ON TO KUNISHI RIDGE1At the same time the 6th Marine Division was landing on Oroku Peninsula, the 1st Marine Division was rolling up gains totalling 1,800 yards in its drive south from the Naha-Yonabaru valley. (See Map IX, Map Section.) General del Valle's regiments made this advance while a faltering division supply system behind them threatened to break down completely because of the mud and the rain. The roads had become such quagmires that even tractors and bulldozers became stalled when they attempted to drag division vehicles out of or over the mud. Tanks and trucks were unable to cross the Kokuba; the approaches to the bridge at the mouth of the river were untrafficable for a distance of over 500 yards.2 In an effort to facilitate resupply and evacuation operations, tanks were ordered off the roads. In general, forward units were logistically supported by Marines who hand carried supplies up to dumps behind the lines; the "trails were only negotiable for foot troops--vehicles could not have been used if we [2/7] could have gotten them across the inlet."3
On the division right on 4 June, the 7th Marines pushed forward to close off the neck of Oroku Peninsula and further entrap Japanese forces there. The hill mass at the base of Oroku in the division zone held the commanding terrain feature of the area, Hill 108. This height overlooked the East China Sea and the next major division objective, Itoman. Although the exposed right flank of the 7th Marines came under constant harassing fire from high ground to the right of the division boundary, the division left flank was generally secure since the adjacent 96th Infantry Division had moved forward steadily since its advance from the Kokuba River line.
After the Japanese defenses at Shuri had collapsed, the 1st Marines remained behind in the vicinity of the city to patrol and mop up, and the 5th Marines pursued the fleeing enemy. Before the dawn of 4 June, the 1st joined in the pursuit; 3/1 made a wide swing through the zone of the 96th Division in order to take the high ground north of Iwa and Shindawaku while 1/1 passed through the lines of the 5th Marines and took up positions in front of Hills 57 and 107.
By 0930, 3/1 had reached the small village of Tera, just north of Chan.4 At
1300, the battalion point was pinned down by fire coming from high ground just west of the Tomusu-Iwa road, and the advance guard attempted without success to clean out the enemy position. Just before 1400, the time scheduled for 3/1 to make its coordinated attack with 1/1, a cloudburst occurred. The supply problems here were further aggravated by the rain, and because of a communications blackout between the battalion and its artillery and naval gunfire support, 3/1 broke contact with the enemy and withdrew to a bivouac area in a draw behind the 383d Infantry.
At 1730, Lieutenant Colonel Ross' entire battalion was in defilade, protected from enemy artillery fire. Contact with the artillery battalions and naval gunfire support ships was still lacking at this time and a mortar ammunition shortage existed. The afternoon downpours had turned the roads into morasses and the fields into calf-deep mud wallows in which the suction of the ooze pulled the soles off of the shoes of men walking in it.
Since food as well as mortar ammunition was in short supply, the 383d Infantry generously supplied the battalion with enough K-rations to enable 3/1 to issue two meals to each Marine.5 It was the general consensus of the members of 3/1 that "taking all things into consideration, this day probably was the most miserable spent on Okinawa by the men of this battalion."6 In addition, 3,/1 found itself all but isolated from its regiment, since there was neither communication with nor a supply route to the 1st Marines CP, some 11,000 yards to the rear.7
The 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, passed through the lines of 2/5 at approximately 1000 on the 4th. This was nearly three hours after Company F of 2/5 had attacked and seized Hill 107 without opposition, and completed its occupation of the high ground across the e~tire front of the regiment. When 1/1 took over from 2/5 at noon, the latter passed into corps reserve with the rest of the 5th Marines, but maintained its positions as a secondary line.8
Although the downpour on 4 June had forced General del Valle to cancel the attack of 1/1 scheduled for 1400 that afternoon, the 7th Marines on the right had already jumped off. An hour later, the cancellation order was rescinded, and Lieutenant Colonel Shofner's battalion was again ordered to attack, to contact the 7th Marines, and to seize its original objective--the high ground north of Iwa and Shindawaku.
At 1630, the assault companies of 1/1 moved out to secure their target, some 1,500 yards away. The route of attack was up a valley floor, at the end of which a number of lesser hills rose in front of the objective. A creek that ran east to west across the valley was not visible from the LD; but a map reconnaissance indicated that the assault
forces would be able to cross it with little difficulty. The Marines met no opposition after jumping off until reaching the "creek," now swollen into a raging torrent by the day's rains. It presented a formidable barrier to further progress. A reconnaissance of the stream banks uncovered a rudimentary bridge for carts to the left of the battalion position.9 The assault troops were ordered to move upstream, cross the bridge, and redeploy on the other side.
As soon as the first Marine elements had crossed and were wallowing in mud towards firm ground, the heretofore-silent Japanese opened up with mortars and point-blank machine gun fire, sweeping the ranks of the onsurging troops. The Marines pushed on, nonetheless, and two platoons made it across to the south bank of the creek, only to become pinned down.
The 7th Marines on the right was unable to negotiate the swiftly flowing waters and was held up on the north bank,10 and the bridge-crossing site was fully covered by enemy defensive fires coming from a 200-foot-high ridge in front of 1/1. Therefore, the battalion commander ordered his troops to withdraw to the sector of 2/5 for the night.11 Because 1/1 had sustained a number of casualties, a covering force remained behind to evacuate the wounded after dark. The next morning, the 1st Battalion was ordered to bypass the enemy strongpoint by swinging into the zone of the 96th Division and follow closely in the trace of the 3/1 attack on Iwa.12
Colonel Mason anticipated the problem of maintaining radio and wire contact with his battalions as they raced south. His movement order provided that, in case of a complete communications breakdown between regiment and the assault battalions, the most senior battalion commander of the committed units would assume tactical command overall until contact was established with regiment once more.13 Following a mud-slogging and wearying march south on 5 June, 50 men from 1/1 dropped out of ranks from exhaustion. During the trek, the battalion lost contact with regimental headquarters for a brief time and temporarily came under control of Lieutenant Colonel Ross.14
Out of contact with regimental headquarters from the time he had led his battalion south from Shuri, and with the battalion objective yet uncaptured, Lieutenant Colonel Ross decided to complete his mission nevertheless. He took his command group forward early in the morning of 5 June to make a visual reconnaissance of the target. While this inspection was taking place, the Marines of 3/1 built fires in an attempt to warm themselves and dry as much of their clothing as possible before mounting the attack. Prior to the jumpoff, 3/1
received 19 supply air drops from VMTB-232 aircraft. In between the day's intermittent showers, the squadron flew a total of 41 resupply sorties; its all-time high to that date.15 The battalion departed its bivouac area at 1030 and arrived at the assembly area shortly thereafter; Lieutenant Colonel Ross then issued his attack order for the capture of the Iwa-Shindawaku ridge.
Before jumping off at 1230, 3/1 learned that patrols from 2/383 had passed through Iwa without opposition. As soon as the Marine attack began, lead elements were held up for a short time by sporadic machine gun and sniper fire, but took the ridge before dark. In the two days spent to envelop the objective, the battalion had travelled more than 3,000 yards. By this time, the advance CP of the regiment had moved far enough forward to enable Colonel Mason to issue attack orders personally to his battalion commanders.
The plan for the next day's attack called for 3/1 to continue the advance and seize Shindawaku. The 1st Battalion would destroy all bypassed enemy pockets in the regimental zone and to the rear of 3/1, and would backtrack to the stream where the 4 June attack had been stymied.
To the relief of all, the rain stopped during the night of 5-6 June. At dawn of the 6th, 1/1 moved out of its bivouac east of Iwa, swung down to the village and then turned north. At this point, all three of its infantry companies formed a battalion skirmish line over an extremely wide front. The Marines then swept northward and past the zone where 3/7 was preparing to attack in a southwesterly direction. Lieutenant Colonel Shofner's troops accomplished their sweep at 1400 and then attacked and seized the ridge overlooking the stream. The few enemy soldiers still manning positions on this objective, not expecting an attack from the rear, were surprised while changing into civilian clothes. After taking the position with little effort, 1/1 went into reserve near Tomusu.16
Because 3/1 had not been resupplied before its attack at 0900 on the 6th, the 383d Infantry again issued the Marines K-rations; this time, enough to provide each man in the battalion with one and a half meals.17 After jumping off, 3/1 advanced west and reached the outskirts of Shindawaku at 1030, when enemy troops were discovered occupying commanding ground on the ridge running northwest from the village. By 1800, however, the battalion had secured the ridge after a brief fight and 2/1 had moved to an area northwest of Iwa. Although the left flank of 3/1 was tied in with 2/383 for the night, the Marine battalion had not been able to contact the 7th Marines on the right. Early the next morning, 2/1 was moved into position to plug this gap.
During its drive south, the 1st Marine Division was sporadically halted for brief periods before a number of blocking positions organized and manned by small enemy groups. Each of these
groups was generally the size of a company, and all of them together comprised a force equaling no more than two battalions. The Japanese holding units had been ordered and were determined to delay the Tenth Army as long as possible. The tactical situation and the nature of their mission, however, prohibited their setting up anything more permanent and stronger than hastily contrived defensive positions, which were unable to hold back the aggressive Marine offensive for long.
When reconnaissance patrols uncovered these strong points, infantry commanders deployed their forces to take the objective by a combination of fire and maneuver. In most cases, the major attack force maneuvered into position to assault the objective from its flank or rear. At this time, Marine elements in front of the target supported the attack by firing on the objective to keep the enemy fixed in position. At times, the enveloping force provided fire support for a frontal attack. Regardless of the methods employed, the weather situation, and the condition of the terrain, General del Valle felt that "it was refreshing to be able to maneuver again, even on a modest scale."18
On the critical right flank, the 7th Marines paced the division advance on 5 June with the 2d and 3d Battalions attacking against increasing opposition; 1/7 followed behind, mopping up the rear area. Acting as a screen to the right of 2/7 along the division right boundary, the 1st Reconnaissance Company dispatched patrols far ahead of the battalion advance, which sent back invaluable information. The company, however, found that its operations were severely restricted by its limited communications system and supply organization.19
Like the 1st Marines, the 7th found the enemy less difficult than such other problems as those caused by the weather and the terrain. Marine wounded were evacuated in the rain over a five-mile sea of mud; sniper fire generally harassed the 8 to 10 litter bearers required for each casualty during the entire trip to the rear. Each day's attack was usually delayed until the weather was clear enough for land- and carrier-based20 planes to make a supply drop; so many sorties were flown for the 7th Marines as it trekked southwards that the trail of the regiment was blazed with brightly colored cargo parachutes.21
The initial attack of the 7th Marines southwards from the Kokuba River bridgehead on 4 June gained the regiment approximately 1,100 yards. That same day, 2/7 captured Takanyuta. On the next day, the formerly raging torrent in front of 3/7 had receded to uncover a causeway over which part of the battalion crossed; the remainder moved to the zone of the 2d Battalion and crossed the stream from there.22 Once beyond the south bank, the assault
battalions of the 7th drove forward 1,000 yards to a point just north of Hanja village.
When furious machine gun and mortar fire from a hill mass in the zone of the 6th Division held up the 7th Marines, General del Valle received permission from IIIAC to lay the artillery fire of the 11th Marines on the suspected enemy positions. General Shepherd was authorized to cancel the fire when it threatened his troops. As the 1st Division continued its drive past the neck of the Oroku Peninsula, expanding the already-lengthy right flank of the division, 1/22 was ordered into defensive positions along this flank.
On the next day, 6 June, the 22d Marines battalion had not yet occupied its assigned flank security positions. It became necessary, therefore, to order 1st Division troops into the 6th Division zone to capture Hill 103 and destroy the enemy automatic weapons and mortars harassing the right flank of the 7th Marines. Lieutenant Colonel Berger's battalion had already attacked and was, in fact, within a few yards of the crest of the hill when elements of the 22d Marines arrived. Reorienting the direction of its attack to the south towards Hill 108, 2/7 advanced 1,000 yards before encountering stiff opposition near Dakiton, where it dug in for the night. On the left, the 3d Battalion pushed to the high ground southeast of the same town and likewise dug in.
Clearing skies on 7 June heralded a 1st Division success in breaking through to the coast that day and isolating Admiral Ota and his ill-fated troops on Oroku from the rest of the doomed Thirty-second Army in the south. Following up a thorough combined arms preparation, 2/7 overran Hill 108 to command a view of the island south to Kunishi. The former defenders of 108 were seen fleeing south in small groups ranging in size from 10-20 men each. The fire of Marine support weapons and machine guns relentlessly pursued the Japanese troops, killing many. After receiving an air drop of supplies, 3/7 attacked at 1430, overran Hanja, made contact with 2/1 on its left, and dug in for the night on a ridge just north of Zawa.
Following receipt of still another supply air drop early on 8 June, 3/7 resumed its attack with a sweep through Zawa as advance elements of 2/7 probed the Japanese positions guarding Itoman. Besides positioning the division for a final drive south, the breakthrough to the seacoast uncovered beaches on which LVTs could land when a waterborne supply system was established. When the first LVTs touched down on the coast approximately 500 yards north of Itoman shortly after noon on 8 June, General Hedge congratulated General del Valle "for cutting the island in two."23 Use of this new water route brought in enough rations to permit distribution of the first full issue to 7th Marines troops in more than a week. As the weather improved, some vehicular traffic appeared over slowly drying roads in the south. A few new bridges were constructed across the once-swollen streams in the north to help speed supplies of all sorts to assault troops driving to the southern tip of the island.
Advancing abreast of and pacing the march of the 7th Marines to the sea on 7 June, the 1st Marines also reported substantial gains. Early in the morning, 2/1 filled the gap existing on the right between 3/1 and 3/7, while 3/1 maintained contact with 3/383. By 1800, 2/1 was in possession of the height overlooking Zawa, and the 3d Battalion had moved 1,200 yards along the corps boundary to occupy the high ground 1,000 yards north of Yuza; 1/1 had moved to Iwa preparatory to relieving 3/1.24
All infantry battalions had been plagued by the supply situation, but it seemed to members of 2/1 that they had been especially dogged since leaving Shuri. Their only source of supply had been the air drops, and by the time that one could be made, the assault companies were several thousand yards forward of the drop zone.25 The supplies then were recovered by headquarters personnel, who carried them to forward dumps. At this point, Marines from the reserve company would pick up the supplies and carry them to assault units.26
Sustained by supplies brought ashore by the LVTs, in the continuing good weather of 8 June, 1st Division troops pushed ahead against perceptibly stiffening resistance. The 1st Marines rolled forward; 3/1 secured its objective near Yuza at 1600, when it was relieved by 1/1 and went into regimental reserve near Shindawaku. Slightly later that day, 2/1 secured the high ground overlooking the Mukue River. On 9 June, division assault units spent the day probing enemy positions to their front in preparation for a major attack on the 10th.
Improved weather conditions and correspondingly better road nets over which supply convoys could travel served to release the VMTBs for other assignments. Following 6 June, when VMTB-232 made 49 drops, ground units requested paradrop missions on only eight other days in the rest of the month.27 By this stage of the campaign, the Marine pilots had become quite proficient and accurate in paradrop operations. In reference to a drop Major Allen L. Feldmeier's VMTB-232 had made on 8 June to its soldiers, the 383d Infantry sent him the following message: "Your drops have excellent results. We received 95 of the 97 packs which you dropped."28 Later in the month, VMTB-131 flew 3 missions totalling 20 sorties in which 70 packs--each averaging 1,000 pounds of food and ammunition--were dropped. Ground units receiving the supplies reported
that they had recovered 90 percent or more of the packs.
Increased enemy opposition arose on 9 June as 1st Marine Division units approached the Tera-Ozato area, which had been outposted by the Thirty-second Army. Patrols from both the 1st and 7th Marine received heavy rifle and machine gun fire while attempting to cross to the south bank of the Mukue Gawa. Small infiltration groups finally forded the stream, but were unable to advance beyond the bank. The 2d Battalion, 1st Marines, sustained moderate casualties during this day's fighting, but was unable to evacuate them until after dark because accurate enemy fires covered evacuation routes.
In the 7th Marines zone, 1/7 relieved 3/7, which then went into regimental reserve. No appreciable gains were made as 1/7 companies mounted two unsuccessful attempts to seize high ground overlooking Tera. The second effort was repulsed by extremely heavy small arms fire, which forced the assault elements to withdraw under the cover of a smoke screen. On the extreme right of the division, 2/7 patrols crossed the Mukue Gawa and attempted to seize the ridge north of Itoman,29 but were thwarted by enemy fire coming from emplacements fronting the 1st Battalion zone. One platoon of Company E was able to get to the far side of the river where it was pinned down immediately by accurate frontal and flanking fire.
Operating a combination CP-OP while aboard an LVT(A) floating 100-200 yards offshore of the battalion flank, Lieutenant Colonel Berger had a grandstand view of the fighting. When he saw that the advance platoon was pinned down, he went ashore to order the rest of the company to cross at the river mouth and reinforce the stricken unit. Steady Japanese machine gun fire prevented the Marines from wading across and shortly thereafter denied passage to troop-laden LVTS attempting the same route. At nightfall, the battalion commander ordered the exposed units to withdraw to the northern bank of the Mukue River under the cover of LVT(A) fire.
The 2d Battalion jumped off on the 10th with Companies F and G passing through the night defenses of Company E, dropping onto the beach from the top of a 10-foot-high seawall, and wading 400 yards across the stream mouth to a point on the south bank opposite the ridge. Shells from LVT(A)s pounded this high ground and Itoman beyond it. Following this preparation, the assault troops scaled the seawall to attack these two objectives. Although the battalion lost five officers in the first seven minutes of fighting,30 the onsurging Marines swept over the ridge, through the ruins of Itoman, and on to the high ground beyond the southern edge of the town.
At the same time that the 2d Battalion had crashed through Itoman, 1/7, spearheaded
by Company A, made a rapid and unopposed rush to the crest of the hill north of Tera, where the Japanese strongpoint that had opposed the 7th Marines on the previous day was located. From this newly gained height, the battalion called for an artillery concentration on the high ground immediately east of Tera. Battalion 81mm mortars blistered the village with a barrage of white phosphorous shells, burning to the ground all buildings still standing. Although few Japanese troops were found in the area, numerous dazed civilians, who had miraculously escaped death in the bombardment, were discovered wandering aimlessly among the ruins. After sending the Okinawans to stockades in the rear, 1/7 prepared night positions and organized for the scheduled 11 June attack on Kunishi Ridge. (See Map 21.)
By 10 June, the rains had ended and the transportation problem, although not so critical as it had been previously, was still not completely alleviated. The ground was drying and once-overflowing streams had lowered to a point where the road-construction and bridge-building efforts of the engineers could open the way to tracked and wheeled vehicles. Division engineers had converted oil drums into culverts and built tank fords over the fire-swept Mukue Gawa. In addition, the engineers provided round-the-clock maintenance for these fords so that the heavy traffic south could continue unabated. One especially important ford was built at the point where the Zawa-Tera highway crossed the Mukue.31
The task assigned to 1/1 was the capture of Yuza Hill, the high ground approximately 700 yards west of Yuza and about 450 yards directly north of Ozato; 2/1 was to support the attack by fire, while units of the 96th Division were to provide security to the left flank of the 1st Marines. When the tank fords over the Mukue were opened on 10 June, Shermans also moved forward to support the 1st Marines attack.
Another support element, the 11th Marines, assisted the infantry assault. Following a rolling barrage, tank-infantry teams from 1/1 swept onto the western nose of the hill and Company C swarmed up to its crest in the face of blazing enemy machine gun and artillery fire. The company lost 70 of its 175 men in this charge.32 Lieutenant Colonel Shofner's attack plan called for Company B to follow in the left rear of the lead elements and then to attack straight up the hill after first having worked its way through Yuza into jump-off positions. Upon reaching the crest, B was to tie in with Company C on its right and with the Army units on the left. Although the latter had begun the attack abreast of 1/1, Japanese troops entrenched in the extremely well-fortified Yuza Dake escarpment prevented the soldiers from advancing beyond their line of departure. Company B was unable to move forward because of the intense artillery and mortar fire coming from the front of the Army zone, and could not help Company C, which was isolated in an exposed and extremely tenuous position.
Late in the afternoon, Shofner sent Company B around to the right to join
Map 21: Seizure of Kunishi Ridge
the company on the hill. Both assault companies had sustained heavy casualties in the fighting, but C was hit hardest; all of its officers were either dead or wounded. More Marines were lost during the night, 10-1 1 June, as a result of the constant deluge of enemy mortar and artillery fire placed on the hill. Added to this heavy toll were the casualties caused by grazing machine gun fire coming from weapons emplaced on Yuza Dake. Twenty more men were wounded in the dawn of 11 June, when at 0400, the Japanese mounted an unsuccessful counterattack. For the next two days, 1/1 waited on Yuza Hill for the 96th Division infantry to reduce the escarpment to the east. The Marine battalion had little trouble in maintaining its hill position despite the persistent Japanese artillery fire harassing it the entire time.
While the 1st Battalion fought to gain its objective on the 10th, 2/1 with the help of armor support successfully cleaned the enemy out of the commanding ridge between Tera and Yuza. The next day, because 1/1 had been stymied on Yuza Hill, Lieutenant Colonel Magee's battalion was ordered to capture Hill 69, the commanding terrain feature directly west of Ozato. At 1030, the closely coordinated tank-infantry -artillery attack began when the battalion moved out in a column of companies. Initial progress was rapid, but when the infantry vanguard entered the valley leading to Ozato, well-placed Japanese mortar and artillery concentrations caused many Marine casualties. As the left flank of the spearhead approached Ozato, enemy machine gun and rifle fire began mowing down the attackers.
These mounting losses gradually slowed the momentum of the Marine assault, which the battalion commander attempted to revive by placing a second company in the line of attack to the right of the first. Despite the increasing volume of the massed fires provided by 2,/1 supporting arms, enemy fire continued unabated. Disregarding their slowly ebbing strength and the loss of three supporting tanks, the assault units surged forward to capture the objective shortly before sundown. By dark, the battalion had consolidated the position and set in night defense lines from which it repulsed numerous infiltration attempts and blunted one counterattack before 11 June dawned.
In preparation for the many casualties anticipated during the fighting yet remaining, a light plane landing strip was placed into operation approximately 2,000 yards north of Itoman on 11 June. It was noted at the time that, for maintaining morale and obtaining immediate medical treatment for critical cases, "the value of this means of evacuating casualties cannot be overstressed."33 Now casualties were flown almost directly from medical clearing stations immediately behind the front to hospitals in the rear, a distance of 12 miles, in an average time of 8 minutes. This brief flight obviated a long and often body-racking haul in an ambulance jeep over roads that were practically nonexistent. From 11 to 22 June, VMO- 3 and -7 flew out 641 casualties from this strip.34
MARINE CASUALTIES are evacuated by a spotter plane from a temporary airstrip north of Itoman.
8TH MARINES landing on Iheya Shima. [USMC 126988]
On the same day the landing strip became operational, Colonel Snedeker's 7th Marines advanced 400 to 1,000 yards against ever-stiffening enemy opposition. The 1st Battalion, having cleared Tera, attacked to gain the high ground immediately south of the village. After mopping up in Itoman, 2/7 pushed 500 yards southward. Confronting the regiment now, approximately 800 yards equidistant from the outskirts of Tera and Itoman, was Kunishi Ridge, to be "the scene of the most frantic, bewildering, and costly close-in battle on the southern tip of Okinawa."35
BATTLE FOR KUNISHI RIDGE36Running from the northeast to the southwest for a distance of perhaps 1,500 yards, the sheer coral escarpment of Kunishi Ridge held Japanese positions which comprised the western anchor of the last heavily defended line in f rent of Kiyamu. Both the forward and reverse slopes of the ridge were replete with caves, weapons emplacements, and fortified tombs, all of which reinforced natural defenses provided by the complex and difficult terrain features of the ridge itself. In front of the 7th Marines line, a broad valley containing grassland and rice paddies led to this crag and afforded the defenders unobstructed lanes of fire and the attackers little cover and concealment. Approaching tanks would fare no better than the infantry since they were restricted to two routes leading into the objective area--both covered extremely well by Japanese antitank guns. One road followed the coast line; the second cut across the center of the ridge at a right angle, dividing it. (See Map 21.)
Having pushed through Itoman and Tera during the morning of 11 June, 2/7 and 1/7 prepared to continue on to Kunishi Ridge. Immediately after midday, tank-infantry teams from both assault battalions moved out towards the objective. Two hours later, withering frontal fire from the ridge, enfilade fire from the yet-uncaptured Hill 69, and accurate artillery concentrations on the tanks forced the attack to a halt. Because of these fires, and more coming from Japanese-held Yuza Dake, the commander of the 7th determined that it would be too costly to continue the attack in the daylight, so at 1447, he ordered the assault forces to withdraw. After making an aerial reconnaissance of the ridge in a low-flying observation plane,37 Colonel Snedeker concluded that a night attack would be the course of action most likely to succeed.38
That afternoon, as the battalions dug in a night defense and prepared to continue the attack on the following day, the two assault battalion commanders were thoroughly oriented on the general
scheme of maneuver at the regimental CP. Colonel Snedeker decided to attack straight across the valley, using the road leading into the ridge as the boundary separating the battalion zones and the telephone poles bordering the road as a guide. The assaulting battalions were to penetrate the enemy defenses at the point where the road entered the ridge. There the battalions were to peel off to their zones of attack and roll up the enemy's line. Until the hour of attack, 0330, on 12 June, normal artillery fires would be placed alternately on Kunishi Ridge and then Mezado Ridge (500-600 yards southwest of Kunishi), and thereafter only on the latter. In order to maintain deception and guarantee that the enemy would be surprised, the division issued an order prohibiting the use of flares and illumination of any kind--except in emergencies--after 0245.39
Before the night attack began, however, the Tenth Army decided to employ another type of weapon. Prior to and following the 1 April assault landings, the Japanese on the island had been subjected to a massive psychological warfare effort in which propaganda leaflets were delivered by aircraft and artillery shells. Also, Japanese-language broadcasts were directed at the enemy over loudspeakers placed near the front lines.40 For a period of several days preceding 11 June, this war of paper and words had been accelerated and an emphasis placed on the hopelessness of the Japanese position and the futility of continued fighting. Both the leaflets and the broadcasts called upon General Ushijima to surrender.
On the afternoon of 11 June, General Buckner sent a Tenth Army reception party, fully empowered to negotiate with any Japanese parley group, to the 2/7 observation post overlooking Itoman. At 1700, all American firing ceased in the 7th Marines zone in dubious but hopeful anticipation of an enemy party bearing white flags. No such group appeared, although six Japanese soldiers did surrender about an hour later to Marines in the lines. The battlefield's unnatural silence was shattered at 1804 when hostile mortar fire fell on the surrender point and American artillery resumed fire on Kunishi in answer.41
Both battalions were poised to attack Kunishi Ridge with one company leading the assault. At H-Hour minus 1 (0230), Companies C and F proceeded to assembly areas and contacted each other on the line of departure. At 0500, when reinforcing Companies B and G moved out in their trace, the two assault units had already reached the crest of the ridge, achieving complete surprise, Company C, for example, destroyed several small enemy groups in the act of preparing their breakfasts.
At daybreak, while en route through the valley to reinforce the Marines digging in on the ridge, intense enemy fire caught the two follow-up companies and pinned them down. It became painfully apparent that the Japanese defenders had quickly recovered from their initial setback. In no mood to relinquish their hold on Kunishi Ridge without a last-ditch fight, they began lobbing hand grenades on the Marines situated in the forward positions. Here, Company F was consolidating at a point approximately 400 yards due north of Mezado village and was tied in on its left with Company C, whose line was extended some 450 yards to the northeast.
Under the cover of smoke and with the assistance of tanks, the companies stalled in the valley made three attempts to reach the ridge during daylight on the 12th. Meanwhile, the troops already there needed rations, medical supplies, ammunition, and reinforcements; there were wounded to be evacuated also. Tanks attempting to get into firing positions south of Tera to silence the enemy weapons and relieve the companies pinned down were themselves fired upon, and in fact were unable even to leave the cover of the village.
In midafternoon, the Shermans were pressed into service to carry rations and personnel up to the ridge. At 1555, concealed in Tera from enemy observation, the tanks were loaded with supplies and Marines for the trip forward. Before dark, a total of nine tankloads in three runs had carried a reinforced platoon of 54 Marines and critical replenishment items up to the line. By displacing the assistant driver of each tank, it was possible to cram six riflemen inside instead. On arrival at the ridge, men and supplies were unloaded through tank escape hatches and casualty evacuees embarked in their place.
No further trips to the ridge were possible because of approaching darkness. In addition, the road leading to the front lines had caved in under the last tank in the column returning from the third trip. This tank bellied up, and neither the crew nor the casualties inside could leave through the escape hatch. After Marine mortars had fired a smoke cover for the tank, another came alongside to evacuate the troops it held. The disabled tank was then disarmed and abandoned for the night. In all, 1st Tank Battalion vehicles evacuated 22 wounded from the ridge.42
The darkness precluding further tank operations enabled the remainder of the 1st and 2d Battalion of the 7th Marines to move to the ridge without incident. In regimental reserve, the 3d Battalion patrolled to the rear and guarded the flanks of the other two. With three companies now up front, each of the two forward battalions extended its lines further. By midnight, the battalion commanders were convinced that their positions were reasonably secure,43 and reassured that "the large amount of artillery support available could destroy any enemy counterattack which might be made against the initial ridgehead. . . ."44 As General del Valle described it, "The situation was one of the tactical oddities of this peculiar warfare. We were on the ridge.
The Japs were in it, both on the forward and reverse slopes."45
Patrols from the 1st Marines ranged south along the corps boundary and into the outskirts of Ozato on 12 June. Although furious fighting was then going on in the 7th Marines zone, the 1st encountered relatively little opposition except for sporadic fire from Kunishi Ridge that was placed on cave-sealing and mopping-up teams working in the vicinity of Hill 69. On the following day, combat patrols began reconnoitering towards Kunishi Ridge in preparation for a predawn attack scheduled for the 14th.
Throughout the division zone, all efforts on 13 June were concentrated on preparing for this large-scale operation. The incessant cannonading of artillery pieces and naval rifles gave the forces of General Ushijima in the southern part of the island no respite. Two rocket launching craft took positions off the southern tip of Okinawa to rake reverse slope defenses of the Thirty-second Army. More than 800 5-inch rockets ripped into the towns of Makabe and Komesu in an hour's time alone.
In the four days following its seizure of Kunishi Ridge, the 7th Marines was somewhat isolated from other friendly ground units by "No Man's Valley,"46 the 800-yard approach to its positions. This broad expanse was thoroughly covered by the fire of Japanese soldiers infesting the lower slopes and crests flanking the ridge. Supplies were either paradropped or brought in by tanks. Some air drops fell in the valley, "but they were in the minority."47 The rest were right on target and fell into a drop zone under Marine control. Sometimes it was even dangerous for the Marines to recover supply containers in these supposedly safe areas because of the many enemy snipers awaiting such targets of opportunity. One Japanese sharpshooter alone killed and wounded 22 Marines before he was finally located and eliminated.48
Despite the inviting target their sheer bulk offered, tanks had to be used and did yeoman work in hauling supplies forward to the ridge. On their return trip, they evacuated casualties, some of whom were strapped to the side of the Shermans and then sandbagged as protection against enemy fire. In the morning of the 13th, a tank dozer constructed a bypass around the place where the road had caved in on the previous day. Upon completion of the detour, the lumbering mediums began shuttling back and forth to the ridge. Some of the tanks placed point-blank fire on enemy ridge positions covering the supply route in the 1/7 zone, and other tanks operated in the 2/7 zone, working over the western end of Kunishi Ridge. On the supply/evacuation runs, tanks lifted some 50 Marines from Company A to reinforce the rest of 1/7 on the ridge, and took out 35 casualties on the return trip.49
During the course of the day, the assault battalions continued consolidating their holdings on Kunishi, and 1/7 sent patrols east along the ridge to contact
the enemy and uncover his positions. The battalion advanced only slightly. When a Japanese smokescreen obscured Kunishi village to friendly observation, 81mm mortars hammered the area to disrupt enemy activity suspected there. Shortly after twilight, a group of enemy troops was sighted on Mezado Ridge and was quickly dispersed by a heavy concentration of mortar and small arms fire. Marines from 2/7 patrolled along the west coast but were soon pinned down by long-range enemy fire coming from the eastern part of the ridge; they had to be withdrawn under the cover of smoke.
An increasing number of tanks became disabled by the accurate fire of AT guns well hidden in the ridge. A salvo from the main battery of a supporting battleship scored four observed direct hits on enemy emplacements, but did little to subdue other Japanese positions in the area. This particular barrage exploded on targets within 250 yards of friendly troops.50
During the night of 13 June, the 1st Marines was ordered to attack the front of Kunishi Ridge in its zone before dawn the next day; H-Hour was set for 0330. Following a 30-minute artillery preparation, 2/1 jumped off with two companies in assault. Despite an earlier division order prohibiting the use of flares by units adjacent to the assaulting force before and during an attack at night, the attack area and the attackers were nonetheless illuminated. Many urgent calls to higher echelons for an immediate ban placed on the firing of flares proved fruitless.51 Fortunately, the Marines advanced undiscovered by the enemy and initial progress was unopposed. By 0500, two platoons from Company E had reached the topographical crest of the ridge; the support platoon and company headquarters were stopped well below this point by extremely severe enemy fire.
Half an hour later, Company G had worked one of its platoons up to a point on the ridge where it tied in with the left flank of Company E. At daybreak, increasingly active enemy sniping and intense fire on the flanks and rear of the assault companies served to isolate these platoons from the rest of their battalion. Tanks then rumbled forward to support the beleaguered Marines, whose casualties were mounting rapidly. One company lost six of its seven officers.52 Because routes to the advance positions were under accurate and direct enemy fire, the mediums were again pressed into action to haul supplies up to the line and carry casualties to the rear, much in the same manner as they had for the 7th Marines elsewhere on Kunishi Ridge. At the end of the day, an estimated 110 wounded Marines had been evacuated by the tanks.53
Even though the enemy attempted to dislodge them, the Marines held onto their tenuous position. After dark, the reserve company was moved up and a perimeter defense was established for the night. Japanese small arms, mortar, and artillery fire, and recurring showers of hand grenades poured on the Marine
positions throughout the hours of darkness. In addition, the enemy made many attempts to infiltrate all along the line.
As the sun rose on 15 June, 2/1 found enemy pressure to be as constant as it had been the day before, and battalion casualties reaching alarming proportions. Although the tanks continued to carry supplies and evacuate the wounded, 2/1 critically needed ammunition and rations. A requested air drop scheduled for 0900 was delayed until the middle of the afternoon, and then more than two-thirds of the packs dropped into enemy territory and could not be recovered. The efforts of 2/1 assault companies notwithstanding, Kunishi Ridge was far from secured when 2/5 relieved 2/1 after dark on the 15th.54
Earlier that day, 3/555 had relieved 1/1 on Yuza Hill, following which, the latter moved to an assembly area near Dakiton; 3/1 had already set up in the vicinity of Shindawaku. With 2/5 on the line, Colonel Griebel had complete responsibility for the zone formerly held by the 1st Marines.
During the afternoon before 2/5 was to go into the lines, its company commanders were taken by tank to the front lines to. make a personal reconnaissance of the area they were to take over. When they arrived at the positions of 2/1, they discovered that the tactical situation precluded a daylight relief. They also found that 2/1 held only a 75-yard section on the crest of Kunishi Ridge, with a portion of the battalion occupying a small pocket on the forward slopes of the ridge. As a result of this situation, the commanders of 2/1 and 2/5 agreed that the relief should begin only after it had become dark. In order to maintain tight control over the move and prevent matters from becoming confused in the restricted area where the relief was to take place, Lieutenant Colonel Benedict decided to commit only one of his companies initially. The relief of 2/1 was completed at 2030, a half hour after it had begun. The 1st Marines as a whole went into division reserve at 2300, after having been in the division line for 12 straight days during which it suffered nearly 500 casualties.
On the day before fresh troops had joined in the fight for Kunishi, the 7th Marines resumed its grinding advance by "the slow, methodical destruction of enemy emplacements on the ridge, to which the descriptive word 'processing' had come to be applied."56 The 2d Battalion was ordered to seize the rest of the ridge in its zone and to be prepared to continue the attack to Mezado Ridge. Company A attacked east to seize the remainder of the reverse slope of Kunishi Ridge within the 7th Marines zone, while B and C provided fire support and mopped up behind the assault company. Despite difficult terrain and an unrelenting enemy opposition, Company A succeeded in closing to the outskirts of Kunishi village.
At 1247, Company B was ordered to continue the advance through Kunishi, and then to attack north to secure the forward slope of the easternmost sector of Kunishi Ridge. Although the company passed through the village and
began heading for the high ground with only slight interference, withering machine gun fire soon pinned down all but two rifle squads, which were able to climb the height, Once the Marines had gained the crest of the ridge, the Japanese launched a strong counterattack, forcing the squads from their temporary holding. The company as a whole then withdrew to lines held the previous night.
To the right of 1/7, the 2d Battalion was subjected to increasingly intense enemy fire despite suppressive American counter-barrages; 2/7 reported only limited gains that day. At 1530, the logistic and tactical support of the 7th Marines by tanks ended when the armor began assisting the 1st Marines. On the 14th, the tracked vehicles had carried 48 men of the 7th Marines forward and evacuated 160.57
During the following two days, 2/7 was supported by naval gunfire, artillery, air, rockets, and 81mm mortars, which mercilessly pounded the enemy. Both gun and flame tanks furnished direct close-in support, but could make no appreciable dent in Japanese defenses. A stubborn enemy notwithstanding, 2/7 moved its lines some 500-700 yards to the right and in front of the first high ground leading to the Mezado Hill mass, the division objective after Kunishi.
The 1st Battalion fared no better in its attempt to seize the rest of Kunishi Ridge in its zone on 15 June than it had on the 14th. Notified that 15 artillery battalions were on call for supporting fires, 1/7 moved out at 0945 following an artillery preparation and preliminary patrolling. Company C attacked directly east along the ridge while B moved through Kunishi village and then turned north towards the high ground again.
Heavy Japanese fire from prepared emplacements prevented the Marines from advancing across the open ground between the village and the ridge line, and Company C was unable to relieve the pressure on B. At 1600, the two units were withdrawn once again to positions held 13-14 June.
During the night 15-16 June, small enemy groups were active in front of 1/7 lines harassing the Marines with small arms fire and lobbing hand grenades into their foxholes. Before dawn on 16 June, the troops on the left (east) flank were pulled back to the west approximately 200 yards to permit a massive artillery preparation on the objective which had stymied 1/7 the preceding two days. An extremely heavy concentration of artillery, mortar, and rocket fire drummed that day's target for nearly three hours before the assault forces jumped off. By 1345, 1/7 had completely seized the rest of the ridge in its zone and immediately began mopping up and consolidating its newly won ground. Shortly thereafter, battalion troops "repeatedly encountered and destroyed numerous groups of the enemy wandering through the town of Kunishi in a confused, disorganized, and bewildered state. It was evident that the end was not far off."58
One other major accomplishment that afternoon was the capture by Company A of "The Pinnacle," a particularly difficult enemy strongpoint situated so that
it could be neither destroyed nor neutralized by any type of support weapon immediately available. It was in this area that the enemy sniper who had shot 22 Marines earlier was hunted down and killed. Approaches to The Pinnacle were swept by Japanese fire, and its seizure by the infantry was slow, tortured, and Costly.59
To the right of 1/7, the 2d Battalion lines were extended some 400 yards further west to where the battalion held the first high terrain approaching the Mezado hills. This progress was accomplished even while the battalion had sustained heavy casualties and lost its valuable armored support, which fell victim to Japanese land mines and 47mm AT guns. Expert employment of its supporting arms enabled 2/7 to make slight gains on the 16th. For example, salvos from the main battery of USS Idaho were called down on targets located within 400 yards of frontline troops. In addition, air liaison parties controlled air strikes, often consisting of 25-30 planes each, which successfully destroyed stubborn pockets holding up the advance.60
No longer was Kunishi Ridge a major obstacle in the way of the 1st Marine Division, for the terrain that the Japanese had so doggedly defended here, including the approaches to Mezado, had been virtually cleaned out by the end of 16 June. Only that portion of the ridge on the far left of the division, in the 5th Marines zone, still presented some problems. With the reduction of enemy opposition on The Pinnacle, the 7th Marines was able to make physical contact with the 5th.
As 1st Division troops prepared for the final drive south, mopping up operations on Oroku Peninsula neared an end. Concurrently, General Shepherd's staff drew up plans for the eventual commitment of the 6th Division in the southern front. Initially, the 22d Marines was to pass through right flank elements of the 7th Marines on 17 June to relieve 2/7; 3/7 would come out of reserve to relieve the 1st Battalion. (See Map 21.)
In the 5th Marines zone on 16 June, 2/5 attacked at 0730 and spent the day working over that portion of the regimental area that lay between Kunishi Ridge and Hill 69. At approximately 1800, a reinforced company reached the crest of the ridge and tied in with the left flank unit of the 7th Marines. Bitter, close-quarter fighting had been the order of the day for 2/5, whose assault companies had received continuously heavy small arms fire. Rising casualty figures again required tanks to be employed as evacuation vehicles; this task was in addition to their shuttling ammunition and rations forward. In face of Japanese holding action to its front, 2/5 made slow but steady progress.
Although enemy infiltrators attempted to breach 5th Marines lines during the night 16-17 June, they were thoroughly discouraged. As 2/5 resumed the attack on the 17th, oppressive enemy small arms fire coming from the vicinity of Aragachi in the XXIV Corps zone punished the front and flank of the battalion. Its task was to seize that portion of Kunishi Ridge still held by the enemy. Attacking with a two-company front, the 2d Battalion faced the problem of coping
with Japanese reverse-slope positions and destroying them. To smooth the way somewhat, a rocket barrage was laid on the objective. A short time later, at 1030, tanks moved out and clambered over the ridge route, which had been opened earlier by an armored bulldozer.
Murderous enemy fire criss-crossed the crest of the ridge as 2/5 grimly pushed on. All tanks were pressed into action as armored ambulances once again, but only the walking wounded could be taken inside of the vehicles and evacuated. Stretcher cases presented a serious problem because they could not be taken up through the tank escape hatches, but had to be lashed to their rear decks. Often, wounded were hit a second and third time on their trip to the aid station.
Throughout the afternoon, the volume and intensity of enemy fire as well as the ferocity of the enemy opposition remained undiminished. Tank, artillery, and mortar fire, and the ripple fire of several rocket barrages were directed at suspected Japanese strongpoints and weapons emplacements in an attempt to open the way for Marine tank-infantry teams. At 1700, Lieutenant Colonel Benedict decided to commit his reserve company and further strengthen the assault companies by sending forward 133 replacements, which had been assigned to the battalion three days earlier.61
With this infusion of fresh troops in its line, 2/5 surged eastward along the ridge; by nightfall, the battalion held approximately three-fourths of the 1,200 yards of Kunishi Ridge in the regimental zone.62 Because the position of the battalion was somewhat precarious, at dusk Colonel Griebel attached Company K, 3/5, to the 2d Battalion with a mission of protecting the battalion rear. At 2315, an estimated company-sized counterattack hit 2/5 positions, but was thoroughly blunted; Company K troops killed the few Japanese that succeeded in penetrating the lines.
On the coastal flank of the IIIAC zone, 6th Division Marines had become fully involved in the drive to the south by the end of 17 June, Moving forward during the afternoon of the previous day to relieve 2/7, the 1st and 3d Battalions of the 22d Marines attempted to cross the valley between Itoman and Kunishi, but were forestalled by the severe enemy fire covering this route. Forced to turn back to their previous positions, the two battalions waited until dark to begin the relief.63 The uneventful passage of the lines began at 0300, 17 June, and by dawn assault elements were in jump-off positions at the base of the northern slope of Mezado Ridge, prepared to attack at 0730 in coordination with 3/7 on the left.
An artillery, naval gunfire, and air bombardment of Mezado Ridge, and of Hill 6964 and Kuwanga Ridge beyond it, preceded the attack. Once the fires had lifted, the 22d Marines moved out with
two assault battalions abreast--3/22 on the left. Machine gun and intermittent mortar fire paced the advance up the slope of the ridge, but as the morning wore on, the Marine progress became increasingly difficult in the face of stiffening resistance.
To support the attack of 1/22, 6th Division tanks moved around the right flank of the regiment and through the water towards an off-shore reef to gain firing positions commanding direct observation of the caves on the western tip of Mezado Ridge. As one armored platoon began to negotiate the route, the unexpected depth of the water prevented it from working its way forward far enough to enfilade the ridge, and its tanks were forced to deliver supporting fire from the most advanced points that they had been able to reach.65 Tank weapons could not suppress the heavy machine gun fire coming from the reverse slope of the hill mass holding up 1/22. As a result, the battalion was unable to gain more than a foothold on the forward slope of Mezado Ridge until 1700, when it positioned two companies on the crest of the ridge for night defense.
Inadequate maneuvering room to the front also limited the employment of supporting armor. Besides the flank route through the water, the only other suitable tank road ran through a rice paddy which had been cratered in four places and heavily mined as well, Once the mines were removed or neutralized, tanks lumbered up to these craters and dumped into them bundles of large logs that had been attached to their front slope plates. Tanks and logs instead of dump trucks and fill dirt were used to plug the craters because only armored-plated vehicles could weather the severe enemy fires.
After two craters in the road had been filled, it was discovered that the approaches to a small bridge further up the road had been mined. Sniper and machine gun fire prevented engineer clearing teams from neutralizing the mined area, and the road project was abandoned temporarily. Nonetheless, the tanks advanced as far forward as possible to deliver overhead supporting fires.
By noon, 3/22 had secured the highest point on the ridge and maintained the momentum of its attack to clean out the town of Mezado as well, Before dusk, the battalion had captured the key terrain around Hill 69 and was in command of the ground overlooking the next objective, Kuwanga Ridge. With the exception of an attempted enemy counterattack in the sector of 1/22 at 2210, a generally quiet night was passed by the 22d Marines.
When 1st Division troops jumped off on the 17th, 3/7 attacked in a column of companies, Company K leading, to take the Hill 69 east of Mezado. Company I maintained contact with the 22d Marines, and Company L took up positions to protect the left flank of K. Following an unopposed 1,400-yard drive across the plateau just east of Mezado to seize Hills 69 and 52, 3/7 halted for a short time to reorganize, and then attempted to continue the drive to the crest of Hill 79--the last remaining barrier before Makabe. Heavy Japanese fire from positions on the high ground commanding the Kuwanga-Makabe road forced the
battalion to dig in for the night before it could gain the hill. Once dug in, 3/7 Marines quickly organized to blunt all enemy attempts to infiltrate and counterattack in the darkness.
When the Japanese 22d Regiment did launch its counterattack, it was directed against 1/22. This determined effort born of despair was doomed from its inception because that portion of the enemy regiment scheduled to exploit the counterattack had been almost completely destroyed that afternoon. In effect, the near annihilation of the 22d Regiment meant that the left flank of the Japanese outpost line had all but collapsed, and that the 32d Regiment, holding positions near Makabe, was faced with the threat of having its left flank rolled up.66
The Marines were prepared to turn this threat into reality by exploiting the successes of 17 June with the commitment of fresh troops into the battle on the next day. While the 7th Marines finished "processing" Kunishi Ridge, the 8th Marines (Reinforced), commanded by Colonel Clarence R. Wallace, prepared to relieve 3/7 to continue the attack southward. Before the dawn of 18 June, this 2d Marine Division infantry regiment, now attached to the 1st Division, entered the lines.
IHEYA-AGUNI OPERATIONS67After its feint landings on the southeastern coast of Okinawa on L-Day and L plus 1, the 2d Marine Division remained on board its transports which steamed in the vicinity of the target area until 11 April. On that date, the Demonstration Group set out for Saipan, arriving there four days later. On 14 May, CinCPac ordered the division (less one RCT) detached from the operational control of the Tenth Army and designated it as the area reserve under control of CinCPOA. In addition, General Watson received an alert for his division to conduct Phase III(d) of the ICEBERG Plan, the landing on Kikai Jima. Once captured, this small island north of Okinawa was to be utilized as a northern outpost for the Ryukyus area, and was to base four fighter groups, two night-fighter squadrons, and one torpedo-bomber squadron.68 The 8th Marines (Reinforced) remained under the control of General Buckner for the impending landings on Iheya and Aguni Shimas, and was ordered to reembark immediately.
For the entire month after its arrival at Saipan, the division remained on board the transports. A warning order for the Kikai invasion had been issued on 6 May,69 but this alert was reduced in urgency four days later by a message that indicated that Phase III(d) might not be conducted. With the arrival of the 14 May message releasing the division from Tenth Army control, the Marines began unloading and rehabilitating their equipment ashore in preparation for the time when it was to be
ordered to mount out for Kikai. On 3 June, the landing was deferred for an indefinite period, and on the 19th, the 2d Marine Division (less RCT 8) was released from its role as Ryukyus area reserve and reverted to the control of FMFPac.
Once again, on 24 May, the 8th Marines departed Saipan headed for Okinawa; its eventual target, the islands of Iheya and Aguni. Because of the heavy damage that had been sustained by the fleet and especially the radar pickets during Kamikaze raids, early in May Admiral Turner asked General Buckner to begin a study of outlying islands to determine where long-range radar and fighter director facilities could be installed. Resulting from this study was the decision that Tori, Aguni, Iheya, and Kume Shimas could be captured in that order. A special landing force, a reinforced company from the 165th Infantry, made an unopposed landing on Tori on 12 May and a detachment from Air Warning Squadron 1 began operations almost immediately. (See Map 22.)
Since the Okinawa campaign was now reaching a crucial stage, General Buckner believed that the forces already committed in the fight southward should not be diverted to such secondary actions as the proposed landings on the other outlying islands noted above. He requested, therefore, that the reinforced 8th Marines be returned to Okinawa to effect the Iheya-Aguni landings. Brigadier General LeRoy P. Hunt, ADC of the 2d Marine Division, was designated the landing force commander for these operations. Flying to Okinawa with key members of his staff on 15 May, General Hunt spent the 16th and part of the 17th conferring with Tenth Army staff officers about the proposed operation plan. By 30 May, when the 8th Marines arrived at Okinawa, a complete naval gunfire and air support schedule had already been established, and detailed contingency plans drawn up to meet any situation that might arise from enemy sea or air action.
The attack force, commanded by Admiral Reifsnider, steamed from the Hagushi transport area early on 2 June and set a course for the target, located 15 miles northwest of Hedo Misaki. The bombardment prior to the H-Hour of 1015 proceeded as scheduled;70 2/8 and 3/8 landed on Iheya 27 minutes later.71 Neither enemy opposition nor enemy troops were encountered. The Marines only found some 3,000 confused but docile natives who were taken under tow by military government teams supplied by the Tenth Army Island Command. Late in the afternoon of the 3d, the troops began general unloading and the island was officially declared secure the next day.
The landing on Aguni Shima, 30 miles west of Okinawa, was delayed until 9 June by inclement weather. On that day, 1/8 went ashore under circumstances similar to those found at Iheya. The only Marine casualties of the two amphibious assaults were sustained at Iheya; 2 Marines were killed and 16 wounded by aerial rockets and short rounds of naval gunfire. In accordance with the instructions it had received from Tenth Army before the operation, the 8th Marines stood ready for immediate
Map 22: Landings on Outlying Islands of Okinawa Gunto
commitment on Okinawa upon completion of the two landings. When fresh units were needed for the final thrust against the Japanese dug in on Kiyamu Peninsula. Colonel Wallace and his troops were available.
THE FINAL PUSH72By 4 June, the remnants of the Thirty-second Army had fully manned the outpost line of Kiyamu Peninsula. Concentrated in this area were approximately 30,000 Japanese troops, distributed as follows: 24th Division and attachments, 12,000; 62d Division and attached units, 7,000; 44th IMB and attached units, 3,000; 5th Artillery Command and attached units, 3,000; and troops attached directly to Thirty-second Army Headquarters, and the command itself, 5,000. "Attrition during retirement operations,"73 was the official Japanese explanation for the 20,000-man differential between their estimated strength figure of 50,000 in late May and the total number of effective available at the beginning of June.
Of General Ushijima's remaining forces, approximately 20 percent were survivors of the original, first-rate infantry and artillery defense garrison; the rest were either untrained rear-echelon personnel or Boeitai. Leading this motley force at battalion level and above were many of the original senior commanders who had remained alive and were still capable of arousing a fighting spirt in their men.
Their unflagging belief in a final Japanese victory was unrealistic in view of the alarming losses of weapons and equipment that the Thirty-second Army had sustained since the American landing on 1 April. Hand grenades and explosives either were in short supply, or in the case of some units, non-existent. Only 20 percent of the original number of heavy machine guns owned by the army remained, and few of its heavy infantry cannon and mortars were still firing. Although the army ammunition supply along with 2 150mm guns, 16 150mm howitzers, and 10 antiaircraft artillery pieces had been transported south to Kiyamu when Shuri was abandoned, the stock levels of artillery ammunition precluded more than 10 days of sustained firing.
Despite these outward signs of its imminent defeat and impoverished condition, the belief held by General Ushijima's army in ultimate victory was derived from deep-seated tradition, strongly enforced discipline, and the historically pervasive influence of Japanese military doctrine throughout the Empire. These intangibles, almost completely alien and incomprehensible to Americans, promised that Kiyamu Peninsula was not to fall and the battle for Okinawa was not to end before a final, violent climax.
Influenced by the location and relative strength of enemy strongpoints facing the Tenth Army, and the availability and status of his assault forces, General Buckner had shifted the corps boundary west on 4 June. In the now-narrower IIIAC zone, General Shepherd's division sought to capture the Oroku Peninsula
while the 1st Marine Division was to cut off the peninsula from the rest of the island, capture Itoman, seize both Kunishi and Mezado Ridges, and drive to Ara Saki, the southernmost point of the island. The assignment given XXIV Corps included the capture of the Yuza Dake-Yaeju Dake Escarpment as a primary objective. On line facing this foreboding terrain were the 96th and 7th Divisions.
Nearly two weeks of punishing and brutal fighting were to ensue before the two army divisions could eliminate all enemy resistance in this Thirty-second Army defense sector. (See Map IX, Map Section.) XXIV Corps units spent the period 4-8 June in regrouping and attempting to gain favorable jump-off positions for the attack on the escarpment on the 9th. All supporting arms were employed to soften the well-organized enemy defense system. Armored flamethrower, tank, assault gun, and artillery fires were added to the point-blank blasts of experimental 57mm and 75mm recoilless rifles74 in an effort to reduce the natural bastion.
The defense of the Yuza Dake-Yaeju Dake outpost line had been assigned to two units. Guarding the escarpment from Hill 95 on the east coast to Yaeju Dake was the 44th IMB; the remainder of the high ground, including Yuza Dake, was the responsibility of the 24th Division. Added to the tenacious determination of the foe was the natural, fortress-like quality of the terrain he guarded. This combination enabled the Japanese to defend the Yuza Dake area with only one regiment, the 89th.
Facing the 7th Division were enemy troops who compared unfavorably with the veterans defending Yuza Dake. Coming from miscellaneous shipping engineer, sea raiding, mortar, and line of communication units, the soldiers were loosely organized into provisional infantry regiments and put into the 44th IMB line. The vital Hill 95-Nakaza Valley area was held by survivors of the 15th Independent Mixed Regiment, which first began to give way under the repeated pounding of the 7th Division attack. General Arnold's soldiers relentlessly pushed forward on 11 June, the second day of the all-out corps assault on the escarpment, and threatened the rest of the Thirty-second Army line by breaking into the 44th IMB defenses. An attempt by General Ushijima to shore up this section of his rapidly crumbling outpost by committing jerry-built infantry units comprised of service and support troops proved to be "as ineffective as throwing water on parched soil."75
The 89th Regiment continued to withstand the inroads of 96th Division infantry
on 12 June, but this day marked the beginning of the end for the 44th Independent Mixed Brigade. Although it had been reinforced with two battalions from the 62d Division as a result of the brigade commander's urgent pleas, the time for decision was already past, as was the chance for these newly committed units to affect the ultimate course of the battle.
Clear weather on 13 June, following a night of abortive enemy counterattacks, permitted General Hedge to employ fully all of his supporting arms. Units of the 62d Division attempting to reach and revive the hapless 44th IMB were themselves blasted by American air, artillery, and naval gunfire. Although the 89th Regiment--reinforced by the 24th Reconnaissance Regiment--still maintained its hold on Yuza Dake, its rear and flank were threatened this day by the impending penetration south of Yaeju Dake. (See Map X, Map Section.) Further advances on 14 June forced General Ushijima to commit the 13th Independent Infantry, which was almost immediately smashed by 7th Division troops. Also committed and destroyed on the 14th were the remaining reserve battalions of the 62d Division.
Elsewhere, as Japanese positions began to give way under the pressure of the American onslaught, Thirty-second Army headquarters lost all contact with the 15th IMR--the last infantry element of the 44th IMB able to maintain unit integrity. To stave off the last stages of a crushing defeat, General Ushijima ordered the 62d Division into the deteriorating Japanese line from reserve positions southwest of Makabe, but a savage lashing from American artillery, naval guns, and air-delivered napalm and bombs thoroughly disrupted the deployment. Few, if any, of the enemy troops arrived at their destination.
The 96th Division took advantage of this confused situation to rush its infantry through the Yuza Dake perimeter. On the left, the 7th Division surged down the coast. By the end of 17 June, XXIV Corps regiments held firm control of all commanding ground on the Yuza Dake-Yaeju Dake Escarpment. Compressed between the front lines of the corps and the southern tip of Okinawa were the remnants of the Thirty-second Army--a hodge-podge of units and individuals from the 62d Division, 44th IMB, and 24th Division. Before the island had been secured by the Tenth Army, most of these Japanese troops would die violently in a forlorn attempt to protect the headquarters of General Ushijima.
DEATH OF AN ARMY76The death throes of the Thirty-second Army became even more obvious as the Tenth Army advanced against steadily lessening resistance on 18 June. Although most sections of the Japanese line proved softer than before, two isolated centers of opposition developed during the day--one around Medeera and the other in the area of Mabuni. The first was held by the remnants of the
24th Division, and the second, around Hill 89, was defended by elements of the headquarters and troops of the remaining Thirty-second Army units. (See Map 16.)
Leading the 1st Marine Division attack was the 8th Marines, which had relieved the 7th Marines the previous night. At 0730, 2/8 (Lieutenant Colonel Harry A. Waldorf) jumped off from Mezado Ridge to head south and OCCUPY a line west of Makabe from which it could launch a "quick decisive thrust" to the sea.77 Light machine gun and rifle fire, later mixed with sporadic mortar and artillery rounds, hit the left front and flank of the battalion as it made a rapid 1,400-yard advance to cap its first day in the lines. By dark, the battalion had secured its objective and began digging in for the night. Since its left flank was well forward of 1/5, Company B, 1/8, was attached to fill the gap.
Early on 18 June, General Buckner had gone forward to witness the fighting, and "probably chose the 1st Division front on this date because he wanted to see the 8th Marines in action," as he thought well of the regiment.78 As General Oliver P. Smith recalled:
On his way to the front [to the 3/8 OP], General Buckner met Bob Roberts (Colonel Harold C. Roberts, commanding Officer of the 22d Marines). Roberts urged General Buckner not to go to the front at this particular point as the rapid advance had bypassed a good many Japanese, and, further, there was considerable flanking fire coming from the high ground in front of the 96th Division. General Buckner did not heed this advice. (Roberts was killed an hour or so later on another part of the front.) The General got up on a ridge where Lieutenant Colonel Paul E. Wallace [commanding 3/8] had an OP. Tanks and infantry were operating ahead. A rifle company was on the ridge preparing to move forward. General Buckner took position behind two coral boulders separated by a slit through which he could look. His position was slightly forward of the crest. He had not been in this position long when a Japanese 47mm shell hit the base of the boulders. The first shell was followed by five more in rapid succession. Either a fragment of the first shell or a piece of coral rock thrown out by the detonation hit General Buckner in the chest. This wound was mortal. Hubbard [General Buckner's aide], with the assistance of others in the vicinity, dragged General Buckner over the crest to a defiladed position. A Navy hospital corpsman was there and a doctor arrived within three minutes. Plasma was available, but the General had lost blood so rapidly that plasma could not save his life.79
Upon being informed of General Buckner's death, Brigadier General Elwyn D. Post, Tenth Army Chief of Staff, sent a message to CinCPOA reporting the death. In addition, General Post, knowing General Buckner's expressed desires concerning the succession of command, recommended in the message that General Geiger be designated the new Tenth
Army commander.80 On 19 June, General Geiger was appointed a lieutenant general and was officially designated Commanding General, Tenth Army ( CTF 56), the same day, making him the senior officer present on Okinawa. This was the first time that a Marine officer had commanded a unit of this size. General Joseph W. Stilwell, U. S. Army, former deputy commander of the Southeast Asia Command, arrived on the island at 0700, 23 June, succeeding General Geiger the same day,81 after the Marine general had successfully directed the final combat operations on Okinawa.
Early in the morning on which General Buckner died, the 5th Marines was to take Hill 79, northwest of Makabe. At dawn, 1/5 moved out around the western nose of Kunishi Ridge and then south through the 8th Marines zone in order to get into positions to jump off at 0730.82 As soon as the attack began, the assault units were pinned down by fire coming from the objective and unable to move until 1100, when tanks arrived and rumbled into support positions. A coordinated tank-infantry assault was launched soon after, and the Marines were on the hill by noon. Following in the wake of the attack was 3/5, up from reserve, which moved into support positions behind the 1st Battalion for night defense.
Enemy AT fire forced the Marine tanks to operate cautiously, but did not slow them down. Artillery-delivered smoke on a suspected antitank gun position on Hill 81 just north of Makabe blinded the enemy gunners and permitted the Shermans to operate without being fired upon. Other AT guns were destroyed during the day after having been spotted from the air by an experienced tank officer, who was flown over the battlefield for that purpose.83 By dark, 1/5 had gained the lower slopes of Hill 79 with armored assistance, but could not advance beyond that point because of heavy enemy fire from high ground in the 96th Division zone and Hills 79 and 81. At the end of the day, tank-infantry teams from 2/5 eliminated the last large pockets of enemy
MARINE TANKS shelling positions in the south, where the enemy is holed up in a last-ditch stand.
COOPERATIVE PRISONERS call upon other Japanese to surrender. Note man at water's edge preparing to swim out to the LCI.
resistance on Kunishi Ridge, and dug in on commanding ground for the night.
In the 6th Marine Division zone, 2/22 passed through the lines of 3/22 on 18 June to attack Kuwanga Ridge. Moving rapid] y ahead despite steady automatic weapons fire, the battalion gained a foothold on the high ground and began simultaneous drives to the east and west to clear the ridge of enemy. Although fired upon by rifles, machine guns, and mortars, the battalion possessed the greater part of the ridge before midafternoon. At this time, General Shepherd saw that the understrength 2/22 was spread too thinly over the 1,800-yard-wide ridge to withstand a concerted enemy counterattack, so he ordered the 4th Marines to attach one battalion to the 22d for night defense; Colonel Shapley ordered 3/4 forward.
The other two battalions of the 22d Marines spent the day hunting down and destroying numerous enemy groups infesting the reverse slopes of Mezado Ridge. Forward observation posts became especially plagued by all sorts of fire coming from these bypassed Japanese soldiers. Colonel Roberts, the regimental commander of the 22d Marines, was killed at his OP by sniper fire at 1430. The regimental executive officer, Lieutenant Colonel August Larson, assumed command.
Assault forces of XXIV Corps also made important gains on the 18th. The 96th Division push on Medeera positions from the east was coordinated with the 1st Division attack on the same objective from the west. The 7th Division continued its drive with a two-pronged attack. One assault element dashed down the reverse slope of Hill 153 to sweep past Medeera and ended its attack at the corps boundary near Komesu. Three battalions abreast spearheaded the second prong of the attack, advancing slowly down the coast towards Mabuni. During the night of 18-19 June, at least 340 Japanese soldiers were killed in attempted infiltrations and scattered attacks all along the Tenth Army front.84
With the realization that "his Army's fate had been sealed,"85 General Ushijima began spiritual and physical preparations for a Samurai's death. On 16 June, he sent the first of his farewell messages, this a report to IGHQ in Tokyo, which read:
With a burning desire to destroy the arrogant enemy, the men in my command have fought the invaders for almost three months, We have failed to crush the enemy, despite our death-defying resistance, and now we are doomed.
Since taking over this island our forces have, with the devoted support of the local population, exerted every effort to build up defenses. Since the enemy landing, our air and land forces, working in concert, have done everything possible to defend the island.
To my great regret we are no longer able to continue the fight. For this failure I tender deepest apologies to the emperor and the people of the homeland. . . . I pray for the souls of men killed in battle and for the prosperity of the Imperial Family.
Death will not quell the desire of my spirit to defend the homeland.
With deepest appreciation of the kindness and cooperation of my superiors and my colleagues in arms, I bid farewell to all of you forever.
Three days later, he sent a last message to all Thirty-second Army units with which he still had contact, congratulating the survivors on having performed their "assigned mission in a manner which leaves nothing to regret" and calling upon them "to fight to the last and die for the eternal cause of loyalty to the Emperor."87 General Ushijima then directed most of his staff officers to leave the Mabuni command post, to disguise themselves as island natives, and to infiltrate the American lines in order to escape to northern Okinawa. Some of his key advisors, like Colonel Yahara, were assigned the mission of reaching Japan in order to report to Imperial General Headquarters; others were ordered to organize guerrilla operations in the rear of Tenth Army tactical units and the Island Command.88
Despite their having been thoroughly indoctrinated with the tenets of Japanese military tradition, there were some enemy soldiers who did not particularly wish to die for Emperor and Homeland. Psychological warfare teams had interpreters and cooperative prisoners89 broadcast surrender inducements in Japanese over loudspeakers mounted on tanks operating at the 7th Division front and on LCIs cruising up and down the southern coast. These broadcasts successfully convinced 3,000 civilians to surrender.
A more significant result of these messages occurred on 19 June, for instance, when 106 Japanese soldiers and 283 Boeitai voluntarily laid down their arms and gave up in the face of the 7th Division advance.90 At this stage of the campaign, the broadcasts influenced increasing numbers of the enemy to surrender as the conviction that all was lost and their cause was hopeless sank into their war-weary minds.
Their forward progress now slowed by fleeing civilians as well as the entrenched enemy, 7th Division troops, nonetheless, advanced to within 200 yards of the outskirts of Mabuni by nightfall of 19 June. Tanks accompanying the assault infantry placed direct fire on caves fronting Hill 89, not knowing that at that very time, General Ushijima was giving a farewell dinner for his departing staff officers.
Farther inland, on the right of the division zone, 184th and 381st Infantry units drove towards Medeera from the south and east against considerably lessened fire and resistance. Nevertheless, small fanatic groups, defending the complex terrain protecting the 24th Division headquarters, had to be overcome before the major objective could be seized. To the northwest of Medeera, 96th Division soldiers pushing towards Aragachi from the north found the same enemy reluctance to withdraw, encountered elsewhere along the Tenth Army front, before they could reach the high ground overlooking the village. While observing the 384th Infantry fighting
to gain these heights, the ADC of the 96th Division, Brigadier General Claudius M. Easely, was killed by enemy machine gun fire.91
The advance of IIIAC assault forces on 19 June was highlighted when the 8th Marines completely penetrated Japanese defensive positions to reach the sea. Less successful, however, were the efforts of the 5th Marines in a day-long attack on Hills 79 and 81. With a company of tanks in support, 1/5 jumped off at 0730 to take Hill 79 first and then 81. Despite the direct fire placed on the initial objective by the Shermans and M-7s, the battalion was unable to take Hill 79 and was forced to return to positions held the previous night.
As he observed the course of the fighting and judged that neither Hill 79 nor 81 were going to be taken, Colonel Griebel ordered 2/5 to take the latter from the south in order to lift some of the enemy pressure on 1/5. Lieutenant Colonel Benedict's 2d Battalion, which had been relieved on Kunishi Ridge at 1315 that day by 3/7, moved out in a march column at 1515, made a wide swing to the southwest through the 8th Marines zone, and halted at a point some 300 yards southwest of Hill 79 at 1700. Moving out some 15 minutes later, the battalion headed towards Makabe preparatory to attacking Hill 81. As the battalion cleared the southern slope of Hill 79 and began to maneuver across the 1,000 yards of exposed flat terrain lying between that hill and Makabe, the entire column was taken under sniper fire from the hill. Company G, in the lead, was forced to double time over the entire route in order to reach some cover in Makabe. During this race for life, the company sustained some casualties from the fire as well as 20 exhaustion cases.
To maintain the momentum of the attack, the battalion commander passed Company F through G at 1950 and he himself accompanied the assault platoon, which was pinned down as soon as it attempted to move up the slope of Hill 81, The condition of his men, the lateness of the hour, and the intensity of the enemy fire compelled him to call off the attack and organize his battalion into a defense perimeter near Makabe.
More satisfactory progress in the 1st Division advance was made by the 8th Marines. (See Map 23.) After moving through 2/8 at 0800, 3/8 continued south to attack Ibaru Ridge following an hour-long artillery preparation and a 15-minute smoking of the target. At 1024, the battalion was on the ridge. Quickly it reorganized and resumed its drive by passing Company K, 3/8 reserve, through the initial assault elements more "for the experience rather than for any tactical necessity."92 By 1634, the entire battalion line was in place on the seacoast in its zone. The 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, which had taken Makabe that morning, kept pace with the rapid 2,500-yard advance of 3/8 and reached the coast in its zone at approximately the same time. With 3/5 attached, Colonel Wallace's regiment took charge of the night defense of the coastal zone, and tied in with the 5th Marines and the 4th Marines along a
Map 23: End of Organized Resistance in IIIAC Zone
curving line reaching from Komesu to the boundary between the Marine divisions.
The 4th Marines made the major effort of the 6th Division on 19 June, with the 22d Marines mopping up behind. Colonel Shapley's battalions kept pace with the 8th Marines most of the day, but strongly defended enemy positions in the Kiyamu-Gusuku hill mass prevented the 4th from reaching the coast on the 19th. Mortar fire from defiladed emplacements behind the hill, and machine gun fire as well, increased in volume as the 1st and 3d Battalions moved into the low ground leading from Ibaru Ridge to the Kiyamu-Gusuku plateau. With the approach of night, the two battalions dug in at the foot of the steep rise leading to the hilltop. At 1845, 2/4, which had covered the open right flank of the regiment and had taken part in the attack on the ridge, was relieved by 1/29.93
Before moving into the 6th Division line on 20 June, the 29th Marines began marching south from Oroku Peninsula at 0800 on the 19th. Its former sector was then occupied by the 6th Reconnaissance Company. At 1415, Colonel Whaling received orders to attack immediately in coordination with the 4th Marines. The regiment jumped off from Kuwanga Ridge at 1705 with 1/29 on the left, 2/29 on the right. Moving rapidly against light enemy resistance, the troops reached the Kiyamu-Gusuku Hill mass before dark and immediately tied in with the 4th Marines for the night.
Unperturbed by night-long disorganized enemy infiltration attempts all along its f rent, the 6th Division jumped off with four infantry battalions abreast--3/4, 1/4, 1/29, and 2/29 from left to right--to take the hill complex on 20 June. Again making the division main effort was the 4th Marines, in whose zone lay Hills 72 and 80, the key terrain features on the objective. Directly in front of 1/4 line of departure was Hill 72, but the battalion could not place enough men on the crest of that height at one time to maintain a solid foothold. Japanese defenders hidden among the brush and boulders lining the narrow approach to the top frustrated all efforts to gain the hill. Tanks attempted to cut a road to the crest from the flank of the position, but this scheme was foiled when an armored dozer was completely destroyed by a satchel charge thrown from a distance of 15 feet. After a day of bitter fighting at hand-grenade range, the battalion dug in for the night at the same place it had been the night before, less than 20 yards away from the enemy on the ridge above
Steep rock cliffs, ranging from 50 to 200 feet in height and covered with heavy undergrowth, faced 3/4. Since a frontal attack was clearly infeasible, the battalion commander sent a company to the left through the 8th Marines zone to take the ridge by attacking up its nose on the east; this sector appeared to be the one most susceptible to attack. Clearing out several bunkers and numerous caves to make way for Company L following in its wake, Company I mopped up the eastern slope while Company L tied in with the 8th Marines in order to extend the battalion's hold on the ridge. By late afternoon, 3/4 held strong positions on the left flank of Hill 72 and was ready to close in on that strong point.
Although it was in regimental reserve when the attack had begun, 2/4 was alerted to support either of the other two assault battalions. At 1040, it was committed on the right of 1/4 with orders to take Hill 80. Attacking with two companies abreast, the battalion reached its objective at approximately 1230, when Company G fought its way to the top against only moderate resistance. Company E, the other assault element, was held up at the base of the hill by an enemy pocket, which the battalion commander decided to bypass, leaving a Company E platoon behind to guard it. At 1520, the two-platoon company passed through the right element of Company G to seize the remainder of Hill 80 from the west. By 1645, all units of the battalion were on the hill and digging in. Possession of Hill 80 gave the battalion terrain commanding the right flank of the stubbornly held Hill 72.
On the extreme right of the division, the 29th Marines advanced to the coast on 20 June against little opposition except for heavy fire received on the left flank of 1/29 from enfiladed positions on the reverse slope of Hill 72. Later in the afternoon, when General Shepherd decided to envelope the Kiyamu-Gusuku sector from the left (east), he shifted the boundary of the 29th Marines to the east to include all of Ara Saki. The regimental line was then tied in with the 4th Marines for the night. The 29th Marines positions barred escape to the sea from the tip of the island.
On 20 June, psychological warfare detachments on board a LCI equipped with a loudspeaker broadcast surrender inducements to the many civilian and military personnel hiding in inaccessible cave refuges lining the coastal cliffs. A feeling that further resistance was futile as well as a sense of impending doom impelled over 4,000 island natives and some 800 soldiers to heed the message and to surrender. These POWs were then herded through the front lines before dark to stockades in the rear.94
By 20 June, 1st Marine Division action centered about Hills 79 and 81. While 1/5 and 2/5 concentrated their efforts
in this area, extensive mopping up operations were conducted by the 7th Marines at Kunishi Ridge, the 8th Marines along the coast north of Ara Saki, and 3/5 around Komesu. These exercises added approximately 50 military and 2,000 civilian POWs to those already captured by IIIAC forces.95
After 3/5 gave fire support to the 7th Division from positions on Komesu Ridge, its patrols linked up with 1/184 at 1520. Physical contact was not maintained for the night, but both battalions occupied high ground near Komesu and Udo and were able to cover the gap between battalions by fire.
A brief by soaking downpour before dawn turned the roads around Makabe into knee-deep quagmires, and the tanks and M-7s supporting 2/5 were prevented from moving into position until shortly before noon. A more favorable situation existed in the 1/5 zone, where tanks lumbered forward at 0730 to join the infantry in the attack on Hill 79. The battalion commander swung the axis of attack from the northwest to the southeast and assaulted the objective with three companies abreast. By 1300, Company C on the right flank was 75 yards from the hillcrest, while the other two companies, A in the center and B on the left, were destroying snipers and machine gun nests on the hillside with the aid of flame and gun tanks. At 1635, Company A announced that some of its troops were on the hill, but less than two hours later it reported that heavy small arms fire had prevented it from consolidating its slight hold with the few men available; it was forced, therefore, to withdraw. In possession of most of Hill 79, 1/5 dug in for the night, fully expecting to secure the entire objective the next day.
At 1230, when the 2/5 tank-infantry assault on Hill 81 began, the tracked vehicles reported that road blocks in Makabe denied them passage to the hill. An armored dozer cleared the way by 1400, and tanks moved along the road on the corps boundary to positions where they could fire into the right of Hill 81. The infantry battalion moved to and jumped off from the northern edge of Makabe at 1520 with Companies E on the right, F on the left, and G in reserve. Twenty-five minutes later, Company F was pinned down in the low ground south of the hill; a smoke screen was required to cover the evacuation of casualties. Company E, attacking from the southeast, pushed forward for about 100 yards along the eastern slope of the hill before it too was pinned down. First Company F, and then G was ordered to pass through E and continue the attack. Enemy machine gun and mortar fire pinned down these two companies also. When tanks supporting the attack ran out of ammunition at 1910 and withdrew, the assault companies attempted without success to garner more ground on their own.. His troops stymied, the battalion commander pulled them back to more favorable positions for night defense.
To the left, in the XXIV Corps zone, only two strong enemy pockets remained at the end of 20 June. One was centered about the caves containing the Thirty-second Army headquarters in Hill 89, and the other was in Medeera and west of the village on Hills 79 and 85, which
together with Hill 81 in the 1st Marine Division zone formed the Makabe Ridge defenses. The last courier contact between the two strongpoints was made on the night of 20 June, after the commander of the 24th Division, Lieutenant General Amamiya, urged his soldiers "to fight to the last man in their present positions."96
This exhortation fell on deaf ears for the general had few live men remaining to defend the Medeera sector at the time of proclamation. The 1st Marine Division had just about annihilated the 22d and 32d Regiments during its march to the coast, and the 96th Division had destroyed the 89th Regiment and its reinforcements when taking Yuza Dake and Aragachi. The only troops left to General Amamiya were a motley conglomeration of artillerists, drivers, medical attendants, engineers, Boeitai, and personnel from almost every headquarters unit of the forces that had made up the island garrison on L-Day. Despite the growing numbers of the enemy which surrendered and others who committed suicide, the Tenth Army still had to contend with some Japanese who fought to the last with fanatic determination. An attack to destroy these soldiers holding the Makabe Ridge defenses was scheduled for noon of 21 June.
At 1027 that day, General Shepherd notified the Tenth Army commander, General Geiger,97 that organized resistance had ended in the 6th Marine Division zone of action. Beginning this last official day of the Okinawa campaign, the 4th Marines enveloped troublesome Hill 72. While 2/4 and 3/4 worked around to the south of the ridge, 1/4 held its position to support the attack by fire. Linking up at 0930, the two assault battalions and supporting armor worked north to the objective, and then drove over its top and down the reverse slope. By 1020, the Marines and both flame and gun tanks were mopping up the last vestiges of enemy resistance on the hill. At the tip of the island, the 29th Marines met only light opposition during its sweep of Ara Saki; Company G, 2/22, attached to 1/29, raised the division colors on the southernmost point of the island later in the day.98
Both the 7th and 8th Marines were assigned the task of flushing out enemy holdouts in the IIIAC zone and of accepting the surrender of an ever-increasing number of soldiers and civilians. Hill 79 was finally taken by 1/5 at 1735; more difficult, however, was the capture of Hill 81.
Although scheduled to jump off at 0900, the attack of 2/5 was delayed until 1104 in order that tank routes could be prepared and so that the battalion could take immediate advantage of a blistering rocket barrage on the hill
objective.99 The attack plan called for Company E to lead the assault on the hill, and to be followed successively by Companies F and G, which were to be fed in from the left until Hill 81 was taken. Company E encountered only light and scattered small arms fire as it jumped off, and finally fought to and occupied its assigned objective after having destroyed two machine gun positions that had halted it on the way up. Almost immediately, Company F began fighting its way up the slope to the hilltop, burning out and sealing caves along the route. Shortly thereafter, Company G made its tortuous trek up the incline to join the other two at the top, all companies received heavy fire from caves, which honeycombed the enemy position.
The effort to secure the objective was spurred on by information received at the battalion CP of that Hill 81 was the last organized enemy position on Okinawa; this story later proved untrue. After having made several unsuccessful requests for reinforcements, and been ordered in turn to continue the attack with the forces at hand, at 1430 Lieutenant Colonel Benedict was relieved and ordered to report to the regimental commander. He then turned over command of the battalion to his executive officer, Major Richard T. Washburn. At 1500, the commander of 3/5 reported in at the 2/5 OP and assumed joint command of the two battalions; his Company L began moving to Makabe soon after to support the attack on Hill 81.
All companies advanced slowly during the afternoon, and as 2/5 reached the crest of the hill, enemy fire slackened noticeably. At 1700, all companies reported their portion of the objective secured; all organized enemy resistance in the IIIAC zone had ended.100
In the XXIV Corps zone, a heavy 4.2-inch mortar concentration on Hill 79 preceded the attack of 305th Infantry elements at 1200. The crew-served weapons organic to the infantry battalions supported the tank-led attack. At 1630, following an afternoon of withering rifle and machine gun fire coming from caves and pillboxes on Makabe Ridge, the infantry launched a final, successful surge to the top of the hill. Before XXIV Corps units could report the end of organized resistance in the army zone, they had to come to grips with a bitter, last-ditch Japanese defense; objectives were captured only after enemy defenders had been killed to the last man. The soldiers first secured Mabuni and then Hill 89. General Buckner's doctrine of "corkscrew and blowtorch" was employed effectively by flame tanks and demolition teams burning and blasting the "palace guard" defending the cave entrances leading to General Ushijima's headquarters. By the end of the day, Hill 89 had been secured, and its inhabitants were frantically attempting to escape a death by entombment.101
After 82 days of bloody and bitter fighting, the rapid advance of the Tenth Army in the final stages of the campaign brought about irrevocable collapse of all major Japanese opposition. General Geiger could thus announce at 1305 on 21 June that the island of Okinawa had been secured by American forces. The official end of the Okinawa campaign was marked by a formal flag-raising ceremony at Tenth Army headquarters at 1000, 22 June, attended by representatives of all units in that command. As described by General Smith: "A large metal flagpole had already been erected at Army Headquarters. . . . The only band available102 was that of the 2d Marine Aircraft Wing. Prior to playing the National Anthem,"103 the band played "Anchors Aweigh," "The Marines Hymn," and an appropriate Army tune. Brigadier General Lawrence E. Schick, USA, Tenth Army Deputy Chief of Staff, read the official dispatch declaring the end of organized resistance, and General Geiger then gave the signal for the flag to be raised.
Following the official announcement on 21 June of the ending of organized resistance on Okinawa, Tenth Army headquarters began receiving congratulatory messages from statesmen and military commanders throughout the world. Though heartfelt and sincere, none of these commendations to the men who had fought the Battle of Okinawa could match the simple accolade bestowed on Marines of the IIIAC by the commander who had led them, for as General Geiger wrote:
This has been a hard campaign. The officers and men have simply been marvelous. They have carried on day and night, mud and battle, without a murmur and could have continued had it been necessary. They have carried out every mission assigned by the Tenth Army and have broken through every position of the Japanese defenses which stood in their way in a minimum of time. The Marine Corps can ever be proud of the two divisions which fought on this island. The cost has been high, but the time element was essential and I am sure you will be happy to know that the Marines required no urging to attack, attack, and again attack, until the Japanese were completely annihilated. You will never know how I regret leaving the III Corps.104
MEN of the Tenth Army pay homage to their fallen leader, Lieutenant General Simon B. Buckner, Jr.
SURRENDER of all Japanese forces in the Ryukyus takes place at Tenth Army headquarters on 7 September 1945.
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (II-9) * Next Chapter (II-11)
1. Unless otherwise noted, the material contained in this section is derived from: Tenth Army AR; IIIAC AR; 1st MarDiv SAR; 1st MarDiv G-3 Jnl; 1st Mar SAR; 5th Mar SAR; 7th Mar SAR; 22d Mar SAR, Ph III; 7th Mar Hist; MajGen Pedro A. del Valle, "Southward From Shuri," Marine Corps Gazette, v. 29, no. 10 (Oct45), hereafter del Valle, "Southward From Shuri."
2. 1st MarDiv G-3 Jnl, 4Jun45.
3. 2/7 SAR, p. 7.
4. This Tera is not to be confused with a second village of the same name located near Itoman on the east coast.
5. The commanding general of the 96th Division believed that these Marines "were not equipped or organized for a protracted campaign. I was glad to assist in supply, air drops, and the care of their wounded. They were fine comrades and cooperated to the fullest extent." MajGen James L. Bradley ltr to CMC, dtd 22Oct54.
6. 3/1 SAR, p. 41.
8. 2/5 SAR, p. 16; 5th Mar SAR, p. 9. At this time, the 5th Marines CP was moved to the vicinity of Giushi.
9. LtCol Austin C. Shofner interview by HistDiv, HQMC, dtd 19Mar47 hereafter Shofner interview.
10. "There was no bridge in the 3/7 ZofA [Zone of Action]. Several men were drowned attempting to carry lines across the stream in an attempt to get troops across." LtCol Walter Holomon ltr to CMC, dtd 22Mar55, hereafter Holomon ltr.
11. Shofner interview.
12. 1/1 SAR, p. 21.
13. Col Arthur T. Mason ltr to CMC, dtd 10Mar47.
14. 1/1 SAR, p. 21.
15. VMTB-232 WarD, Jun45. The squadron parachuted more than 20 tons of supplies to 1st Marine Division troops on 5 June. 1st MarDiv SAR, chap VII, OpAnx, p. 10.
16. 1/1 SAR, p. 21.
17. 3/1 SAR, p. 43.
18. del Valle, "Southward From Shuri," p. 39.
19. Snedeker ltr 1947.
20. During the course of the entire campaign, carrier-based planes often joined the Avengers of the two TAF VMTBs in making supply drops. Air Delivery Section, H&S Bn, Corps Troops, IIIAC, ICEBERG Op AR, dtd 24Jun45, encl A, hereafter AirDelSec AR.
21. 7th Mar Hist, pp. 22-23.
22. Holomon ltr.
23. 1st MarDiv, G-3 Jnl, 8Jun45.
24. 1st Mar SAR, p. 21.
25. 2/1 SAR, p. 13.
26. Since a means of delivering water rations by air drop had not been perfected, the troops were given permission to drink stream water only after each Marine had made the contents of his filled canteen potable by treatment with halazone. Halazone is a white crystalline chemical compound used to disinfect water suspected of being or known to be impure. The compound was compressed into tablets and became a major medical supply item in the war.
27. VMTB-232 WarD, Jun45.
28. "A History of MAG-22 in the Okinawa Campaign," Anx A in MAG-22 WarD, Aug45. VMTB-131 arrived on Okinawa on 29 May when it began antisubmarine warfare patrolling, its primary mission. During the later stages of the campaign the squadron made some supply air drops.
29. Actually, the town of Itoman was south of the Mukue Gawa, although the 1:25,000 battle map used during the campaign indicated that the large inhabited area north of the river was Itoman. Snedeker ltr 1947, encl D; 2/7 SAR, p. 8. The latter spot was an undefended suburb of Itoman and did not hold up the advance of 2/7. Capt Verle E. Ludwig interview by HistBr, G-3 Div, HQMC, dtd 27Jan55, hereafter Ludwig interview.
30. 2/7 SAR, p. 8.
31. 1st MarDiv SAR, chap VII, pt III, p. 13.
32. 1/1 SAR, p. 21.
33. 1st MarDiv SAR, chap VII, Logistics Anx, p. 9.
35. Appleman, et. al., Okinawa Battle, p. 451.
36. Unless otherwise noted, the material contained in this section is derived from: 1st MarDiv SAR; 1st MarDiv G-3 Jnl; 1st Mar SAR; 5th Mar SAR; 7th Mar SAR; 7th Mar Hist; 22d Mar SAR, Ph III.
37. Maj John S. Hudson ltr to CMC, dtd 27Mar47.
38. General del Valle had visited Snedeker's CP that day "in order to see how we could break the deadlock, stop our heavy losses and get on with the war. When he suggested a battalion night attack for a limited objective, I agreed." LtGen Pedro A. del Valle ltr to Asst G-3, HQMC, dtd 1Oct65, hereafter del Valle ltr 1965.
39. 1st MarDiv G-3 Jnl, 11Jun45.
40. Tenth Army AR, chap 11, pt II, p. 21.
41. 1/7 SAR, p. 20. General Ushijima did not immediately receive the message affording him an opportunity to surrender to General Buckner. It arrived at Thirty-second Army headquarters on 17 June, a week after it first had been dropped behind Japanese lines. Colonel Yahara stated that this was the normal amount of time required for a message to be passed from the front to the rear at this stage of the campaign. Yahara Interrogation. Upon delivery of the Buckner communique, "Cho and Ushijima both laughed and declared that, as Samurai it would not be consonant with their honor to entertain such a proposal." Shimada Interrogation.
42. 1st TkBn Summary, 12Jun45.
43. 7th Mar Hist, p. 30.
44. Snedeker ltr 1955.
45. del Valle, "Southward from Shuri," p. 40.
46. 7th Mar Hist, loc. cit.
47. Snedeker ltr 1947.
48. 7th Mar Hist, loc. cit.
49. 1st TkBn Summary, 13Jun45.
50. Marginal comment by the battalion commander in 2/7 SAR, p. 9.
51. 2/1 SAR, p, 15.
52. 1st Mar SAR, p. 22.
53. 1st TkBn Summary, 14Jun45.
54. 2/1 SAR, p. 15.
55. Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Hill assumed command of the battalion on 8 June, when 3/5 had been in reserve.
56. 7th Mar Hist, p. 31
57. 1st TkBn Summary, 14Jun45.
58. 7th Mar Hist, p. 32.
59. Ibid., p. 31.
60. 2/7 SAR, p. 10.
61. 2/5 SAR, p. 21, On 11 June, the division received 369 officers and enlisted from the 55th Replacement Draft, which arrived that day. With the arrival of the 62d Replacement Draft five days later, the division absorbed 295 more Marines. 1st MarDiv SAR, PersAnx, p. 7.
62. 2/5 SAR, loc. cit.
63. 7th Mar Hist, p. 32.
64. This is not to be confused with the Hill 69 west of Ozato, or the Hill 69 east of Mezado.
65. 6th TkBn SAR, Ph III, p. 20.
66. Okinawa Operations Record, p. 134.
67. Unless otherwise noted, the material in this section is derived from: Tenth Army AR; 2d MarDiv WarDs, Apr-Jun45; Combat Team 8 AR, Iheya-Aguni Operations, n.d., hereafter 8th May AR, Iheya-Aguni; Combat Team 8 AR, Okinawa Operation (11-22Jun45), n.d., hereafter 8th Mar AR.
68. USAFMidPac G-5 Hist, p. 245.
69. Ibid., p. 258
70. ComPhibGru 4 AR, Iheya-Aguni, Ser 0327, dtd 3Aug45, pt VI, p. 8.
71. Ibid., Pt I, p. 1.
72. Unless otherwise noted, the material contained in this section is derived from: CTF 31 AR; Tenth Army AR; XXIV Corps AR; 7th Inf Div AR; 77th InfDiv OpRpt, Okinawa; 96th InfDiv AR; Okinawa Operations Record.
73. Okinawa Operations Record, p. 122.
74. These newly developed weapons had been sent to Okinawa in late May by the War Department for test firing under combat conditions. After the limited supply of ammunition accompanying the weapons had been expended, air shipments of the special ammunition were rushed to the island in time for employment by XXIV Corps units at the escarpment. Field commanders who had the opportunity to use these weapons were unanimous in their praise and recommended that the recoilless rifle be adopted as a standard infantry weapon. According to the former commander of the 7th Marines, these weapons ". . . could have been used to great advantage by the 7th in its seizure and processing of Kunishi ridge. They were asked for but the reply came back [that] all their ammunition had been used up." Snedeker ltr 1965.
75. Okinawa Operations Record, p. 129
76. Unless otherwise noted, the material in this section is derived from: CTF 31 AR; Tenth Army AR; IIIAC AR; XXIV Corps AR; 1st MarDiv SAR; 6th MarDiv SAR, Ph III; 7th Inf Div AR; 7th lnfDiv OpRpt, Okinawa; 96th InfDiv AR; 4th Mar SAR, Ph III; 5th Mar SAR; 8th Mar AR; 29th Mar SAR, Ph III; Okinawa Operations Record.
77. LtGen Pedro A. del Valle Itr to CMC, dtd 9Mar55, hereafter del Valle ltr 1955. "When General Geiger gave me the 8th Marines, a fresh regiment at full strength, I conferred with Colonel Wallace and we agreed upon his leapfrog attack, 3 battalions in column, with limited objectives, while I would cover his flanks with my exhausted troops. This was the 'coup de morte' [death blow] which broke the remnant of the 32d Japanese Army." del Valle ltr 1965.
78. Smith, Personal Narrative, p. 135.
80. Ibid., pp. 135-136. During the planning phase of ICEBERG, General Buckner stated that a second-in-command of the army should be designated prior to the operation, and that he felt General Geiger capable of handling a field army. A letter recommending this appointment was sent to CinCPOA--the strategic commander of the area in which the operation was to be held--via Lieutenant General Robert C. Richardson, Jr., the Commanding General, U.S. Army Forces, Pacific Ocean Areas. The latter returned the letter with a note stating that this assignment was one for the War Department to decide. No further action was taken until the time of General Buckner's death. Ibid., pp. 34-35. The right of Admiral Nimitz to make this assignment evolved from the fact that the Tenth Army, Task Force 56 for the Okinawa campaign, was a task unit within the Fifth Fleet, and not under the control of General Richardson's command.
81. LtGen Merwin H. Silverthorn comments to HistBr, HQMC, dtd 25Oct65.
82. The right (east) flank of the 5th Marines had been exposed by the rapid advance of the 8th Marines. Therefore, "the battle-weary and decimated infantry of the 1st MarDiv had to be employed in attacking the various hill positions along the [eastern] flank simply to cover it. . . . We knew that the XXIV Corps could not keep up with the penetration executed by fresh troops, so we planned our maneuver to provide for this expected contingency." del Valle ltr 1955.
84. Tenth Army G-2 Rpt No. 86, dtd 20Jun45.
85. Okinawa Operations Record, p. 133.
86. Inoguchi, Nakajima, and Pineau, Divine Wind, pp. 148-149.
87. Okinawa Operations Record, p. 134.
88. Yahara Interrogation; Shimada Interrogation.
89. Commenting on this after the campaign, the 6th Division noted that "By far, the most potent propaganda messages are those composed by local civilians and prisoners of war, and the most satisfactory broadcasts are those in which such persons are utilized." 6th Mar-Div SAR, Ph III, chap VI, p. 13.
90. Tenth Army G-2 Rpt No. 86, dtd 20Jun45.
91. Davidson, et. al., 96th InfDiv Hist, pp. 182-183.
92. 3/8 AR, p. 6, encl to 8th Mar AR.
93. At 1600, a POW revealed that there was an enemy force of about 20 entrenched on the small island approximately 300 yards off Nagusuku, and that these men were armed with mortars and light machine guns, which had fired on the 4th Marines flank that day. Following a short but intense Marine artillery concentration on the islet, five soldiers waded to the mainland and surrendered. One was sent back to induce the others to do the same, but without success. "The answer that came back was a definite no, and also included a remark that was not exactly complimentary." 4th Mar SAR, Ph III, p. 15. A task force, hastily organized from the regimental weapons company, LVT(A)s, and the 1st War Dog Platoon, stormed the island. Five prisoners were taken, 20 enemy killed, and several machine guns and mortars destroyed without a single Marine casualty.
94. IIIAC G-2 PeriodicRpt No. 81, dtd 21Jun-45. A large number of the enemy surrendered in the zone of 3/4, which detailed some of its Marines to strip and search the military prisoners. Before they were escorted to the rear, the POWs were employed to distribute the last supply air-drop made during the campaign. 3/4 SAR, Ph III, p. 10; VMTB-232 WarD, Jun45; AirDelSec AR. Some of the supplies in the drop were for 6th Division tanks, also. Pilots flying the mission reported that the tanks were so close to enemy troops that the Marine armor was "obliged to use their flame throwers to keep the Japanese away from the provisions." MAG-33 WarD, Jun45.
95. IIIAC G-2 PeriodicRpt, supra.
96. Okinawa Operations Record, "Record of the 24th Division," p. 194.
97. General Geiger retained command of IIIAC during the period he temporarily commanded the Tenth Army. LtGen Merwin H. Silverthorn comments to HistBr, HQMC, dtd 25Oct65.
98. This company thus duplicated what it had done earlier in the campaign when it had been the first unit to raise the same flag over the northernmost point on Okinawa, at Hedo Misaki. Cass, 6th MarDiv Hist, pp. 174-175. It appears as though the 22d Marines had a predilection for securing the extremities of island objectives, for it had done the same thing during the retaking of Guam. Lodge, The Recapture of Guam, p. 154.
99. LtCol William E. Benedict ltr to CMC, dtd 27Mar47.
100. 2/5 SAR, p. 25.
101. It was surprising that there were any Japanese alive in the vicinity of Hill 89 at this point. Discovered earlier in the month, the Thirty-second Army CP had been a prime target for TAF aircraft ever since. On 13 June, for instance, a total of 64 planes--23 from VMF-323, 24 from VMF-441, and 17 from VMF-314--burned and blasted the hill and its environs with 124 napalm bombs and 335 5-inch rockets in less than an hour. ADC IntelSums, Jun45.
102. Each Tenth Army division had its own band, which participated in the campaign according to the combat functions assigned it by the parent division. None of the bands functioned as musical units until after Okinawa had been secured. During the fighting, the bandsmen performed as stretcher bearers.
103. Smith, Personal Narrative, p. 138.
104. LtGen Roy S. Geiger ltr to CMC, dtd 26Jun45 (Vandegrift Personal Correspondence File, HistBr, HQMC). Shortly thereafter, General Geiger became the Commanding General, FMFPac.