11th. She then departed for Saipan.
CGC Bibb SPLASHES JAP PLANE
The Coast Guard cutter GEORGE M. Bibb spent most of her time during the Okinawa operation in a harbor at Kerama Retto and was an almost constant target for Japanese
JAP PLANKS SHOT DOWN IN ATTACK ON OKINAWA INVASION FLEET
suicide planes. During the operation she was subjected to some 55 air raids. On 21 June shortly after 1830 two Japanese planes flying low entered a blind approach to the harbor. The first plane crashed into a ship anchored 300 yards off the port side of the Bibb. The other planes circling high, came in for a dive on a ship 600 yards off her port side. The gun crews on the cutter opened fire and downed the plane just before it crashed into its intended target.
LST-887 BRINGS DOWN JAP PLANE
The Coast Guard manned LST-887 arrived at Okinawa on 2 April, 1945, and proceeded for the Hagushi Beaches on the west coast. The approach to the beaches was extremely congested with all types of craft but there were no enemy aircraft overhead and no fighting in the immediate beach area. Pontoons were launched and unloading commenced. On the night of the 3rd, retraction from the beach was being attempted but was prevented by low tide and heavy cargo still aboard. Suddenly a wave caused by a tremendous underwater blast, made by the engineers dynamiting a passage through the reef, lifted the ship bodily off the reef and set her down again directly in front of the pontoons. This is believed to be the only time that an LST retracted and beached with the assistance of explosives. On the 12th, the LST took credit for shooting down a Japanese plane. The plane approached at low altitude with no ships intervening. The fire from the LST was observed to score numerous hits causing the plane to burst into flames and sink 600 yards on the port quarter. During the period many other planes were fired at by the 887 but this was the only one that was close enough to definitely have been destroyed by its guns. On the 16th the LST departed Okinawa for Ulithi.
LST-884 HIT BY SUICIDE PLANE
On the morning of 1 April, 1945, at about 0548, three planes were seen approaching the Coast Guard manned LST-884 which was part of Task Group 51.8 then off Okinawa. All port guns opened fire and one plane immediately burst into flames, nosed into a shallow dive and crashed into the port side of the LST, plunging through the ship fitter's shop, and into the tank deck, where it exploded with intense flame. The plane had crashed through the 81 HM and 60 MM mortar ammunition, causing it to explode. Three fire nozzles were placed down vents, as nearly as possible to the point of impact but the LST was repeatedly shaken by violent explosions. At 0554 the fire, which had started in the main engine room, was reported under control, but a heavy, acrid smoke had entered the engine room making it impossible for men on watch to remain and the engines were secured. The auxiliary engine room watch reported the plating getting red hot and the smoke unbearable and these men were also ordered out. It appeared that the ship would be blown to bits by exploding ammunition or fuel tanks and at 0555 the order was given to abandon ship. By 0605 all hands were reported out of living spaces and engine rooms. Men in the water were being picked up by the ship's boats and boats from other LST's and LSM's. At 0610 the Commanding Officer, after all hands had cleared ship, departed and was taken to a destroyer lying nearby. At 0731 it was determined that most of the heavier ammunition had already exploded and the commanding officer and four other officers returned aboard with two enlisted men, manned the pump and brought two streams to bear on the fire. At 0800 three other officers and 15 enlisted men voluntarily returned to assist in fire fighting and 4 LCS's secured alongside, putting enough water on deck to permit walking about. Several heavy explosions and numerous minor ones occurred during this time and it seemed for a while that it would be impossible to bring the fire under control. Cargo ammunition carried on the
LST-760 AT OKINAWA
main deck, starboard side, was jettisoned, but it was impossible to jettison TNT blocks and W. P. ammunition carried on the port side as the heat and flames had set it afire and the W.P. had begun to explode. At 1100, however, the fire was deemed under control, but as the tank deck and both engine rooms were flooded, it was suggested that the ship be beached. At 1400, the USS YUMA (AT-94) took the LST in tow and anchored in Kerama Retto Harbor at 1838. By the 13th the ship was reported ready for sea, after eleven days of cleaning and salvage work. As a 20 foot hole remained in the port side and the tank deck was open to the sea, plating was welded over these holes completely closing them. On the 14th, the LST was underway for Guam in tow of LST-940. Twenty bodies had been buried, some identified and others not. It was believed that all dead, with one exception, were Marines, as most of the bodies were taken from the tank deck. One member of the ship's company was wounded and one killed.
LST-784 AT IHEYA SHIMA LANDING
The Coast Guard manned LST-784 departed Saipan for Okinawa on the 20th of April, 1945, and arrived at Katchin Wan on the 27th. All cargo had been unloaded by 2 May. During this period air raids were numerous and suicide craft attempted to enter Buckner Bay, one craft or swimmer managing to detonate a charge near the hull of an AK about 500 yards from the LST-784, though not sinking the cargo vessel. The 784 returned to Saipan on the 13th of May where she loaded supplies for the Second Marine Division returning to Okinawa on the 30th of May. On 6 June she participated in the capture and occupation of Iheya Shima, Ryukyus, and then returned to Okinawa.
LST-770 AT RYUKYUS OCCUPATION
On 19 March, 1945, the Coast Guard manned LST-770 was underway for Kerama Retto as part of Task Unit 51.1.2 with 16 officers and 326 enlisted men of the 77th Division, Participating in the invasion of Aka Shima and Yokan Jima, she arrived at Okinawa on 14 April. On the 17th she landed the 307th Infantry Battalion, 77th Division on Ie Shima, returning to Okinawa on 6 May. Next day she was underway for Ulithi.
LST-760 IN KAMIKAZE ATTACKS
The Coast Guard manned LST-760 reached Okinawa in convoy on 1 April and anchored in the LST area in the vicinity of Hagushi. Late next day she nosed up on the coral reef at Purple beach and commenced unloading operations. Seven hectic days and nights followed, four on the beach, three at Kerama Retto, -exhausting days and nights of standing almost continuous general quarters on guard against fanatical suicide attacks, sleeping barely an hour at a time, eating cold food at your station, tensely watching and firing on the deadly planes winging in, some to crash headlong into nearby ships, others to go down in withering fire or to careen harmlessly into the sea. At last, the welcome end of the phase of the operation came on the 9th when the 760 departed for Guam.
LST-788 DOWNS TWO PLANES
The Coast Guard manned LST-788 arrived at Okinawa on 2 April and proceeded to anchorage at Kerama Retto where she remained until the 5th. She then proceeded to the Western
LST-784 AT OKINAWA
Beaches at Okinawa and unloaded troops and equipment until the 16th of April. The ship saw considerable air activity during this operation and manned battle stations 47 times during the 15 days in the area, the longest being 7 hours and 35 minutes during one twelve hour period. Hits were scored on seven enemy planes and the ship was directly responsible for the downing of two planes. One plane was downed 250 yards off the port beam and another hit the water fifty feet off the starboard quarter, missing the ship's conn by twenty feet, with slight underwater damage to the LST. She departed the area in convoy for Ulithi on the 16th.
LST-789 DOWNS AN "OSCAR"
Arriving at Okinawa on D-day the Coast Guard manned LST-789 immediately launched their LVT's loaded with Army assault forces. Their small boats acted as wave guides. On the same day they launched LCT-901 from their main deck. During the next week they unloaded all the Army vehicles and a small amount of bulk cargo by LVT. On the 9th they beached for about 5 hours when bad weather necessitated retracting all LST's from the beach. Beaching again on the 12th they had completed unloading by the 14th. On the 15th they shot down one enemy plane identified as an Oscar. They departed for Ulithi on the 16th. While at Okinawa they had 28 air alerts lasting for periods ranging from one to seven hours, during which their smoke generator was in operation. Their small boats acted as ship patrol during the night as a protection against the enemy swimmers and small boats,
LST-829 AT IE SHIMA
On the morning of 16 April, the Coast Guard manned LST-829 weighed anchor at Hagushi to take part in the initial assault on Ie Shima, a small island near the northern tip of Okinawa and of major importance for its fine air field. The 773rd Amtracks and Btl. 1, 306th Infantry were landed on Blue Beach One and though swiftly overrunning the western slopes and capturing the air field, were soon up against tough opposition around the base of the prominent Ie Shima "Sugar Loaf" hill, where the Japs had constructed a strong line and were holding out in tombs and caves. It was here that Ernie Pyle met his death. The Japs went after the shipping lying off Ie Shima that morning with a force of 35 planes, most of which were unable to pierce the destroyer and cruiser ring protecting the transports and landing operations. From the 829, it appeared that 12 got through and five of these were splashed within a mile or so of the ship by cruiser and destroyer fire. For a week the 829 followed a schedule which sent it up to Ie Shima early each morning and retired it to anchorages in Naga Wan or off Hagushi every evening. On the 26th the LST-829 reloaded the troops she had landed on Ie Shima. They had suffered losses in the hard fighting around the base of "Sugar Loaf" but had finally cracked the Japanese defenses. Now they were committed to the major fighting on the southern tip of Okinawa. The way in which the 77th distinguished themselves in the Shuri fighting Is military history. Two months later the crew of the 829 learned that of the 250 troops who came aboard at Leyte in March, only 45 were not casualties in the Okinawa action. The last two nights of the 829 at Okinawa were spent under almost constant alerts. On the morning of the 29th the 829 departed for Ulithi.
LST-789 AT OKINAWA
PC-469 SINKS ENEMY SUICIDE BOATS
The enemy was known to have many small suicide boats operating in and around Nagagusuku Bay. The possibility of attacks by large and midget enemy submarines was also great. Late on the 3rd of May, 1945, Coast Guard manned PC-469 was ordered on anti-sub patrol in this area. At 0035 on the 4th, three small craft were sighted bearing 250° T. about 1,000 yards distant. The PC's small boat challenge was not answered and when the craft were identified as Japanese suicide boats the "commence fire" order was given. One boat was sunk about 40 yards astern, with the PC observing and experiencing underwater concussion and explosion. The two remaining boats cleared to about 600 yards. Illumination was furnished by DD's in TG 51.19 and the PC succeeded in sinking another suicide boat at 0050 about 75 yards off the starboard quarter. The PC got underway at 0058, maneuvering with difficulty due to the inefficiency of the starboard generator which went out entirely at 0100. An unidentified LCI came to the PC's assistance and the PC maneuvered to prevent the enemy boat from getting between the two ships. The remaining suicide boat was 1,200 yards distant when at 0104 No. 1 gun was ordered to illuminate and AA batteries to fire. At 0130 sight was lost of the third suicide boat which may also have been sunk.
LSI(L) 90 ATTACKED
The Coast Guard manned LCI(L) Group 103 was under Group Commander, Lt. Comdr. B. A. Walliser, USCGR, and included Division 205 composed of LCl(L)'s 83, 84, 86, 88, (Group Flag) 90, and 40. Division 206 was composed of LCl(L)'s 96, 320, 323, 325, 326, and 350 (Division Flag). Division 205 (TU 32.25.3) was assigned general duties in Nakagusuku Bay. These duties consisted of making smoke at night to cover ships of the fire support group, at the same time keeping a lookout for suicide boats and swimmers. During the day they were grouped near merchant ships for AA support and to carry guard mail and staff officers to other harbors. Division 206 (TU 32.25.4) was assigned to general duties in Kerama Retto consisting of Harbor Entrance Control, making smoke at night and carrying guard mail, light freight, and staff officers. On the afternoon of 3 June, 1945, while acting as harbor control vessel in Chinmu Bay the LCI(L)-90 was attacked by two Japanese suicide planes, one of which, a "Val" crashed into the starboard side of the conning station, rolling to the deck below and then over the side. General Quarters had been sounded and members of the crew were on their way to their stations at the time. Serious injuries were sustained by six men and two officers consisting of burns in various degrees. One of the men later died of his burns. The others were evacuated to shore hospitals for treatment. Although the conn and pilot house had all radio and navigating equipment destroyed, the LCI(L)-90 was able to proceed under her own power using a trick wheel.
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