The Defense Stiffens
APPROACH TO SHURI1In the days immediately following the facing movement of the XXIV Corps and the beginning of its drive to the south, increasingly stiff and bitter resistance gave proof that the prepared enemy defenses were being uncovered. The nature of the contacts with the Japanese also heralded the end of the relatively easy and fast-moving XXIV Corps advance. By the morning of 6 April, it was evident that the Japanese "lines were drawn for a full-scale battle."2 (See Map III, Map Section.)
What the 7th and 96th Divisions had encountered was a strong enemy position that extended the width of the island and roughly followed the line through Machinate, Kakazu, Kaniku, Minami-Uebaru, and Tsuwa. With flanks anchored on the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean, the Japanese barrier was the outermost of a series of defense rings centering about Shuri, headquarters of the Thirty-second Army. The veteran troops of the 62d Division were entrenched in this outpost sector, which was composed of well-prepared positions on high ground that was liberally studded with machine guns and mortars, and surrounded by barbed wire, antitank ditches, and minefields. Unknown to the Americans, the enemy was prepared to fight a "prolonged holding action" here.3
Limited gains through highly developed defenses in the Nakama-Kakazu-Ouki area were made on 7 April. In the 96th Division zone, Army troops advanced over broken ground and wooded ridges to reach the approaches of Kakazu. By 1600, after a furious struggle, one infantry battalion--supported by three air strikes, four artillery battalions, and the 14-inch rifles of the New York--managed to penetrate to a point within 500 yards of the northern limits of Kakazu.
To break through the increased resistance, General Hedge had concluded that additional artillery support was essential, and on 5 April he had requested that Tenth Army give him whatever battalions were available. Because III Amphibious Corps Artillery could not be employed with maximum effect in the north, General Buckner ordered most of the 155mm units of IIIAC Artillery to be attached to XXIV Corps. On L plus 6 and 7, the 8th and 9th 155mm Gun Battalions and the 1st, 3d, and 6th 155mm Howitzer Battalions were detached from IIIAC and displaced south to support the attack there.
The howitzer battalions were assigned to the 419th Field Artillery Group and paired off with Army artillery battalions to form three firing
groupments, which were controlled by the Army battalion commanders. The Marine gun battalions, a IIIAC Artillery headquarters detachment, and the 749th Field Artillery Battalion (8-inch howitzers ) were formed into a provisional group, named The Henderson Group after its commander, Lieutenant Colonel Frederick P. Henderson, IIIAC Artillery Operations Officer.4 Brigadier General Josef R. Sheetz' XXIV Corps Artillery could now support the drive against the Shuri defenses with four 155mm gun battalions, one 8-inch and six 155mm howitzer battalions, and two 155mm gun battalions from the 420th Field Artillery Group.
During the night of 7-8 April, XXIV Corps units repulsed minor enemy infiltration attempts. The Japanese had planned that their first major counterattack against Tenth Army troops would coincide with the Kikusui attack on 6 April, but when aerial reconnaissance reported the presence of a more lucrative target for aircraft, a large American convoy steaming south of Okinawa, the Kamikaze and ground attacks were rescheduled for the night of 8 April. This attack was cancelled indefinitely when another large convoy was spotted off the west coast of Okinawa just prior to the jumpoff. Because the situation was not favorable in either case, cooler heads amongst the Thirty-second Army staff prevailed and were able to stave off the launching of an unsupported Army counterattack. It was only a question of time, however, before the advocates of an all-out offensive would have their day.5
When it could no longer be employed profitably in the north, the 11th Marines was also sent south to provide additional Marine artillery in answer to Hedge's request of 5 April. The three 105mm howitzer battalions of Colonel Brown's regiment displaced southward on 9 April to reinforce the direct support battalions of the 7th and 96th Divisions. This reinforcement was in addition to the IIIAC artillery dispatched earlier. The 2d and 3d Battalions of the 11th Marines were attached to the 96th Division, and the 4th assigned to the 7th Division. On 12 April, the remaining battalion of the 11th Marines, 1 ill, (75mm pack howitzers) was also attached to the 96th Division.6
Moving south at the same time as the Marine artillery were elements of the 27th Infantry Division (less RCT 105), which had landed at noon that day.
Released from Tenth Army reserve, the division moved to a bivouac area just east of Kadena airfield, where it awaited a combat assignment.
Heavy enemy opposition and torrential rains driven by strong winds hampered the efforts of XXIV Corps when it resumed the attack on the 10th. On the corps front overall, the 7th Division was able to advance approximately 400 yards in its zone, but an antitank ditch and a minefield near Ouki, and mutually supporting eaves and pillboxes on the right flank, seriously limited the division attack.
The 96th Division, which had begun the battle for Kakazu Ridge on the previous day, continued its attack against this key feature in the enemy's Shuri defense system. On 9 April, the division had attempted to take the position with two battalions in a predawn surprise attack. Frequent Japanese counterattacks and withering fire caused heavy casualties and forced the soldiers to relinquish their gains at 1630 and withdraw to positions from which the attack was launched. Nothing was left to chance on L plus 9, as all three regiments attacked after an intense artillery and naval gunfire bombardment lasting 30 minutes was placed on previously located positions. Air cover was not available because of the continuing bad weather, which turned the ground into a quagmire and bogged down the tanks scheduled to support the advancing infantry. When the day's fighting ended, the division had made an average gain of 300 yards along the entire front.
As night fell and the fighting died down all along the XXIV Corps lines, the Thirty-second Army issued orders for a counterattack to be mounted on 12 April. Encouraged by the overly optimistic reports of the success of Kikusui No. 1 during the 6-7 April raids, the Japanese planned the counterattack to coincide with the second mass Kamikaze raid. Although the suicide flights began to pour into the skies above Okinawa at 1300 on 12 April, it was not until more than nine hours later that the ground effort was launched. The mission of the enemy assault units was to inflict as much damage as possible in rear areas, where their close proximity to Tenth Army troops would protect them from the devastating fire of American naval guns and artillery.
Under the cover of a mortar barrage, Japanese troops attempted the penetration of American lines. They were thrown back as artillery and small arms fire caught them fixed in the light of star shells thrown up by gunfire support ships. The enemy made several more attempts, but XXIV Corps units repulsed each one. On the night of 13-14 April, two lesser attacks occurred, but these also were driven off. In the two days' action, XXIV Corps reported 1,584 Japanese troops killed and four captured.7
A partial explanation for the failure of the counterattacks is found in the strength of American reaction to them. In addition, Japanese sources offer another approach:
When the Army chief of staff, after the opening of the offensive, visited the headquarters of the 62d Division, he learned that the senior staff officer [of the Thirty-second Army], Colonel Yahara, after the
issuance of the Army order for the attack, personally communicated to the responsible operational officers of both the 24th and 62d Divisions that commitment of a few shock troops would suffice for the attack instead of employing a major force, since the attack was bound to fail.8
Colonel Yahara's opposition to the attack sprung from his belief that it was not in keeping with the defensive mission of the Thirty-second Army and that it would result in a sheer waste of manpower. He was right, for, in effect, the attack was very costly to the Japanese, who concluded that "the night as sault resulted in a complete failure."9
Although XXIV Corps estimated that its troops had destroyed 6,883 of the enemy by 14 April,10 its order of battle maps still indicated that the 12th, 13th, and 14th Independent Infantry Battalions of the 62d Division's 63d Brigade opposed the corps advance. Although Tenth Army intelligence agencies knew that elements of four new battalions had been added to the enemy line after the 12-13 April counterattack, the Americans were unable to explain the continued identification of those infantry units that had received enough casualties to be considered destroyed. Actually, the inability of the Tenth Army to maintain a current order of battle file stemmed directly from the replacement system of the Thirty-second Army. The Japanese gradually fed individuals and small groups coming from service and support assignments into forward units. At the same time, entire companies and battalions--as yet uncommitted--were absorbed temporarily, or permanently in some cases, into the existing defensive lineup, and were given the designation of the unit into which they had been incorporated.
The first reorganization of the 12th Independent Infantry Battalion on 23 March serves as an excellent example of this practice. At that time, its organic strength was 1,043; attached special guard, labor, and naval elements raised the total to 1,333. The battalion was armed with 49 light and 9 heavy machine guns, 42 grenade launchers, and 2 75mm guns. On 12 April, after more than a week of continuous fighting against the XXIV Corps, 12th Independent Infantry Battalions strength was listed by the Japanese as 1,257. Only 414 men remained of the original battalion and 61 from the unit attached originally, but the battalion had been strengthened by the addition of the 2d Battalion, 22d Regiment (less one rifle company) and the entire 1st Light Mortar Battalion.11 Surprisingly enough, the battalion was more heavily armed than it had been before L-Day, for it now had 45 light and 13 heavy machine guns, 45 grenade launchers, 19 90mm mortars, and 3 75mm guns.12
By the end of the second week of April, Tenth Army intelligence officers had obtained a fairly accurate picture of Japanese defense plans from captured enemy maps and documents. The Americans were forced to revise their L-Day estimate of enemy strength upward by 7,000 to a total of 72,000,
which was "deemed a conservative minimum."13 It was apparent that the bulk of the Thirty-second Army had not yet been met.
As the Tenth Army prepared for this encounter, it became evident that the ammunition supply chain could not keep up with the demand, and it was necessary to apply command restrictions on ammunition expenditure as early as 9 April.14 Concerning this shortage, the Marine Deputy Chief of Staff of the Tenth Army noted:
The artillery, in fact, was used too freely. For a considerable period, artillery ammunition was being unloaded over the beaches at the rate of 3,000 tons per day. . . . It was considered normal to fire a concentration of four or five battalions. A good bit of TOT [time on target] firing was done.15
The nature of the Shuri defenses demanded the fullest employment possible of all available weapons. Artillery, especially, was needed to reduce prepared positions and denude them of their skillfully prepared camouflage, to seal off the firing ports,, and to collapse the labyrinth of interconnecting tunnels that housed and protected the defending troops. Since their operations were not subject in the same degree to the restrictions of inclement weather and enemy air attacks, as were air and naval gunfire, corps and divisional artillery, of necessity, served as the support workhorses for assaults.
Because General Hedge knew that a maximum effort would be needed if Thirty-second Army lines were to be penetrated, he scheduled a corps attack, three divisions abreast, for 19 April. Beginning 15 April, four days were spent in preparation for the attack. While guns and howitzers steadily hammered at enemy forward positions and troop concentration areas, artillery ammunition reserves were stockpiled both at the batteries and distribution points. In the pre-attack period, planes from TAF, and Task Forces 51, 52, and 58 flew a total of 905 sorties in direct support missions for XXIV Corps. The pilots dropped 482 tons of bombs and expended 3,400 rockets and over 700,000 rounds of .50 caliber and 20mm ammunition on Japanese installations.16 Added to this firepower was that coming from the strong force of TF 51 battleships, cruisers, and destroyers that remained offshore both day and night.17
Prior to the attack, the frontline units attempted to improve their positions with small local attacks, while patrols were sent forward in order to pinpoint enemy positions and weapons emplacements. When the 27th Division entered the line on 15 April, a general
reshuffling of the XXIV Corps front took place. (See Map III, Map Section.) On that date, General Griner assumed responsibility for the corps right flank and, on the following day, regained his 105th Infantry, which had been released from army reserve following the capture of Tsugen Shima. All initial XXIV Corps assault deployments were completed two days before the jump-off.
The support provided by air, naval gunfire, and artillery prior to the 19 April attack might seem pallid in comparison with the destructive potential of the nuclear weapons of a later era. To the assault force leaders and their troops, however, the immensity of the preparatory and supporting fires was awesome. The firepower of 6 battleships, 6 cruisers, and 9 destroyers was assigned to direct support of the attacking corps, and 650 Navy and Marine aircraft were directed to hit enemy defenses, assembly areas, and supply points.
Beginning at 0600 on 19 April, 27 battalions of artillery, covering the five-mile front with a density greater than one weapon to every 30 yards, fired in their pre-attack bombardment everything from 75mm to 8-inch howitzers. Regarding this massing of battalions, one observer remarked:
Not many people realize that the . . . artillery in Tenth Army, plus the LVT(A)s [mounting 75mm howitzers] and NGF equivalent gave us a guns/mile of front ratio on Okinawa that was probably higher than any U.S. effort in World War II. We look with awe on the Russian doctrine of 300 guns/mile of front for an attack. But if you take our Okinawa figures, and apply a reasonable multiplication factor for our flexible fire direction system that rapidly enabled us to mass all guns within range on a target, we equalled or exceeded the Russians in effective available fire support.18
Equally impressive was the air support provided the ground troops during this offensive. At one time alone during 19 April, "we had 375 aircraft on station, and . . . LFASCU-2, controlling seven simultaneous air strikes on a ten-mile front, had literally reached the point of saturation." Commenting on this, the commander of the LFASCUs stated that "I do not believe that we have ever exceeded,, or since equalled, this magnitude of close air support on any given day."19
To the troops poised for the attack, it seemed incredible that anyone could survive in that terrible downpour of steel, yet it soon became apparent that almost all of the enemy did. The Japanese were hidden in eaves and protected by solid limestone walls deep within the hill-ridge complex astride the XXIV Corps route of advance,
Initially, the assault infantry made moderate gains, but when the enemy remanned his positions, the attack slowed and then halted under the resumption of intense mortar, machine gun, and artillery fire. Generally, all along the line, advances were negligible to nonexistent as enemy resistance stiffened. Kakazu Ridge, the formidable bastion opposing the 27th Division, proved to be as difficult to take at this time as it had been when the 96th Division made the attempt. The 27th mounted a battalion-size infantry attack, supported by a reinforced
tank company, in an attempt to bypass the ridge through a cut between Kakazu and Nishibaru. Anticipating the probable use of this route, on the night of 18 April the Japanese had emplaced mortars, machine guns, antitank guns, and antiaircraft cannon to cover the Ginowan-Shuri road, which crossed through the cut. The enemy cut off the tank company from its covering infantry by planned protective fire.20
The tanks were able to get behind the ridge to shoot up the village of Kakazu, but without infantry support, they were forced to withdraw to their own lines. Only 8 of the original 30 tanks in the foray made it back through the cut; the remaining 22 fell victim to the fire of antitank and antiaircraft guns, mines in Kakazu village, and satchel charges borne to the tanks by suicide-bent enemy soldiers.
By the end of the day, on the corps right flank, the 27th Division was halted at the western end of the Urasoe-Mura escarpment; the 96th Division, in the center, had pushed through Kaniku to gain positions on the forward slopes of Nishibaru Ridge; and the 7th Division, on the left, was held up by fanatic opposition and heavy fire, with the net result that it made no progress at all.
As the XXIV Corps ground out the second day of its offensive, the pattern of future fighting emerged--little yardage gained at a high cost in lives to both sides. Heavy casualties were sustained by all the attacking divisions, but the Japanese frontline units also were punished and considerably reduced in size. Only the sheer courage and fanatic determination of the enemy and the strength of his natural defenses kept the XXIV Corps at bay. Action during the period 20-23 April consisted of heavily supported local attacks against key strongpoints,
When General Hedge renewed the XXIV Corps attack on 24 April, he was ready to throw the full weight of its power against the forces holding Shuri's outer defense ring. During the night of 23-24 April,, however, unknown to the Americans and under cover of "the most intensive artillery fire yet experienced on the XXIV Corps front,"21 General Ushijima had withdrawn his defending units from the line that had held up the 7th and 96th Divisions for two weeks. All along the front, American forces now made sweeping and significant gains, and the heretofore-difficult Kakazu Ridge was taken with little effort.
After the 27th Division had entered the lines on the corps right flank in mid-April, 2/11 and 3/11 were reassigned from support of the 96th Division to reinforce the fires of 27th Division artillery. This change was made because "General Sheetz thought, even then, that the 1st Marine Division would be needed in the south, on the coast."22 At this time, the 11th Marines commander, Colonel Brown, heavily reinforced his three 105mm battalions with regimental headquarters personnel so that as many men as possible could gain battle experience.23
Firing battery crewmen were not the only Marines in the 11th to gain on-the-job training in the south, for regimental communications personnel were kept exceptionally busy. Although radio was depended upon primarily, wiremen laid telephone wires from Army fire direction centers to the Marine units supporting XXIV Corps after frequent interference in 11th Marines radio circuits had made reliance on wire communications necessary.
Owing to a shortage of trained wiremen in the Army battalions, these same Marines in addition had to lay and maintain all lateral wire communications for three Army divisional artillery headquarters. This communication system permitted the rapid massing of all XXIV Corps and attached artillery fire whenever all other means of communication broke down.24 Forward observer teams of the 11th Marines also gained valuable experience when they went forward to the XXIV Corps infantry units their artillery battalions were supporting. The knowledge gained by the teams supporting the 27th Division was especially useful later when the 1st Marine Division relieved the 27th in the same general area.
Indications that greater Marine participation in the Shuri battle would be forthcoming occurred on 21 April when Tenth Army ordered General Geiger to make the 1st Tank Battalion available for attachment to the 27th Division. Although the IIIAC commander had no compunction about his Marines fighting in the south, he was not happy at the prospect of their being committed piecemeal.25 If Marine assistance was needed in the south, it was Geiger's opinion that the entire 1st Marine Division should be committed.26 Although a warning order for the tank battalion displacement had been dispatched to the 1st Division, the actual movement orders were never issued and the matter was apparently dropped by Tenth Army.27
General Buckner acknowledged the need for a substantial infusion of fresh troops into the main battleline, and directed General Geiger, on 24 April, to designate one IIIAC division as Tenth Army reserve. One regiment of that division was to be ready to assemble and move south on 12 hours' notice. General Geiger selected the 1st Marine Division, and General del Valle placed the 1st Marines on alert status.27
At this point, the question arises why the 2d Marine Division, in Tenth Army reserve, was not committed in action on Okinawa when it was apparent that it was needed. On 9 April, Admiral Nimitz authorized General Watson's division to return and debark at Saipan; on the 14th, the division was released from Tenth Army reserve and reverted to IIIAC control, although it remained on Saipan. Both at this time, and in later critiques of the fighting on Okinawa, there was a strong body of senior officers
who felt that there was no sound reason why the 2d Marine Division could not have been employed to make an amphibious assault on the southeastern coast of Okinawa. Possibly, a second landing could have succeeded in cracking the Shuri barrier where the attack of the XXIV Corps in mid-April failed.
General Vandegrift suggested that the 2d Division be employed when he visited Okinawa on 21 April with Brigadier General Gerald G. Thomas, Admiral Nimitz, and Nimitz' chief of staff, Rear Admiral Forrest P. Sherman. When, during a meeting at Geiger's CP, Buckner stated that he was going to commit IIIAC divisions in the south shortly, Vandegrift:
did not object to the Marines being committed to the main fight-they were on Okinawa for this purpose. But I did question Buckner's tactical plan. Instead of trying to slug it out with the enemy, Geiger, Thomas, and I argued for an amphibious landing in the rear or anyway on the flank of the enemy by Buckner's reserve, the 2d Marine Division on Saipan. Forrest Sherman, among others, ob. jetted to a landing on the far east coast as impractical. We replied that the bay of our choice was the alternate landing area for the original operation, so apparently Buckner had thought it quite practical. Having been shot down on this point, Sherman claimed it would take too long to load out the 2d Division from Saipan. We promised him it could be underway in six hours. Despite these and other arguments Sherman refused to back us, nor did Buckner seem impressed. I learned later that General Bruce, commanding the 77th Army Division which had fought so well on Guam, proposed a similar plan as did Kelly Turner, whose transports were being hurt by the kamikaze tactic.29
Although General Bruce had also pressed for a second landing, for his troops had all but captured Ie Shima, Buckner refused because his G4 had told him that food but not ammunition could be supplied for this project. In addition, the site of the proposed 77th Division landing was so far south of the main Tenth Army line at that time, neither XXIV Corps artillery nor troops could support it. Besides, at the time that the 77th was available, it was needed in the line as the 7th, 27th, and 96th Divisions were in bad shape because of casualties and fatigue. Nor did Buckner want to use the 2d Marine Division for a second landing, for it was scheduled to invade Kikai Shima, north of Okinawa, in July.
The Tenth Army commander was evidently convinced that the greater need was for fresh troops on the Shuri front and that a landing on the southeastern beaches was logistically infeasible. Despite the arguments presented by General Vandegrift in favor of such a tactic, he was not supported by either Nimitz or Sherman, and Buckner remained unmoved in his decision. He faced the basic alternatives of a two-corps frontal attack against Shuri or an envelopment of the enemy forces facing his troops. Having decided against the landing in the enemy rear, his next step was to commit IIIAC in the south.
Tenth Army commander as a result of change in the ICEBERG plan of operations. On 26 April, General Buckner was informed that Phase III of the plan, the projected invasion of Miyako Shima in the Sakashima Group east of Taiwan, was cancelled. This high-level decision by the JCS freed IIIAC from the Miyako operation and permitted Buckner to insert that corps into the southern Okinawa line.30 The next day, the army commander declared his intent to attach the 1st Division to XXIV Corps at an early date in order to relieve the understrength and badly battered 27th Division for garrison duty under Island Command.31 Also on 27 April, the 77th Infantry Division completed its move from Ie Shima to Okinawa, and its leading elements moved into position to relieve the 96th the next day.
Matters concerning the future employment of IIIAC units were discussed at a conference held at Tenth Army headquarters on 28 April. Colonel Walter A. Wachtler, General Geiger's G-3, was informed that the 1st Marine Division was to be attached to XXIV Corps on the last day of April. General del Valle's troops would begin moving south to relieve the 27th Division on that same day. Upon its relief, the 27th was to move north to relieve the 6th Marine Division, which would then move to an assembly area near Chibana to await further orders for the movement south. It was planned that, on or about 7 May, the IIIAC was to take over the zone held at that time by the 1st Marine Division and, simultaneously, Tenth Army would then assume tactical control of the two-corps front. A coordinated army attack would be made soon thereafter.32
1ST MARINE DIVISION JOINS XXIV CORPS33While the XXIV Corps made preparations to relieve two of its frontline divisions, the attack to the south continued. The enemy reacted savagely to the grinding advance of the 96th Division, throwing counterattacks, repeated artillery and mortar barrages, and never-ending infiltration attempts in the soldiers' path. The division objective was the Maeda Escarpment. Retention of this position was vital to Thirty-second Army defense plans, because the terrain offered a commanding view of all of the Japanese positions as far as the Shuri foothills, and at the same time guaranteed continued enemy observation
into American lines.34 The region surrounding Maeda, therefore, became the focus of ferocious fighting when the enemy attempted to retain the dominating ground of the second Shuri defensive ring. On 29 April, units of the 77th Division began relief of the 96th Division and immediately took up the attack. The soldiers of the 77th were very tired from the fighting they had just experienced on Ie Shim+ and the division was far understrength because of casualty losses. As a result, it could make but slight gains against the highly developed defenses.
The 27th Division lines on the 29th had been pushed through Kuwan and Miyagusuku during a daylong drive, which exposed deeply dug-in, heavily mined Japanese positions. These extended throughout the rugged hills and ridges that bordered the east and southeast sides of Machinato airfield. At 0600 on the following day, the 1st Marine Division was attached to XXIV Corps. Immediately thereafter, march serials of the 1st Marines and 1st Tank 13attalion began moving to the 27th Division area in the south. The Army division, meanwhile, continued its attack south of Machinato airfield. At 1000, the first of the Marine units began moving into 27th Division lines even as it halted its forward progress and disengaged its advance patrols, which had been caught in a heavy fire fight.
On the extreme right of the corps line, beginning at Kuwan, 1/1 took up positions, which made a half-circle around the south of Machinato and joined up with 3/1 just to the northeast of Nakanishi. No orders were issued for the resumption of the attack in this area, so the Marines spent the rest of 30 April digging in, improving existing defenses, and registering defensive fires.35 (See Map III, Map Section.)
The commander of 3/1 had been informed by the commander of the relieved Army battalion that some Japanese were still holed-up in Miyagusuku. Marines, dispatched to mop up, moved towards the village, whereupon enemy artillery and mortar fire began falling on them. Under this cover, Japanese troops began infiltrating back into Miyagusuku in some strength. After being pinned down in the village ruins by the concentrated fire, the Marines were forced to withdraw; they set up north of the village for the night. At dusk, the 3/1 reserve was committed on the left of the line, where it tied in with the one yet-unrelieved unit of the 27th Division.36
The 77th Division completed the relief of the 96th at the same time the 1st Marines took over the right of the 27th Division lines. At noon, General Bruce assumed command of the zone from General Bradley and, throughout the day, 77th Division troops attempted to improve their positions on the escarpment. Despite heavy supporting fires, the sheer fury and fanatic determination of the defenders forced the attackers back to defensive positions of the previous night.
By midafternoon of 1 May, two of the 1st Division assault regiments, the 1st Marines on the right and the 5th Marines on the left, had relieved the 27th Division; General del Valle assumed command of the former Army zone at 1400. (See Map 13.) Although this action marked the official entry of the 1st Division into the southern front, the 1lth Marines had been in the vanguard when it supported the 7th, 27th, and 96th Divisions throughout most of the fighting in April.37 The artillery battalions of the 27th Division remained in position to continue supporting the 1st and 77th Divisions in their attack to the south.38
Even before completing relief of the 27th Division on 1 May, General del Valle's Marines saw clearly the results of combat in southern Okinawa, and soon learned of the tenacity of the defenders. When the 5th Marines relieved the remaining Army regiments during the afternoon of the 1st, they learned how hard these units had been hit. Each 2/5 infantry company replaced one depleted battalion of the 105th, and 3/5 took over the area held by the 106th. At 1400, while consolidating their positions south of Awacha, 2/5 Marines observed about a platoon of Army tanks moving south in the town. As soon as the tanks had emerged from the town, they were hit by 47mm AT fire within 20 yards of the Marine line.39 Perhaps even more disturbing to the Marines was the news that their unit identification and the location of their front had already been noted on an enemy map captured just that day.40
General del Valle's men continued their defensive activities on their first day in the south. By 1700, all lines had been tied in, and 1/5 had taken up positions in a reserve area. As the frontline Marines dug in, preparations were made for a fully supported division attack scheduled for the following day, with the north bank of the Asa Kawa (River ) as the objective. The corps commander instructed General del Valle to exert constant pressure against the enemy and to support the 77th Division attack with fire and maneuver.41 Because it flanked the Army division, the 5th Marines was assigned this task.
In order to prevent an American penetration after the 27th Division had taken Gusukuma, the Japanese had been forced to reform their west coast battleline. It now was held by a major portion of the 62d Division, which was positioned along a line that ran generally from Jichaku and Uchima through the ridges north of Dakeshi to Awacha. In addition, there were "powerful elements of the Division scattered and remaining
Map 13: 1st Marine Division Advances, 1-3 May 1945
in the cave positions within the [American] lines still offering resistance."42 It was these forces with which the 1st Marines would have to contend.
The 1st of May brought cloudy and cooler weather, and sporadic showers heralded the Okinawa rainy period, which, in itself, serves as a harbinger of the approaching typhoon season (July-November). During the previous night, all 1st Marines battalions had received intermittent mortar and artillery fire. The day was devoted by 1/1 to patrolling its front and attempting to readjust its lines. A reconnaissance patrol discovered that a deep L-shaped ravine cut across the entire battalion front and that it formed a natural barrier to the next logical objective. The Marines also found that the retreating enemy had blown out the fill where the main north-south highway crossed this chasm. Added to the enemy artillery and antitank guns registered on the area, this obstacle obviously would prohibit an armor-supported infantry penetration.
A patrol sent from one of the Marine rifle companies to the west of the ravine to scout out other approaches was taken under extremely heavy fire that came from the steep cliffs along the far side of the declivity. It was apparent that the enemy, from positions on the high ground to the south and southeast of the Asa Kawa, had excellent observation of the battalion approach route and that the Marines were going to have a difficult time reaching and crossing the river.
On the left of the regiment, meanwhile, 3/1 prepared for a second attempt to secure Miyagusuku, this time with the support of seven tanks from the 1st Tank Battalion, four of them mounting flamethrowers. The flat trajectory tank cannon fire blasted the houses and walls still standing, and 300 gallons of flaming napalm set the entire pyre aflame.43 At 1045, when the fires had died down, a small patrol passed through without enemy opposition. Approximately two and a half hours later, the rest of the battalion followed, and, as it cleared Miyagusuku, there was a step-up in the intermittent Japanese mortar and artillery fire that had been falling since before dawn. Added to this fire was that of enemy riflemen and machine gunners. Increased casualties and the difficulties encountered in evacuating them forced the assault companies to withdraw under a smoke screen and mortar barrage once the battalion commander had given permission for such a move. By 1900, the battalion returned to the positions it had occupied on 30 April.
The 1st Division attack to the Asa on 2 May began in driving rain which seriously limited visibility and reduced the amount of effective air support supplied that day. The two frontline Army divisions in XXIV Corps attacked enemy-held ridge positions containing pillboxes and mutually supporting small arms and automatic weapons emplacements. Added to these barriers and the destructiveness of Japanese artillery fire was the foe's determined and ferocious refusal to yield any ground.
When the 5th Marines jumped off at 0900, following artillery, naval gunfire, and some air preparation, 2/5 on the extreme left came under flanking fire from positions in front of the 307th's lines. Within an hour, the 2d Battalion was pinned down, and, by 1100, heavy casualties forced its withdrawal under a smoke cover to its original positions. As soon as the 3d Battalion crossed its line of departure, it too came under the frontal and flanking fire that had driven 2/5 back. "The advance was untenable and had to be withdrawn to initial positions."44 Because the 5th Marines was unable to advance, Company L of 3/1 (on the battalion left) was stopped in its attempt to move beyond Miyagusuku with Company K. The latter, however, was not pinned down and was able to progress beyond the edge of the ruins that were once a village. At 1446, the 1st Marines commander, Colonel Chappell, was ordered to change the axis of the regimental attack from due south to the southeast. General del Valle had reasoned that the new attack direction, which would hit the flank of many of the positions holding up the 5th Marines, would enable both Company L and his left regiment to continue the advance.
After new attack orders had been issued, battalion boundaries adjusted, and a 10-minute artillery barrage laid, the 1st Marines attack was resumed at 1630 against very heavy fire. By dark, 3/1 had fought its way to a small series of hills approximately 300 yards south of Miyagusuku. Pouring rain, machine gun fire, and grenades began falling on the leading elements of the assault as the troops gained this ground. Here they began digging in at 2000 for the night. Almost immediately, the enemy began the first in a series of infiltration attempts which were to mark the hours of darkness. The violence of the hand-to-hand clashes on the hill held by Company K was reflected in a comment the next morning by one of the Marines, who said that this had been the grimmest night he had spent so far on Okinawa.45
On the extreme right of the division, 1/1 ran into equally heavy resistance in its effort to cross the ravine facing it. Although one company had already passed through Nakanishi, and was in position by 1000 to plunge into the ravine where it angled north towards Miyagusuku, the slowness of the attack to the left of the 1st Marines presaged caution, and the 1/1 commander was told to be wary of exposing his troops to enfilade fire.
Despite all precautionary measures, including the blasting of enemy positions by self-propelled assault guns at the beginning of the attack, Japanese fire continued to pour from the caves and heights overlooking the defile to catch the advancing troops. Disregarding this fusilade and the casualties resulting from it, Company B managed to gain a defiladed position just short of the initial objective. At this point, however, the Marines were cut off both front and rear by enemy fire. At 1300, orders for a general withdrawal were issued, and the company disengaged and pulled back to high ground under the cover of smoke.
At 1630, when the attack was resumed in the new direction, the 1st Battalion attacked straight across the ravine in order to ensure flank protection before making the southeasterly move. The impetus of the drive carried Company A to the outskirts of Jichaku, where it dug in. By the end of a quiet but wet night, the assault units had established a firm line where the division awaited the joining of RCT-7.
The 7th Marines had displaced south on the morning of the attack, its battalions moving to the vicinity of Uchitomari. On the following day, 3 May, the regimental CP displaced forward to a point about 200 yards north of Gusukuma, while the 1st and 2d Battalions took up beach defense positions in the vicinity of Machinato airfield. The 3d Battalion was attached to the 5th Marines to assist the advance of that regiment.
Continuing the attack on 3 May, the division assigned intermediate and final objectives to the 1st Marines. The first began at the railroad spur bridge crossing the Asa River between Asa and Uchima, and extended northeast, generally following the spur initially and then the main line itself, to a point just east of Miyagusuku. The second began at the same bridge, but ran generally east along the high ground between Dakeshi and Wana to the division boundary. The line between the attacking regiments, bent back to reflect the assignment given the 1st Marines, gave to the 5th the thankless task of clearing out the confused terrain that soon would be called Awacha Pocket.
Although the 5th Marines gained about 500-600 yards in its zone, the 1st became heavily engaged in fire fights all along the line and was restricted to limited gains. Forward elements of 1/1 ran into difficulty in every direction; Company F,46 attacking Jichaku, was held up by a stubborn defense, and Company A was cut up in its attempt to reduce the ravine position that had stymied the battalion on the previous day. Neither company was able to move forward and both were forced to withdraw under the cover of smoke late in the morning, carrying with them the large number of casualties they had sustained. Because it appeared that the attack would not succeed without armor support, plans were made to use tanks after the road south of Kuwan had been cleared of mines. After dark, an engineer
mine-clearing team, protected by infantry began reconnoitering the proposed armor attack route.47
Company L, on the left of the 1st Marines line, was unable to move until 3/5 had seized a high hill to the left front of the company. After it took the hill, the battalion was driven off at 1555 by a heavy enemy artillery concentration. Company L was ordered to retake the objective, and, following a 10-minute 81mm mortar barrage,, gained the hilltop 20 minutes later. Here, the company was pinned down by Japanese fire coming from high ground to the front and on its flanks. When Company K was unable to close in on L and had to fall back, Company I was committed on the right of K to close a gap that had developed along the battalion boundary. The regiment then assigned Company G of 2/1 to back-up the 1,200-yard front of 3/1.
To escape the furious machine gun and mortar fire that had followed it after it was driven off the hill on the right of 3/1, 3/5 was forced to fall back another 100 yards; its advances on 3 May were limited to 200-300 yards. Passing through 2/5 that morning to begin its attack with two companies in the assault, the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, was able to gain some 500-600 yards, but was forced in late afternoon to bend its lines back to tie in with 3/5. Immediately upon being relieved, 2/5 swung over to its left to take over part of the 307th Infantry lines on the outskirts of Awacha. (See Map 13.)
Once its 2d Battalion was relieved by 2/5, the 307th Infantry moved it to the left and, with all three of its battalions on line, mopped up the top of the escarpment--and the upper part of its reverse slope--during the day. By nightfall, the Army regiment held positions commanding the Japanese defensive alignment all the way back to the Shuri foothills. Despite having been pushed back, the enemy still determinedly refused the Americans further gains and fanatically resisted from reverse-slope caves, sometimes counterattacking in company and platoon strength to regain critical terrain.
The ferocity of Japanese resistance continued unabated all along the XXIV Corps line, for as veteran units were annihilated, they were quickly rebuilt with fresh rear area troops, or replaced with new infantry elements. General Hedge's dire prediction at the beginning of the 19 April attack that "it is going to be really tough . . . and that I see no way to get [the Japanese] out except blast them out yard by yard. . . ."48 was being all too grimly substantiated.
THE JAPANESE COUNTERATTACK49During the grueling see-saw battle in the south, both sides suffered heavily. The slow but perceptible American gains were costly, but the Japanese paid the higher price. The 62d Division bore the brunt of the April attack and by the end of the month its combat strength was less than half of what it had been originally. Although many Thirty-second Army officers viewed the Japanese cause on Okinawa as hopeless, they were buoyed up by the fact "that after thirty consecutive days of systematic fighting the main body of [our] fighting forces should remain intact. . . ."50 Not yet bloodied in the fight for Shuri were most of the units of the 24th Division, 44th IMB, and 5th Artillery Command. An attitude favoring the offense permeated General Ushijima's command, whose members considered that commitment of these fresh troops in one major effort would effectively blunt the American drive.
Prior to the landings on the west coast, the expectation of an American amphibious assault at Minatoga had caused the Thirty-second Army commander to deploy a considerable portion of his strength in that area. But, by the end of April, the steady attrition of the forces manning the Shuri outer defense ring caused General Ushijima to reappraise his situation and reexamine his mission. Since he had been ordered to prolong the battle as long as possible and inflict heavy casualties on the invaders, Ushijima decided to utilize the units immobilized in the southeast to reinforce the Shuri positions.
Implementing this decision, the 24th Division and the 44th IMB were ordered to begin a movement north on 22 April. The 24th, recovering control of its 22d Regiment from the 62d Division, was to occupy defensive positions in a line from Gaja on the east coast to Maeda at the eastern end of the Urasoe-Mura escarpment. The depleted battalions of the hard-hit 62d Division were to concentrate in the area from Maeda to the west coast near Gusukuma. Taking up blocking positions behind the 62d on the high ground to the south and east of the Asa River, the 44th IMB was to cover Naha and the ridges and draws flanking to the west of Shuri.
To protect the area south of the Naha-Yonabaru valley, and to forestall further American landings on the west coast, both Admiral Ota's force and a provisional guard group, formed to guard the Chinen Peninsula, were kept in place. The Chinen units were not to make a last-ditch stand, but were to make a fighting withdrawal to Shuri if the southeastern beaches were invaded.
In less than a week, by 27 April, the new enemy defensive setup had been established. But even small local Japanese counterattacks failed, despite the reconstitution of the frontlines and the infusion of fresh troops. Steadily
XXIV Corps units encroached upon enemy positions and forced their defenders back. In the Thirty-second Army headquarters deep below Shuri Castle, General Cho led other firebrands in an attempt to convince the army commander that conditions were favorable for an all-out, army-sized counterattack, employing the relatively intact 24thth Division as the spearhead.
Colonel Yahara was a lone dissenter to the plan. His belief that the Japanese attack would end in abject failure and certain defeat was based on several factors. He noted that the Americans, positioned on commanding ground, were materially and numerically superior. Fatalistically prophesying an inevitable Japanese defeat no matter what, the colonel reasoned that the army should "maintain to the bitter end the principle of a strategic holding action."51 Any other course of action would doom the army, be detrimental to its mission, and open the way for an otherwise earlier invasion of the Japanese homeland.
Despite Colonel Yahara's impassioned and reasoned arguments, General Cho, backed by other proponents of the offensive-the division and brigade commanders--swayed Ushijima to their way of thinking, and, in the end, prevailed. In scope and desired objectives, the attack plan was exceedingly ambitious; it called for nothing less than the destruction of XXIV Corps and capture of Futema and its environs.52 (See Map IV, Map Section.)
The counterattack was to begin at 0500 (Y-Hour) on 4 May (X-Day). The Japanese believed it would be successful because they knew a relief of the American lines was then taking place.53 At Y-Hour, the 89th Regiment (on the right) would begin a penetration of the 7th Division front to gain its objective, the Minami-Uebaru foothills, by sunset. In the center, the 22d Regiment was to hold its positions near Kochi and Onaga, where it would support the assaulting units with fire. When the 89th Regiment formed an east-west line at Tanabaru, the initial objective, the 22d would move out, destroying any American unit remaining to its front, and follow up in rear center of the division main effort to be made by the 32d Regiment. At Y-Hour, the 32d would drive forward to seize 77th Division positions southeast of Maeda, and then continue on to gain the heights west of Tanabaru by sunset also.
Armored support of the attack was to be supplied by the 27th Tank Regiment, after it had moved from positions near Ishimmi to penetrate the 77th Division lines west of Kochi. Here, the tanks would take up new positions to assist the 22d and 32d Regiments. The day before the attack, the 44th IMB was to move to the area northwest of Shuri, where the brigade would provide left flank security until the initial objective was taken. Immediately thereafter, the 44th would swing north to Oyama and the coast just beyond, to isolate the 1st Marine Division from the battle. This task would be supported by the heretofore-
uncommitted 62d Division. To make certain that the Marines would be cut off, the Japanese planners had reinforced the 44th IMB with a considerable number of armored, artillery, and antitank elements. On the night of 3-4 May, the guns, mortars, and howitzers of the 5th Artillery Command were to move out of their hidden positions into the open to provide the Japanese attack with full gunfire support. The Thirty-second Army also called upon Admiral Ota to participate in the massive counterattack, for he was directed to form from his naval command four infantry battalions to be used as army reserve in exploiting the breakthrough.
The Japanese attack plan provided also for hitting the open flanks of the XXIV Corps. Embarking from Naha on the night of 3-4 May, a makeshift navy of landing barges, small craft, and native canoes was to land a major portion of the 26th Shipping Engineer Regiment behind 1st Marine Division lines at Oyama. Concurrently, elements of the 26th, 28th, and 29th Sea Raiding Squadrons were to wade the reef on the Marine flank, go ashore in the vicinity of Kuwan, and more inland to support the counterlanding of the 26th. Committed to the west coast attack was a total of approximately 700 men.
Another envelopment was to be attempted on the east coast where about 500 men from the 23d Shipping Engineer Regiment and the 27th Sea Raiding Squadron would land behind the 7th Division at Tsuwa. The mission of both regiments was to infiltrate American rear areas in small groups and to destroy equipment and harass CPS with grenades and demolitions. No concerted attacks were to be made unless assault groups numbered more than 100 men. If all went according to plan, the two countermanding elements would join up near the center of the island to assist the 24th Division advance.54
A never-changing assumption in ICEBERG intelligence estimates was an enemy capability to mount a large-scale counterattack. As of the evening of 3 May, however, an analysis of recent enemy tactics indicated that he was more likely to continue fighting a series of delaying actions from successive positions, defending each one "until the troops on the position are nearly annihilated."55 Since the American order of battle of enemy elements facing XXIV Corps was then current, and each enemy move and countermove had been viewed with respect to the related tactical situation, indications of an imminent major attack were not perceptible. Local counterattacks and stiffened resistance were merely attributed to the infusion of new strength into Japanese lines. XXIV Corps troops were not caught off-guard, however, when the attack was finally mounted.
Preceding the two-day struggle--called by Colonel Yahara "the decisive action of the campaign"56--the fifth mass Kamikaze attack struck at dusk on 3 May. Tokyo had notified the Fifth Air Fleet on 30 April of the impending
Thirty-second Army attack,57 The Japanese air command then issued orders for a mass suicide raid to be launched on 3 May, prior to the beginning of the ground assault. Kikusui No. 5 targets were to be American supply areas, airfields, and the ever-suffering radar pickets.58
Although they were to have played only a secondary role in the overall attack, the Kamikaze pilots were more destructive and successful in what they did than was the Japanese infantry. In two hours, however, 36 of the 125 suiciders in this raid were shot down according to the claims of antiaircraft gunners ashore and afloat, and those of carrier- and land-based American pilots.59 Japanese sources note that a total of 159 planes of all types participated in the 34 May raid.60
Although a barrier of antiaircraft fire kept the conventional bombers at such heights over the airfields and the anchorage that they could cause only superficial damage, the suiciders bore in to inflict wide-spread havoc on the radar pickets. A destroyer and an LSM were sunk; two minelayers and a support landing craft (LCS) were damaged.61 Enemy bombers again appeared over the island shortly after midnight to hit Tenth Army rear area installations, but as before, accurate AAA fire kept them high over their potential targets and caused the bombing to be erratic. A string of bombs fell near Sobe, however, and crashed through the overheads of IIIAC Evacuation Hospital No. 3, destroying two dug-in surgery wards, killing 13 and wounding 36 patients and medical personnel.62 Radar-directed TAF night fighters were unable to close with the enemy bombers because American electronic early-warning equipment was disrupted by "window" that had been dropped by four Japanese reconnaissance aircraft.63
Beginning on 4 May at 0600, and for four hours thereafter, the Kamikazes pushed a murderous onslaught against the radar pickets to coincide with the Thirty-second Army ground effort. By the time that the morning forays and the one later at dusk against the escort carrier group were over, the number of naval casualties and ships damaged and sunk was sobering. There were 91 Americans killed, 280 wounded, and 283 missing on the 4th.64 and on the picket line, two destroyers and two LSMs were sunk; two other destroyers, a minesweeper, a light minelayer, and an LCS were damaged.65 A turret on the cruiser Birmingham was hit by a suicider in the morning attack, and another enemy pilot succeeded in crashing the flight deck of the carrier Sangamon in the afternoon, causing an explosion which damaged both elevators and destroyed 21 planes.
Enemy air did not go unpunished on the 4th, for American pilots claimed to have destroyed a total of 95 Japanese aircraft. ADC flyers had their second most successful day, next to 12 April, for their claims totalled 603/4 kills, bringing TAF claims overall to 206 in less than a month of operations.66
The Navy was not concerned solely with helping to beat off the aerial attacks, for Admiral Turner alerted his surface force to the possible threat accruing from suiciders in the enemy Sea Raiding Squadrons. He cautioned his "flycatcher"67 screen of cruisers, destroyers, and gunboats on both coasts to be especially watchful. It was this screen that discovered the shipping engineer regiments attempting to slip behind American lines and assisted the ground forces in combating the counterlandings by illuminating and shelling them. When daylight of 4 May revealed the extent of the Japanese ground effort, the two battleships, five cruisers, and eight destroyers assigned as daytime gunfire support for XXIV Corps joined with artillery and air to blunt the Japanese infantry advance and silence its weapons support.
The Japanese ground offensive began shortly after dark on 3 May with a steadily accelerating rate of artillery fire placed mainly on the frontlines of the 7th and 77th Divisions. As American guns replied in kind, the normal battlefield sounds became an almost unbearable cacophony. In a comparatively less noisier sector near Machinato airfield, LVT(A) crews on guard opened up on unidentified individuals they heard on the beach, and shortly thereafter, support craft were seen firing at targets in the water just offshore.68 Less than an hour after this outbreak of firing, the 1st Marines reported enemy barges heading in for shore at Kuwan.69
The landing took place here, instead of at Oyama as originally planned, because the landing craft carrying the bulk of the attack force had trouble negotiating the route through the reefs and lost their way.70 This error was further compounded by the fact that the troops went ashore at the exact point where Company B, 1/1, had anchored its night defense position.
The stealthy enemy approach went undetected by beach sentries and became known only when a clamorous babble signalled the opening of the Japanese attack. This alert resulted in an immediate response from the Marines; they opened up immediately at the overcrowded barges with fire from machine guns and mortars, previously sited to cover the reef. A combination of burning barges, flares, and tracers soon gave the battle scene an infernal glow. This illumination over the reef
revealed Japanese heads bobbing in the water and provided the Marine riflemen and machine gunners with targets which they raked unmercifully, blunting the raid.71 The 1st Marines commander immediately reinforced the threatened area, and LVT(A)s from the 3d Armored Amphibian Battalion took up Mocking positions on the reef above Kuwan.
By 0245, those survivors of the ill-fated landing attempts who had gained the beach were being pounded steadily by all available weapons. Despite the immediate Marine reaction to the attempted Japanese envelopment from the sea, some enemy troops managed to infiltrate to the rear of 1/1 before the fighting began on the beach. These raiders were engaged by Company F, 2/1, in an intense fire fight, which ended with 75 enemy dead lying where they had fallen around the Marine positions.72
Because he was left with but one rifle company as his regimental reserve, Colonel Chappell requested the attachment of a 7th Marines battalion to his regiment. Division approved the request and ordered 2/7 to move south to report to 1/1 for orders. Preceding the rest of his battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Berger and his staff arrived at the 1/1 CP at 0500 to find all in order and the Japanese threat contained. With the exception of scattered enemy remnants holed up in Kuwan, most of the 300-400 Japanese who had attempted the landing were dead, and were seen either lying on the beach or floating aimlessly in the water amidst the flotsam of the early-morning battle. Lieutenant Colonel Berger's battalion, assigned to mop up the countermanding area, began relieving the right flank elements of 1/1 at 0645 so that the 1st Battalion could continue the attack to the south.73
Other enemy landings were attempted before dawn behind 1st Division lines farther up the west coast. Most of these Japanese efforts were doomed to failure either when the combined fire of naval vessels, LVT(A)s, infantry, and service troops caught the boats in the water or when, by light of day, the few Japanese able to reach shore were hunted down and killed. An estimated 65 enemy landed near Isa in the vicinity of the division CP; some who hid in the cane fields survived until dawn, only to be tracked down by 1st Reconnaissance Company scouts accompanied by war dogs and their handlers.
On the east coast, the countermanding met with the same lack of success, for the "flycatchers" and 7th Division troops cut the shipping engineers to pieces, killing an estimated 400.74 Thus, the Thirty-second Army gambit failed; there was little indication that the rest of Ushijima's counterattack plan could be fulfilled.
Japanese artillery fire continued through the night of 3-4 May, reaching a deafening thunder at 0430, when a half-hour cannonade was fired in preparation for the 24th Division attack. Added to the bursting fragments of the high-caliber shells were those of many
thousands of mortar projectiles which fell on the frontlines when the attackers attempted to breach XXIV Corps defenses. The Japanese assault units suffered heavily as they moved through their own fire to gain the American lines. The attack was blunted, however, under a blanket of steel laid down by naval gunfire, air, and 16 battalions of divisional artillery, backed up by 12 battalions of 155mm guns and 155mm and 8-inch howitzers from XXIV Corps artillery.
Beginning at daybreak, the first of 134 planes to fly support for XXIV Corps made its initial bombing run. By 1900, 77 tons of bombs, 450 rockets, and 22,000 rounds of machine gun and cannon ammunition had been expended on Japanese troop concentrations and artillery positions.75 Even in the face of the Kamikaze attacks, gunfire support vessels, from battleships to patrol and landing craft, ranged the coastal waters delivering observed and called fires on enemy targets.76
The heavy smoke that Thirty-second Army had ordered laid on American lines obscured from the Shuri heights the enemy's view of the progress of the battle. Despite the fact that it was a bald-faced lie, good news, telling of "the success of the offensive carried out by the 24th Division,"77 poured into the army command post at the opening of the attack.
The initial impetus of the attack on the Tenth Army left flank by the 89th Regiment was blunted by 7th Division troops, who had begun mopping up isolated pockets by noon. In the center, the 22d Regiment, unable to maintain attack momentum by following up what were to have been "successful" advances by right flank units, spent the day locked in a violent fire fight with 7th Division infantry in the Kochi-Onaga region.
The major drive of the 24th Division, mounted by the 32d Regiment, was towards the Urasoe-Mura escarpment, where the 44th IMB was to exploit and pour through the break it made to hit the rear of the 1st Marine Division. A day-long series of enemy attacks in strength all along the line fell far short of General Ushijima's goals, and darkness found Tenth Army units still in firm control of the escarpment. An inescapable conclusion was that the Japanese push had failed. Not only had XXIV Corps troops securely retained their original positions, but in some cases, even in the face of withering enemy fire and stubborn Japanese resistance, the Americans had attacked and captured some enemy territory.
The 1st Marine Division attack on 4 May was delayed twice, from 0800 to 0900 and then to 1000, owing to the need for its units to be reorganized and resupplied. As soon as the assault battalions of the 1st and 5th Marines resumed their advance, heavy and well-placed fire from the 62d Division pinned down the left flank company of 1/1 east
of Jichaku, and caused heavy casualties. The left flank of 3/1 received machine gun fire from both its front and from its flanks, and was unable to advance. By 1700, however, except for a short stretch of enemy territory extending from the gap in the left center of 3/1 lines to the eastern edge of Jichaku, the leading elements of the 1st Marines were only a few hundred yards away from the final regimental objective, the north bank of the Asa Kawa. In midafternoon, division attached 3/7 to the 5th Marines, and Colonel Griebel moved the battalion into blocking positions behind his 3d Battalion.
As darkness fell on the evening of 4 May, its gloom was no greater than that already pervading Thirty-second Army headquarters. As the shambles of the thwarted counterattack were surveyed by the staff, it was quite apparent that the effort was a failure. The commander of the 24th Division, General Amamiya, nonetheless, ordered the 32d Regiment to try again after dark what it had failed to accomplish earlier that day. Following an extremely heavy artillery and mortar barrage, the regiment hit the frontlines of the 77th Division at 0200 on 5 May in an attempt to penetrate the 306th Infantry positions. Despite the blunting of its initial attack by American artillery, the 32d returned at dawn, this time with armored support. The assaulting force received the same reception it had been given earlier; six tanks were destroyed and the remnants of the regiment forced to withdraw. In the course of these attacks, 3/32 had suffered crippling casualties and the 1st and 2d Battalions of the regiment had been wiped out.78
The survivors of the several counterattacks were hunted down by Tenth Army troops at the same time the frontline divisions consolidated their positions and prepared to resume the advance. Only in the 1st Marine Division zone was the pattern of enemy opposition consistent with that occurring before the counterattack of the 4th. Desperation arising from the failure of the major 24th Division effort further spurred the shaken troops of the 62d Division to make a more steadfast stand against Marine advances. Japanese strength was concentrated on the left of the 1st Division zone, where last-ditch attempts were made to guard the vital western approaches to Shuri. Attacking platoons were hit from all sides by fire emanating from caves, pillboxes, and fortified tombs.
Overcoming this opposition with difficulty, General del Valle's troops made substantial gains during the day. On the left flank, the 5th Marines registered encouraging progress, advancing up to 600 yards in some parts of its zone. Following close behind the 1st Marines, the 7th filled the gap on the right flank which resulted from the eastward swing of the division. In the course of the day's action, the 1st Marine Division succeeded in reaching the Asa Kawa; and by evening, frontline units began digging in on the commanding ground overlooking the river line,
awaiting new enemy counterattacks which never materialized.
Casualty figures following these two days of battle revealed that the 7th and 77th Divisions, which had felt the full fury of the counterattack, lost a total of 714 soldiers killed, wounded, and missing in action.79 The 1st Marine Division, which had continued its southerly drive in the same period, suffered corresponding losses totalling 649 Marines.80 Reflecting the fury with which the enemy had fought and the punishment that he had sustained, the Japanese losses were at least 6,227 men,81 all dead and almost all of them irreplaceable veteran infantry troops.
Checked by the tremendous firepower of the Tenth Army, each Japanese division in the attack had been chopped down to approximately 20 or 25 percent of its original strength, and enemy artillery strength was halved. In addition to these losses, Ushijima lost 59 artillery pieces destroyed in American air-naval gunfire-artillery bombardments. As a result, never again in the Okinawa campaign did Tenth Army troops receive such intensively destructive Japanese artillery fire as that which had preceded the doomed enemy counterattacks. The net result of this two-day Japanese effort was that the Thirty-second Army was compelled to abandon the offensive on the evening of the 5th and to return to its old positions.82
In the end, the decisive defeat of the Japanese counterattack bore out the dire predictions of Colonel Yahara. The senior operations officer also won a tearful promise from his army commander that his, Yahara's, counsel would be followed in the future. The defensive pattern then in effect in the 62d Division zone was to be duplicated across the entire army front. Additionally, the 24th Division and the 5th Artillery Command were to reorganize; their tactics would be revised to consist of holding actions in previously prepared and strongly fortified positions. This revision would force the Americans to advance in the face of withering fire, gaining little. The final judgment on the worth of the Japanese counterattack was given by its strongest proponent, General Cho. "After this ill-starred action, " Ushijima's chief of staff was reported by a reliable observer as having "abandoned all hope of a successful outcome of the operation and declared that only time intervened between defeat and the 32d Army."83
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (II-5) * Next Chapter (II-7)
1. Unless otherwise noted, the material in this section is derived from: Tenth Army AR; XXIV Corps AR; XXIV Corps Arty AR; 7th InfDiv AR; 97th InfDiv OpRpt; 96th InfDiv AR.
2. Okinawa Operations Record, p. 72.
4. IIIAC Arty AR, pp. 20-21.
5. Okinawa Operations Record, pp. 70-76.
6. 11th Mar SAR, n.p. The 11th Marines commander noted later that When his 105mm battalions joined the Army divisions: "The two Division Artillery Commanding Generals . . . did not want the 75mm Pack Howitzer Battalion. The Army had very little respect for 75s then. . . ." Shortly after the 11th displaced to the south, Colonel Brown "again asked Brigadier General [Robert G.] Gard of the 96th Division Artillery to use 1/11. Then, as happened throughout the campaign, there was a surplus of 75mm ammunition, and Brigadier General Gard was finally convinced that the Battalion would be valuable for harassing and interdiction fires, thus saving on his scarce 105mm ammunition." After 1/11 finally went south, Colonel Brown joined the staff of General Sheetz as liaison officer and remained there until 20 April, when his battalions reverted to his command. MajGen Wilburt S. Brown Itr to CMC, dtd 26Feb55, hereafter Brown ltr II.
7. Tenth Army G-2 Rpt Nos. 18-20, dtd 13-15Apr45.
8. Okinawa Operations Record, p. 82.
10. Tenth Army G-2 Rpt No. 10, dtd 14Apr45.
11. IIIAC G-2 Rpt No. 38, JOB Suppl, dtd 9May45.
12. "Organization of the 12th IIB, dtd 12Apr45," in 1st MarDiv G-2 PeriodicRpt No. 37, dtd 8May45, Trans No. 46.
13. JOB Sum for 8-14Apr45, in Tenth Army G-2 Rpt No. 22, dtd 17Apr45.
14. For amplification of this artillery ammunition shortage, see section entitled "Logistical Progress" in chap 7, infra.
15. Smith, Personal Narrative, p. 95. Time on target is an artillery technique in which several units fire on the same target and so time their fire that all projectiles hit the target simultaneously. The point here is not that five battalions firing one volley will expend more ammunition than one battalion firing five volleys,but that the five-battalion TOT is much more effective. BGen Frederick P. Henderson ltr to Asst G-3, HQMC, dtd 280ct65, hereafter Henderson ltr 1965.
16. XXIV Corps Arty AR, Anx C, enc 2, p. 4.
17. CTF 51 AR, pt V, sec C, pp. 39-42.
18. Henderson ltr.
19. Gen Vernon E. Megee ltr to Asst G-3, HQMC, dtd 19Oct65.
20. "(62d Div Battle Lessons, Priority Dispatch No 19, dtd 20Apr45," in CinCPac-CinCPOA Bul 212-45, Translations and Interrogations No. 39, dtd 30Aug45, pp. 47-49.
21. Tenth Army G-2 Rpt No. 30, dtd 25Apr45.
22. Brown ltr II.
24. Ibid. General Brown added that "the 11th Marines used well over 1,000 miles of wire from April 29th to June 22d, having as a peak as much as 262 miles in operation at one time."
25. Smith, Personal Narrative, p. 88.
27. Ibid,; IIIAC G-3 Jnl, 1Apr-30Jun45, 22Apr45 entry, hereafter IIIAC G-3 Jnl with date of entry cited.
28. IIIAC AR, p. 4.
29. Alexander A. Vandegrift and Robert B. Asprey, Once a Marine (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1964), p. 290, hereafter Vandegrift and Asprey, Once A Marine.
30. Of this assault, the FMFPac commander informed the Commandant of the Marine Corps that it was his "opinion that the target is unnecessary--practically in a [Japanese] rear area and its capture will cost more than Iwo Jima." LtGen Holland M. Smith ltr to CMC, dtd 27Mar45 (Vandegrift Personal Correspondence File, HistBr, HQMC).
31. 1stMarDiv G-3 Jnl, 27Apr45.
32. IIIAC AR, p. 44.
33. Unless otherwise indicated, the material in this section is derived from: Tenth Army AR; XXIV Corps AR; TAF AR; TAF PeriodicRpts, Apr-May45; ADC Daily IntelSums, Apr-May45; 1st MarDiv SAR; 7th InfDiv AR; 27th InfDiv OpRpt; 77th InfDiv OpRpt, Okinawa; 96th InfDiv, AR; 1st Mar SAR; 5th Mar SAR, 22 Apr-23Jun45, n.d., hereafter 5th Mar SAR; 7th Mar SAR.
34. Okinawa Operations Record, p. 91.
35. 1st Bn, 1st Mar SAR, 23 Feb-21Jun45, n.d., p. 3, hereafter 1/1 SAR.
36. 3d Bn, 1st Mar SAR, Phase I and II of the Nansei Shoto Operations, dtd 10Ju145, p. 9, hereafter 3/1 SAR.
37. "On 29 April, Headquarters, 11th Marines assumed command of its scattered battalions in the zone of and reinforcing the 27th Division, the two battalions with the 7th and 96th Divisions displacing into that area. All four battalions of the 11th Marines were commended by the Army divisions with which they served." Brown ltr II, copies of commendations appended.
38. One battalion, the 249th Field Artillery, accompanied the 27th Division when it went north and furnished support during infantry mop-up activities. This unit returned south on 29 May to reinforce the fires of IIIAC Artillery.
39. 2d Bn, 5th Mar SAR, Okinawa, 1Apr-22Jun45, n.d., pp. 2-3, hereafter 2/5 SAR.
40. 1st MarDiv G-3 Jnl, 1May45.
42. Okinawa Operations Record, p. 97.
43. 1st TkBn Summaries of Tank Action, 15Apr-23Jun45, hereafter 1st TkBn Sum, with dates of action. According to the 3/1 SAR, p. 10, the tanks supporting this action were Army mediums, but the 1st Tank Battalion lists them as belonging to its own Company A. The flame tanks came from Company B, 713th Tank Battalion, which was attached first to the 1st Marine Division and later to IIIAC. This battalion was one of the first Army armored units to be equipped with and trained in the use of an improved tank-mounted flame thrower, which replaced the 75mm gun in the medium tank. Appleman, et. al., Okinawa Battle, p. 256.
44. LtCol Martin C. Roth ltr to CMC, dtd 18Mar55.
45. 3/11 SAR, p. 13.
46. Because both Companies B and C were badly shot up on the previous day, Company F was attached to 1/1 prior to the redirected attack that had begun at 1630 on 2 May.
47. This team removed all mines in the road until it came to a spot where a shell crater, flanked by rice paddies, would effectively block tank traffic. Upon returning to its lines, the troops were nearly cut off by a large enemy unit that had attempted to work its way around the rear of the patrol. After a brisk fire fight in which there were some Marine casualties, the patrol regained its lines. 1st Mar SAR, p. 10.
48. CG, XXIV Corps ltr to CGAFPOA, dtd 17Apr45, quoted in Appleman et.al., Okinawa Battle, p. 185.
49. Unless otherwise noted, the material in this section is derived from: Tenth Army AR; XXIV Corps AR; 1st MarDiv SAR; 7th InfDiv AR; 77th InfDiv OpRpt, Okinawa; 1st Mar SAR; 5th Mar SAR; Okinawa Operations Record; IntelMono; Shimada Interrogation; Yahara Interrogation; Hayashi and Coox, Kaigun.
50. Okinawa Operations Record, 92-93.
51. Okinawa Operations Record, pp. 76-77.
52. Mistakenly, the Japanese believed that Tenth Army headquarters was located at Futema; actually, this is where the 96th Division CP was sited.
53. Hayashi, Kaigun, p. 142.
54. "POW Interrogation No. 38, Superior Pvt, Hq, 2d Co., 26th ShpgEngrRegt (CO's orderly)," in 1st MarDiv G-2 Periodic Rpt No. 39, dtd 10 May45.
55. Tenth Army G-2 Rpt Nos. 33 and 39, dtd 28Apr and 4May45 respectively.
56. Yahara Interrogation.
57. Fifth AifFlt Hist, p. 68.
59. CTF 51 AR, pt III, pp. 75-76; TAF pilots downed 3 planes to bring their claimed total to 1451/4 kills. TAF Periodic Rpt No. 4, 3May45.
60. Hattori, op. cit., table facing p. 132.
61. CTF 51 AR, pt III, pp. 75-76.
62. Tenth Army G-2 PeriodicRpt No. 40, dtd 5May45.
63. Fifth, AirFlt Hist, p, 72. Japanese use of "window" enabled many of their night sorties to reach Okinawa relatively unscathed.
64. CTF 51 AR, pt 111, pp. 77-79; pt V, sec H, pp. 7-10.
65. For a closer view of the radar pickets' sufferings, see Morison, Victory in the Pacific, pp. 251-256.
66. TAF PeriodicRpt No. 5, 4May45.
67. The supporting force assigned craft nightly to a anti-small boat screen. The heavier fire support ships were designated to control the screen, to illuminate points of activity on request, and to harass suspected boat locations. These ships were nicknamed "flycatchers" as the result of their success one night following Admiral Turner's admonition to "be particularly alert as this looks like a fine night to catch flies." CTF 51 AR, pt V, sec C, pp. 6, 16.
68. 3d ArmdAmphBn SAR, Nansei Shoto Operation, dtd 1Ju145,pp. 12-13.
69. 1st MarDiv G-3 Jnl, 4May45.
70. "POW Interrogation No. 38, Superior Pvt, Hq, 2d Co, 26th ShpgEngRegt," op. cit.
71. 1/1 SAR, p. 8.
72. 2d Bn, 1st Mar Narrative Rpt-ICEBERG, 23 Feb-22Jun45, n.d., p. 4, hereafter 2/1 SAR.
73. 2d Bn, 7th Mar SAR, 2May-22Jun45, dtd 2Jul45, p, 4, hereafter 2/7 SAR.
74. Tenth Army POW Interrogation Rpt No. 10, Sgt Hiroshi Tamae, Hq, 23d ShpgEngRegt.
75. XXIV Corps Arty AR, p. 8; Anx C, encl No. 2, p. 8.
76. CTF 51 AR, pt V, sec C, p. 53.
77. Okinawa Operations Record, p. 98. Students of the Pacific War will note that, in general, Japanese battle commanders consistently were unable or refused to report their failures or the prospect of an imminent defeat until long after these were all but accomplished facts.
78. Okinawa Operations Record, "Record of the 24th Division," pp. 174, 177, states: "The 2d Battalion was completely enveloped by the enemy and its escape became impossible."
79. Appleman, et. al., Okinawa Battle, p. 302.
80. 1st MarDiv WarD, May45.
81. This is the number of enemy dead that was counted in front of XXIV Corps lines. It may be considered a minimum figure, since the Japanese undoubtedly evacuated some of their dead and some of the wounded who died later.
82. Hayashi and Coox, Kaigun, pp. 142-143.
83. Shimada Interrogation.