Okinawa and Four Stars
Joint Amphibious Warfare Committee
In trying to locate some of the important background documents concerning materiel phases of amphibious warfare, particularly during 1944 and 1945, when materiel advances were substantial, it was something of a shock to learn that the records of the Joint Amphibious Warfare Committee were not available in the files of COMINCH or CNO, or elsewhere, not having been located since World War II.1
The Joint Amphibious Warfare Committee was organized in early October 1943, after several memorandums were exchanged between General Marshall and Admiral King, upon the initiative of the latter.
Admiral King said in his memorandum of 20 September 1943:
Our war experience has continually demonstrated the manifold problems in amphibious warfare that must be constantly handled. The analyses of the various amphibious operations that we have undertaken have brought to light many deficiencies which we must seek to remedy for future operations. Some of these deficiencies pertain specifically to the Army, some to the Navy, but a large portion of them are of a Joint character and should be Jointly recognized and Jointly remedied.2
The charter for the committee directed it to coordinate the large volume of ideas and suggestions for new types of amphibious equipment being received from field commanders of the Services, and to reduce these ideas and suggestions to definite requirements which could be turned over to the National Defense Research Committee, the research adjuncts of the War and Navy Departments, as well as to various commands working in the area of operational developments. The Committee, when it was established, considered equipment and devices which were generated anywhere in the Armed Forces, determined whether they were applicable to amphibious
warfare, and formulated amphibious combat requirements for those which were applicable.
In its charter, the Committee also was directed: (1) to study amphibious operations, (2) to make technical plans and (3) to follow up Joint amphibious operations and see that operating plans were implemented, including the training necessary for them.
During the formation period of this Committee, Vice Admiral Edwards who became the Deputy to the Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, recommended this not be a new unit under the Joint Chiefs of Staff organization and Admiral King penciled "yes" on the memorandum.3
The first meeting of the Joint Amphibious Warfare Committee was held on 11 October 1943. Brigadier General Hull (later General, USA) and Rear Admiral Richard L. Conolly (later Admiral, U.S. Navy), as the senior representatives present of the Army and Navy, got the Committee off on the right foot.
The Committee had permanent naval representation from COMINCH Headquarters, the Marine Corps, from Naval Operations, and Army and Army Air Force representation from the War Department General Staff and from the technical branches of the Army.
In November 1943, Captain I.N. Kiland, who had started in amphibious warfare at Guadalcanal, was the senior permanent Naval member of this committee. Captain H. W. Need and Captain J.H. Doyle (both tested amphibians) were his principal naval assistants.
In April 1944, the Joint Amphibious Warfare Committee was given jurisdiction over amphibious projects arising from or assigned to the Joint Experimental and Testing Board.4
Despite the fact that the Joint Amphibious Warfare Committee is not either referenced or mentioned in Rear Admiral Furer's very excellent book Administration of the Navy Department in World War II, the work of the Committee was important not only in the technical sense, but also in the broad operational field of amphibious warfare.
Ingredients of Amphibious Success
There were many ingredients in the successes achieved by Admiral Kelly
Turner in the amphibious campaigns in the Pacific. In listing these in 1961, Admiral Turner thought the principal and most important ingredient was people, but in his opinion there were other essential ingredients.5 Two of these other ingredients mentioned by him at that time were organization and close air support.
It is obvious that the principal task in war is fighting. There is also an auxiliary task which makes successful fighting possible, but whose requirements make adequate concentration on the principal task difficult. This is administration.
When Rear Admiral Turner started out in the South Pacific Force, he was vested with both operational and administrative command of the forces assigned regularly to the Amphibious Forces, South Pacific Force. In his order announcing assumption of command, he delegated the administrative duties to his three principal subordinates.
When shifting to the Central Pacific Area, an organizational system was established whereby all the major subdivisions of the Amphibious Force were assigned to the Amphibious Force Administrative Command for administration at all times. In addition, operational control was held by the Administrative Command between campaigns and until the amphibious ships were gathered together just prior to the rehearsal exercise at the start of a campaign. Then, throughout the rehearsal and the amphibious operation, operational control was held by Commander Amphibious Forces, Fifth Fleet or by Commander Amphibious Forces, Pacific Fleet, the two offices occupied by Admiral Turner in 1943, 1944, and 1945.
In this way, Richmond Kelly Turner and his staff were freed of a great deal of essential administrative and rear area operational handling, and able to concentrate on fighting.
Before shoving off for Iwo Jima, and in reply to a personal letter of 20 January 1945, from the right-hand man to Vice Admiral Randall Jacobs,
Chief of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Vice Admiral Turner got off a long four-page letter to Rear Admiral Denfeld.
Besides taking the basic position that, during the war, he was opposed to the shift of officers in command of units merely for the sake of rotation to shore duty, Vice Admiral Turner offered Rear Admiral Denfeld opinions and advice in regard to the top people under him who were making the amphibious campaigns a success.
There are only a few of that unusual brand of men and naval officers who have the threefold characteristics which mark them as great operational wartime leaders. These are: (1) basic capability to fight well; (2) the stamina to thrive on fighting; and (3) the courage and willingness to stay with the fight, improving as they learn. Richmond Kelly Turner was never able to accommodate himself to the Bureau of Personnel wartime policy that was quite sound for some 98 percent of the Navy. This policy provided that officers be rotated yearly between sea and shore duty, so that the Shore Establishment would be in step with the requirements of the Fleet and the Fleet would be manned by officers who were not exhausted from their war efforts.
The only three senior naval officers who were in the amphibious game in the Pacific before Rear Admiral Turner joined it in June 1942, who had started the long war in an amphibious command and stayed with the Amphibious Forces afloat and fought through assault landing after assault landing in the broad Pacific were (with ranks at the end of the war):
Rear Admiral L.F. Reifsnider
Commodore P.S. Theiss
Commodore H.B. Knowles
Several other senior officers had joined the Turner Pacific amphibious team during the bitter months of 1942 or before Tarawa and stayed with it until Japan surrendered. These included (again with rank at end of war):
Vice Admiral T.S. Wilkinson
Vice Admiral H.W. Hill
Commodore D.M. Loomis
Commodore H.C. Flanagan
Commodore John B. McGovern
In regard to the sending to shore duty of some of the senior amphibians, Vice Admiral Turner wrote as follows:
Knowles is our best Squadron Commander, and I certainly cannot afford to
lose him at this time--or ever, as far as that goes. I hope to get two stars for him before he leaves (if ever) as he deserves them, if anyone does.
* * * * *
McGovern is the next best Transron Commander to Knowles. He has been a Transron Commander for only three months, and is most desirous of staying. I cannot afford to lose him now or at any time.6
It is noted here for the record that despite repeated favorable letters from Rear Admiral and Vice Admiral Turner, Commodore Knowles' promotion to rear admiral was not achieved during the war.
Air Support for Amphibious Operations
Speaking of air support for amphibious operations Admiral Turner in 1961 recalled:
Vice Admiral Turner with two hard-working assistants,
Captain Richard P. Whitehead and Commodore Paul S. Theiss, April 1945. (Turner Collection.)
When Whitehead arrived, proper air support for an amphibious operation was a difficult theory. When he left, it was a difficult but accomplished fact.7
In mid-April 1945, Captain Richard F. Whitehead whom Admiral Turner thought had done so much to develop air support and control for amphibious landings was relieved by Rear Admiral Alfred M. Pride as Commander Air Support Control Units of the Pacific Fleet.
The theory mentioned by Admiral Turner was to coordinate and control the air support to be rendered by all air units of all Services within the immediate area of the amphibious landing. The problem was manifold, but several major troublesome aspects included problems of communication and coordination, the latter arising from the ever-present reluctance of aviators of all Services to place their aircraft under the direct command or control of other arms of their own Service, or of non-aviation commands or commanders. This reluctance arose from a creed which was a baffling combination of widely divergent, but strongly held views, on the use of air power mixed in with a need of naval aviators (with their eyes on their professional futures) not to lose their close aviation ties by doing duty in a command that was preponderantly non-aviation in purpose and in deed. Their creed was frosted by a genuine desire of the aviators that their risky and difficult operations should fully exploit the capabilities of the aviation weapon.
One story relating to air support told to me by three different people concerned the then Captain Richard P. Whitehead (now Vice Admiral, Retired) who was Commander Air Support Control Units in the Amphibious Forces, Pacific Fleet, for the Iwo Jima and Okinawa campaigns and who held the same very important job, with a somewhat different title, when controlling air support for Kelly Turner during the Marshall and Marianas campaigns.
Captain Whitehead had a bit of a rough time during his early working with the Admiral, but in due time, after some real knock-down drag-out arguments, Kelly Turner became very fond of him.
After one such long drawn out argument, the Admiral told the Captain:
You have got to stop pushing me around.
Captain Whitehead is reported to have replied:
I will, if you will put in my next fitness report that you asked me to stop pushing you around.8
1944 Planning for the Defeat of Japan
Fleet Admiral King, Fleet Admiral Leahy, and Fleet Admiral Nimitz all have left documentary evidence that, commencing in late 1944, each believed the defeat of Japan could be accomplished by sea and air power alone, and that an invasion of Japan by ground troops was unnecessary. For example, Fleet Admiral King wrote:
Upon Marshall's insistence, which also reflected MacArthur's views, the Joint Chiefs had prepared plans for landings in Kyushu and eventually in the Tokyo plain. King and Leahy did not like the idea, but as unanimous decisions were necessary in the Joint Chiefs meetings, they reluctantly acquiesced, feeling that in the end sea power would accomplish the defeat of Japan, as proved to be the case.9
Without knowing the background thinking which brought these three extremely capable war leaders to their similar conclusion, perhaps they reasoned along the following lines which are contained in Outline Plan FARRAGUT found in COMINCH files and dated 20 June 1944:
Certain fears must now torment Japan's rulers with growing intensity as our forces close in on her:
1. She lacks developed resources for a concentrated struggle with our nation and, with growing realization, she is reminded that she has never before fought a first-class power.
2. Afflicted with delusions of world conquest, abetted by an alliance of circumstances with Germany, she finds the early belief that success would be swift and easy, a fatal mirage.
3. Never before invaded, she faces a threat of humiliation before the world in that approaching prospect.
4. Lacking also the resources for rapid reconstruction, she faces a severe test of the morale of her people as the scale of destruction steadily increases.
Forgotten by Italy and deserted by Germany, the remaining nation of the disintegrated axis can achieve nothing by waging war beyond the point of invasion.
Despite an underlying disbelief in its necessity, these three naval officers at the top of the naval hierarchy all vigorously participated in planning and preparation for an effective amphibious assault on the Japanese homeland.
On 30 June 1944, the Joint Staff Planning Committee presented to the Joint Chiefs of Staff a weighty paper titled "Operations Against Japan Subsequent to Formosa." This was their answer to a directive from the Joint
Distance chart, Ryukyu Islands and Eastern China.
Chiefs to consider the strategy of the war in Asia and to combine it with a new plan for the defeat of Japan.10
The title of the JPS paper is significant because it indicates that on 30 June 1944, Formosa was definitely on the time-table of the Joint Chiefs. The paper itself was significant since it established that our concept of future operations included:
Concurrent advances through the Ryukyus, Bonins and Southeast China Coast for the purpose of intensifying the blockade and air bombardment of Japan, and creating a favorable situation for:
An amphibious assault on Kyushu for the purpose of further reducing Japanese capabilities by engaging and fixing major enemy forces and establishing a tactical condition favorable to:
A decisive stroke against the industrial heart of Japan by means of an amphibious attack through the Tokyo plain assisted by continued pressure from Kyushu.
In this JCS approved paper, the assault on Kyushu was scheduled for 1 October 1945, and the assault on the Tokyo Plain at the end of December 1945.11 The Combined Chiefs of Staff noted formal approval of this paper on 11 September 1944.
The vagaries of Chinese resistance to the Japanese forces in China were a constantly changing factor in the question as to whether United States amphibious assault forces should land on the mainland of China. In late 1944 or early 1945, Japanese troops drove further into Central China and closer to Chungking, since 1937 the wartime capital of China, and in 1944 a major airbase for United States Army Air Force contingents in China. As this Japanese advance went on and on, some military planners swung to the view that the establishment of United States forces in the coastal area of China was essential in order to provide massive logistic support for the Chinese armies.
The much later decision not to assault Formosa, or at least to hold that assault in abeyance, did not kill planning for the East Coast of China venture. And this "Move into China" talk influenced the assigned mission of the Expeditionary Force which had the immediate chore of assaulting Okinawa, since they were told that this seizure was to be undertaken in order:
To support further operations in the regions bordering on the East China Sea.12
Okinawa or Hokkaido or Both?
The Ryukyus, a good step away to the southwest from Kyushu, were a backdoor approach toward the center of the Japanese Empire. The much larger island of Hokkaido, just a short step away to the north from the main Japanese island of Honshu, was a side door approach to Japan from the Aleutians.
In order to provide adequate air bases from which to conduct land-based air attacks on Honshu, there was much sentiment among the JCS planners in October and November 1944, to make two simultaneous steps forward and to take Hokkaido at the same time as Okinawa in the Ryukyus.
However, making two assaults at or about the same time would require that our Pacific Ocean naval forces be split into about equal parts each of which would be a bit inadequate for its appointed task. The easily predictable bad weather around Hokkaido in April made an assault during that month most hazardous from the seaman's point of view. These overpowering reasons, combined with a real lack of adequate ship and craft amphibious resources and some tightness in troop supply, argued against this double-barreled approach to Japan. As the fresh year of 1945 came on the scene, a broader appreciation of the above reasons and of Japanese defensive capabilities caused plans to assault Okinawa and Hokkaido at the same time to be dropped and the available resources to be assigned only to the Okinawa assault.13
There were those who were opposed to assaulting Hokkaido, but who thought that the requirements for additional air bases to soften up Honshu and Kyushu would necessitate:
the seizure of areas on the Chinese mainland opposite the southern tip of Kyushu, i.e., the Ningpo area (south of Shanghai)
areas in the Shantung Peninsula of northeastern China, opposite the Tokyo Plain; and perhaps
areas in Korea.
Since the utilization of some 16,000 planes was being proposed for the invasion of Southern Japan, it was obvious that airfields by the half-dozen lot
would be required if the figure of 16,000 planes had any reality. These beliefs led to the planning for LONG TOM.14
When departing for Okinawa, a major planning operation was simmering on the PHIBSPAC back burner. It was called LONG TOM. Received from CINCPAC by COMPHIBSPAC on 12 March 1945, with its Dog Day set for 15 August 1945, LONG TOM promised to be an operational headache. It proposed the landing of a very large amphibious assault force (six divisions) in the Chusan-Ningpo area on the east coast of China. Chusan was an archipelago of about 100 islands in the East China Sea at the entrance to Hangchow Bay.
COMPHIBSPAC pointed out to CINCPAC that LONG TOM involved great difficulty from the seaman's point of view:
Many of the channels are narrow and crooked. The currents are strong and erratic; the water is muddy over a large portion of the area; visibility is frequently low; and the existing charts cannot be relied on for close-in detail.15
Fortunately LONG TOM died on the planning vine.
The operation for assaulting the Ryukyus was known as ICEBERG. It included the main assault on Okinawa initially planned for 1 March 1945, and subsequent assaults on subsidiary islands, of which the first was planned to be on Ie Shima off the Motobu Peninsula of Okinawa on Dog Day plus 30.
On 25 October 1944, CINCPOA's Joint Staff issued its study of ICEBERG. It was not until 9 November 1944, that Vice Admiral Turner issued to his staff his personal guideline memorandum for ICEBERG.
ICEBERG introduced a new element into the planning chores of Vice Admiral Turner and his staff. This was the necessity of planning two major
operations (ICEBERG and DETACHMENT) at the same time with two different Expeditionary Troop Commanders. As has been told, Lieutenant General Holland M. Smith, USMC, commanded the Expeditionary Troops for DETACHMENT (Iwo Jima) and although working with him did not guarantee a fair breeze and calm seas, the relationship was based on proven competence displayed over more than twelve months of successful hard campaigning.
For ICEBERG, Lieutenant General Simon B. Buckner, Jr., Commanding General Tenth Army, was Commander Expeditionary Troops. ICEBERG was even larger than DETACHMENT, where preparations had to be made to land a corps. ICEBERG was the only amphibious assault operation launched from the Central Pacific Ocean Area which involved the landing of a Field Army (two or more corps with auxiliary troops).
In effect, during November and December of 1944, and January of 1945, the planners on PHIBSPAC Staff were riding two horses at full gallop around the planning track, one of which was not fully trained in the Kelly Turner style of amphibious teamwork.
For ICEBERG, CINCPOA modified his previous order referring to command relationships between the Expeditionary Force Commander and the Expeditionary Troop Commander, rationalizing that:
The operations which involve the establishment of the forces of the Pacific Ocean Areas in the Ryukyus differ from previous operations in the Central Pacific campaign, in that, although initially they will be amphibious in nature, they will involve the use of a Field Army in one or more large islands for a considerable period. Also the positions to be occupied are so close to major enemy bases that active combat conditions will continue for an extended period. . . .16
The new order provided that General Buckner, under Admiral Spruance' s command, would have responsibility for the development and defense of Okinawa as soon as the amphibious phases of the operations were completed and he was in command ashore. Previously, this responsibility had remained
with the amphibious commanders until the troop operations ashore had secured the objective. The new arrangement provided that final responsibility for the defense and development of the Ryukyus would pass to General Buckner acting directly under Fleet Admiral Nimitz, when the situation warranted.
The proposed change in "command relationships," made available to him in advance of promulgation, did not please Admiral Spruance, who addressed a memorandum on the subject to the Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas on 27 October 1944. The punch line in this page and a half communication was:
I believe the most satisfactory command relationship would be the one already used heretofore in the Central Pacific campaign and now generally understood by All Hands.
This memorandum from Admiral Spruance was circulated in the top echelons of the CINCPOA Staff on the 28th, 29th, and 30th of October 1944. It encountered heavy going, indicated by the following note on it from the Plans Officer, the fourth officer down on the routing slip: "Rec'd December Tenth." This was nineteen days after Fleet Admiral Nimitz's order on the " command relationship's" subject had been issued way back on 21 November 1944, contrary to the form desired or recommended by Admiral Spruance.
Subordinate commands in the Pacific Fleet were directed to undertake their planning for the assault on Okinawa based on the following assumptions:
that Iwo Jima had been seized at a sufficiently early date to permit the gun support and air support units to participate in the assault on Okinawa.
that we would maintain continuing control of the air in the objective area.
that assault shipping and supporting naval forces would have been released from the Luzon operations.17
All the assumptions turned out to be reasonably sound, the additional six weeks separating the Okinawa and Iwo Jima operations even permitting most
of the ships, damaged by kamikazes in the Luzon operations of General MacArthur, to be repaired and returned to battle duty.
The Ryukyu Island chain stretches almost 800 miles between the Japanese homeland and Formosa (now called Taiwan). Okinawa, covering 465 square miles, is the only really large island in the Ryukyu Island chain. It is 60 miles long and in the center of the chain which separates the East China Sea from the Central Pacific Ocean Areas.
Okinawa is 750 miles north of Manila, 900 miles north from Leyte Gulf, 1,200 miles northwest from Ulithi, and a long 3,300 miles from Espiritu Santo where the Expeditionary Troop Reserve was to be mounted. The island is located about 350 miles and a bit east of north from Taipei, Formosa and southeast roughly 450 miles from Shanghai.
The important fact to be remembered is that Okinawa lay only 350 miles south of airfields on Kyushu, which put it within range of planes available not only on Kyushu but, after refueling, of any of the other home airfields of Japan.
From the viewpoint of our planners, Okinawa and some of the smaller islands in the Ryukyu chain were suitable for the development of large and numerous air bases to support our planned attack on Japan. Additionally, Okinawa provided two suitable Fleet anchorages for our use in invading Japan--that is, suitable in any except typhoon weather.
A bit more than one-third of its length northward along the northeast-southwest axis of the 60-mile island, Okinawa narrows to two miles at Ishikawa. Generally speaking, in 1945 three-quarters of the half million population of Okinawa lived south of the Ishikawa Isthmus, and for a good reason. The northern two-thirds of the island was hilly to mountainous, heavily wooded with lush vegetation and marked by a central ridge, from 1,000 feet to 1,650 feet high, and hundreds of ravines. The southern part of the island was favored by rolling lightly wooded country which was well cultivated. There were steep scarps and ravines in the southern part, but they did not greatly interfere with the cultivation of sugar cane, rice and sweet potatoes, since there was considerable resort to artificial terracing.
Naha, in southwestern Okinawa, with a 1943 population of over 65,000, was the principal city as well as the prefectural capital of the Ryukyus.
Kerama Retto-Okinawa Area.
Some fifty islands, many just the peaks of submerged mountains, surround Okinawa. An important cluster of ten islands, 17 to 20 miles off Naha in southwestern Okinawa, and called Kerama Retto, provides a large partially sheltered anchorage. The anchorage is protected in good measure from the strong winds blowing in from the north and northeast, which prevail a third of the time during April.
The largest island in Kerama Retto (five by one and a half miles) was Tokashiki Jima, seventeen miles west of Naha. All the islands in Kerama Retto were hilly. The anchorage between the main islands, where the bottom was sand and gravel, was judged to be suitable for twenty 1,000-yard berths and twenty-four 500- to 700-yard berths. It was a suitable location for a floating repair base, and for a large seaplane base.
Additionally, Kerama Retto would prove an anchorage where ammunition ships could be sheltered during the prelanding gun bombardments to provide the resupply of ammunition for the Gunfire and Covering Force.
Naha, Okinawa, at 26 degrees 11 minutes North, lies at about the latitude of Palm Beach, Florida (25 degrees 47 minutes North). If one substitutes destructive typhoons for hurricanes and steps up their frequency and strength, the weather is not too different, except that Okinawa has more and heavier rains, and a higher humidity. For April 1945, seven to eight days of rain were predicted.
During the April-November period, the mean typhoon path in the Western Pacific lies near the Ryukyu Chain. The frequency per month of typhoons passing through this part of the Pacific Ocean during this period in the past fifty years had averaged:
Overall Command Organization
For Okinawa Campaign
Pacific Ocean Areas Command Organization
For Okinawa Campaign
There were an even dozen large task forces of the Pacific Ocean Areas under Fleet Admiral Nimitz involved in the Okinawa campaign. However, the largest and the most directly concerned task forces were the Central Pacific Task Forces under Admiral Spruance. The largest subdivision of these task forces was the Expeditionary Force under Vice Admiral Turner.
There were supporting forces for the main ball carriers within the command limits of Fleet Admiral Nimitz. There were supporting forces for the whole ICEBERG Operation from General MacArthur's command and from the Army Air Forces. These last two supporting commands provided air reconnaissance over the China Sea, the China Coast, the Straits of Formosa, and the sea areas east of Formosa, as well as bombing attacks against enemy installations in northern Formosa, Okinawa, and the Japanese homeland.
Fifth Fleet Command Organization
For Okinawa Campaign
The supporting forces under Admiral Nimitz's command included those with nominal logistic chores such as Western Sea Frontier and the Service Force, Pacific Fleet, and those charged with protecting essential lines of communication such as the Marshalls-Gilberts Force and the Forward Area Force.
The supporting forces with direct combat involvement were the Strategic Air Forces, Pacific Ocean Areas and the Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet. The former provided fighter cover for the 20th Air Force operations against the Japanese homeland and bombed Japanese installations in the Bonins and Japan, and the latter interdicted the sea approaches to Okinawa from Japan and Formosa and provided lifeguard services for our aviators.
The Central Pacific Task Forces was charged with the main task to capture, occupy, and defend Okinawa and to develop air and naval bases thereon. When released from the operational control of Commander Central Pacific Task Forces, the Ryukyu Forces, primarily defensive troops and aircraft, were to defend and develop captured positions in the Ryukyu chain of islands.
CINCPOA retained direct control of the Area Reserve for ICEBERG, This was the 81st Infantry Division, which was on New Caledonia Island in the South Pacific.
It should be specially noted that Commander Central Pacific Task Forces had as a unit of his command the British Carrier Force, Task Force 57, under the command of Vice Admiral Sir H. Bernard Rawlings of the Royal Navy. The aircraft from the four carriers in this force participated in vigorous bombing attacks, prior to 1 April 1945, against airfields on the island of Miyako about 175 miles southwest of Okinawa and then, in succeeding weeks, continued supporting the main operation by carrying out various attack missions on islands in the area between Okinawa and Formosa.
Other than this valuable additional force, the organization of the Central Pacific Task Forces for ICEBERG was closely patterned after that successfully used for the Iwo Jima operation.
Joint Expeditionary Forces and Tasks Assigned
Lieutenant General Simon B. Buckner, USA, commanded the Joint Expeditionary Troops and the Tenth Army. The Tenth Army was made up primarily of the Marine III Amphibious Corps and the Army XXIV Corps.
Joint Expeditionary Force Command Organization
The two major assault task forces of the Joint Expeditionary Force (TF 51) were the Northern Attack Force (TF 53) and Southern Attack Force (TF 55), under the commands of Rear Admiral L.F. Reifsnider (1910) and Rear Admiral J.L. Hall (1913), respectively. The latter was charged with the coordination of both attack force operations.
Rear Admiral Hall was a veteran of five successful amphibious operations in the European Theater, Tunis, Sicily, Italy, Southern France, and Normandy. In all of these, he had greatly distinguished himself.
The III Amphibious Corps consisting of the First and Sixth Marine Divisions from the South Pacific Area and under the command of Major General Roy S. Geiger, USMC, was embarked in the amphibious ships and craft of the Northern Attack Force. The XXIV Army Corps consisting of the Seventh Division and the 96th Division and under the command of Major General J.R. Hodge, USA, similarly was embarked in the amphibious ships and craft of the Southern Attack Force.
For the Iwo Jima operation a new amphibious command was created. It was charged with the coordination and general supervision over all activities at the objective prior to the arrival of the main body of the Joint Expeditionary Force. It was called the Amphibious Support Force.
The skillful blending of diverse pre-landing chores by the Amphibious Support Force at Iwo Jima had drawn praise from All Hands for the concept and the execution. As the planning for ICEBERG largely took place prior to the action at Iwo Jima, it was a bit of a gamble to again provide for an Amphibious Support Force in the organization, but this was done. Other than lengthening out the pre-landing phase of its work from three to eight days, the concept was carried along in the ICEBERG planning.
The mission assigned to the Amphibious Support Force (TF 52) during the period Love minus eight to Love minus one Day, inclusive, was to effect the maximum possible destruction of enemy forces and defenses on Okinawa by surface ship and aircraft bombardment, by minesweeping, and by underwater demolition. Additional tasks included the capture of Kerama Retto and Keise Shima, and the development of a logistics anchorage at the former and the emplacement of artillery on the latter. The task force was composed of heavy fire support ships from the Gunfire and Covering Force (TF 54), carriers and aircraft from the Support Carrier Group (TG 52.1), minesweepers from the Mine Flotilla (TG 52.2), and demolition groups from the Underwater Demolition Flotilla (TG 52.11).
Task Force 52, the Amphibious Support Force, was under the command of Rear Admiral W.H.P. Blandy, who was designated Second-in-Command of the Joint Expeditionary Force at Okinawa, since Rear Admiral Hill was still busy as a bird dog at Iwo Jima. Task Force 52 was of the same general constituency as the Amphibious Support Force for Iwo Jima, except very markedly larger since it included the ships carrying the troops in the Western Island Attack Group (TG 51.1) which was charged with the capture of Kerama Retto and Keise Jima. Rear Admiral I.N. Kiland (1917) who, as a captain, commanded a troop transport in the Guadalcanal operation was in command of TG 51.1.
The Gunfire and Covering Force was under the command of Rear Admiral Morton L. Deyo (1911). It had ten old battleships, including all the battleships which had participated in the pre-landing bombardment of Iwo Jima, plus four of the old battleships initially designated for that task, but kept overly long at work in the Philippines. Additionally the four heavy cruisers under Rear Admiral A.E. Smith (1915) that had labored well at Iwo
Jima, plus four other heavy cruisers and three light cruisers, were assigned to TF 54.
The basic order provided that at 0600 on the day of the main assaults on Okinawa, Love Day, the command of the Amphibious Support Force would pass to Vice Admiral Turner. Rear Admiral Blandy would then be titled "Commander Eastern Fire Support and Attack Group," CTG 51.9, and continue his chores under CTF 51 command.
In an effort to have the ships carrying the Tenth Army Troop Reserve and the Corps Reserve usefully employed in the hours before there was a requirement to land these troops, a Demonstration Group (TG 51.2) was formed and placed under the command of Rear Admiral Jerauld B. Wright (1918). The Second Marine Division was assigned as the Demonstration Force.
The 27th Division of Army Troops constituted the Expeditionary Force, Floating Reserve, Task Group 51.3, which was under the command of Commodore John B. McGovern. Major General George W. Griner, USA, commanded the 27th Division. CTG 51.3 was responsible for either an assault landing on the Eastern Islands off Nakagusuku or Chin Bay, or for the delivery of the embarked troops at some other chosen beachhead.
Commodore Donald W. Loomis (1918) commanded the Area Reserve, which, in far off New Caldonia, mounted the 81st Army Division, Major General Mueller. When made available by CINCPOA, it was to proceed as directed by Vice Admiral Turner (CTF 51).
The ICEBERG operation was planned to be carried out in three phases. Phase I included:
the capture of Kerama Retto six days before the main landings on Okinawa and the establishment there of a logistic anchorage and of a floating seaplane base,
the capture of four very small islands (Keise Jima) just eight miles west of the Okinawa port of Naha on the day before the main landing, and the emplacement of twenty-four 155 millimeter guns thereon,
assault and capture of the southern part of Okinawa--the area lying south of the narrow neck formed by Ishikawa Isthmus, and
possibly, the capture of the island Tonachi Jima, lying thirty miles west of the Motobu Peninsula on Okinawa.
Phase II estimated to commence 1 May 1945, included:
the capture of the island Ie Shima, lying just west of the Motobu Peninsula, and
the capture of Motobu Peninsula.
Phase III the two operations estimated to commence on 1 July 1945, and 1 October 1945, respectively included:
the capture of Myako Jima, an island 150 miles to the southwest of Okinawa and
the capture of Kikai Jima, an island 170 miles to the north northeast of Okinawa on the way to Kyushu.21
The basic order further provided that subsequent to the assault on Okinawa:
This force will capture, occupy and defend additional positions for establishing secure sea and air control over the East China Sea.
Approximately 116,000 troops were assigned to the initial assaulting units, out of a total of 183,000 troops made available by CINCPOA for the assault phases of the operation.
The Chosen Beaches
Admiral Spruance's plan had this to say about weather and Okinawa's landing beaches:
April is the month of greatest weather transition from winter to summer weather. During this month, the prevailing wind shifts into the northeast and decreases considerably. This change makes landings on the western beaches feasible. However, strong north and northwesterly blows will occur during April, and these will seriously affect landings and unloading. . . .22
The Hagushi coral sand beaches, preferred for the assault landings, were centered about eleven miles north of the city of Naha on the West Coast of Okinawa. Here 9,000 yards of good to first-rate beaches could be parcelled out into sixteen separate assault landing areas appropriately marked by headlands and cliffs within a seven and a half mile stretch of coast. Individual good landing areas were from 100 to 900 yards wide and the individual beaches were from 10 to 45 yards deep. Most had one road exit. There were no mines in the approaches to the Hagushi beaches.
The coral reef off the beaches, however, varied greatly in width, widening to 900 to 1,000 yards off the southernmost beaches designated Brown Three and Four.
As one experienced Squadron Commander reported in regard to the Purple beaches, after he had a look at them:
A rapid survey of the beaches disclosed that each was fringed with a coral reef extending approximately 300 yards to seaward; dry at low water and covered to a depth varying from 3 to 5 feet at high water. No channels through the reef existed, so that all unloading of small craft had to be done at the reef or to seaward thereof.23
Low lying hills in the center of the island overlooked the Hagushi assault beaches, but the Japanese had not undertaken extensive defensive fortification of this hill area.
There were two airfields close by the village of Hagushi, Yontan, a mile to the north, and Kadena, a mile to the southeast.
The Alternate Beaches
The alternate assault beaches to be used in case of abnormally strong westerly winds were on the shores of Nakagusuku Bay, on the eastern coast of Okinawa. The demonstration beaches were further south around the Chinen Peninsula on the southeast coast of Okinawa and near the mouth of the small Minatoga River.
The Demonstration Group, Task Group 51.2 (Rear Admiral Jerauld Wright), was to go through most of the motions that would be expected preliminary to and in the making of an actual assault landing at the demonstration beaches. This was to be done both at How Hour on Love Day and again on Love Day plus one.
In case the real alternate assault beaches had to be used for the initial assault landing, the Eastern Islands in Nakagusuku Bay were to be taken first, and then on Love Day plus three or four, the assault landings were to take place on the beaches of Nakagusuku Bay.
Commencing on 1 April 1944, two and a half months before we assaulted Saipan, and a long year before we landed on Okinawa, the Japanese started
to build up their defenses on Okinawa. They named the 32nd Army to control the defenses of the Ryukyus, and designated Okinawa as its Headquarters. Lieutenant General Mitsuru Ushijima became its capable commander in August 1944, when he relieved Lieutenant General Hasao Watanabe. Major General Isama Cho, the aggressive Chief of Staff, became a lieutenant general in March 1945, at age 51.
Way back in October 1944, CINCPAC had estimated that 48,600 Japanese troops were on Okinawa. By 25 January 1945, CINCPAC's intelligence teams raised this number to 56,000, despite an awareness that one Japanese troop division (actually the veteran Japanese 9th Division with about 14,000 effectives) had departed Okinawa for Formosa in December 1944. Based on recent aerial reconnaissance of convoy arrivals at Naha, Okinawa, this estimate was raised by the XIV Corps to 65,000 on 6 March 1945.
There was no documentary evidence available to CINCPAC prior to the assault landing to corroborate the estimate of 65,000 troop strength, but there had been some very excellent photo reconnaissance. This revealed that the Japanese troops were based largely in the southern half of the island, that there were coast defense guns well emplaced on the high ground south of Naha to defend that port, and that most Japanese troops remained underground during fly-overs.
In 1948, the U.S. Army Historical Division estimated Japanese defenders strength on Okinawa at 77,000, of whom 3,500 were naval personnel. In 1955, the Historical Branch of the Marine Corps estimated this strength at 75,000 of whom 8,800 were naval. Both estimates indicated that sizeable numbers of Okinawans, perhaps 5,000, had been integrated into regular Japanese units. Additionally, there were many Okinawans designated Boeitai, who were performing labor chores for the combatant troops.24
The Tenth Army, in its operation plan for the ground action on Okinawa, stated that field fortifications for one Japanese regiment existed in the
Hagushi Area, and that the enemy could reasonably be expected to reinforce his Okinawa garrison to 66,000 men by the target date.25
The number of airfields on Okinawa in October 1944 was four: Yontan, Kadena, Machinato and Naha. An additional one at Yonabaru on Nakagusuku Bay was underway. But as our air attacks grew more frequent, work on the field under construction was stopped. Just before 1 April 1945, the fields at Yontan and Kadena,, both near the Hagushi beaches and the Naha naval airfield just southwest of Naha on the coast had all their airplanes destroyed and became largely non-operational.
Machinato and Naha naval airfields, both near the coast on the East China Sea, and respectively about two miles north and south of Naha, remained heavily defended by ground troops.
The Scheme of Maneuver--Main Assault
During the period when the scheduled date of the assault landing on Okinawa was set for 1 March 1945, Vice Admiral Turner favored landing on its east coast beaches because a more favorable surf and swell would be found there than on the west coast beaches. Over the years, from October into March, winds averaging 17 to 19 miles per hour blew in around Okinawa from the north and west. Gales were frequent.
When on 19 November 1944, because of foreseeable shipping difficulties, the operation had to be delayed until 15 March 1945, Vice Admiral Turner stated that if the operation could be delayed another fifteen days, he would be desirous of making the assault on west coast beaches, because the change of the prevailing winds from north and westerly to south and easterly, normally occurred during the month of March.
The Commanding General, Tenth Army was anxious to land his troops on the west coast (Hagushi) beaches because here were the only beaches extensive enough to permit two corps to land abreast. In addition, two of the principal airfields in Southern Okinawa were immediately back of the assault beaches and could be captured and then used for our own air activities early in Phase One of the operation.26
On 7 December 1944, based on appropriate concurrence by All Hands that another 15-day delay could be chanced, the final change was made in the date of the assault landings. They were set for Easter Sunday, 1 April 1945.
The Tenth Army planning staff did not have the benefit of knowing in full the current Japanese "Combat Doctrine for Island Garrison Forces" when it was planning for its conquest of Okinawa. This document was captured during the Okinawa campaign.27 There were two main courses of action available to the Japanese. They could defend longest and hardest at the beachheads of Okinawa or they could make their main effort back of the beachheads from strong and well prepared natural supporting positions.
The more recent Japanese tactics (at Saipan and at Iwo Jima) employed the second of these alternatives. Their Main Line of Resistance (MLR) had been a position-type defense located at topographically advantageous points which were removed from the beach areas. The Tenth Army correctly opined in its Operation Plan that the Japanese would probably defend the southern one-third of Okinawa
By garrisoning the several landing areas lightly and holding the bulk of his troops in mobile reserve.
Due to the fact that planning staffs were working on the Okinawa operation at the same time as the Iwo Jima operation, the day of the main assault on Okinawa was titled "Love Day" instead of the usual designation "Dog Day."
As has been indicated previously, 183,000 assault troops were available in the Tenth Army.
The Tenth Army preferred Scheme of Maneuver during all the planning stages, and the one actually in effect when the assault landing took place, was designed to facilitate early seizure of the narrow Ishikawa Isthmus. This isthmus was six miles to the northeast of the East China Sea landing beaches which were both north and south of the small village of Hagushi.
This early seizure of a narrow isthmus was to be accomplished in order to prevent any junction of the Japanese troops known to be positioned both north and south of Ishikawa Isthmus. This isthmus was about two miles
wide and four miles long. The Marines were assigned the task of capturing it, and while accomplishing this task, the Marines would overrun Yontan Airfield just to the north of the village of Hagushi.
While the Marines were doing this chore, the XXIV Corps would establish an east-west holding line across Okinawa whose western (right) flank would be anchored about two miles south of the right flank landing beaches. The XXIV Corps would overrun Kadena Airfield in the process.
The three and a half miles east-west holding line assigned to the XXIV Corps was marked by the small towns of Kuba on the east and Futema on the west.
Following the seizure of the Ishikawa Isthmus and the establishment of the XXIV Corps holding line, the capture by the XXIV Corps of the southern part of Okinawa was planned.
To facilitate this plan, the Marines were assigned the landing beaches north of the town of Hagushi and the XXIV Corps of Army troops was assigned the landing beaches to the south. The Marines' objective of Ishikawa Peninsula was to be reached by L plus 15 Day. It was anticipated that the XXIV Corps would reach the objective line Futema-Kuba by L plus 10 Day.28
An essential part of Phase I was the capture on Love Day minus six of the off-lying island group of Kerama Retto, to be followed on Love Day minus one by the seizure of Keise Jima, only six miles to the west of Naha. The latter islets were to serve as a site for supporting Army field artillery.
The "foreseen shipping difficulties" mentioned several pages ago arose from the necessity of providing at the Okinawa assault landing, shipping adequate for three Army divisions and for three Marine divisions, as well as for the corps troops of the Marine Third Corps, corps troops of the Army XXIV Corps, and for the Army troops of the Tenth Army. In addition, it was necessary to provide the extensive shipping needed immediately following the assault landing to support the large scale base development plans on Okinawa as well as the enlargement of Japanese airfields ordered to be accomplished during the early tactical phases of the operation.
During Phase II, Ie Shima, just west of Motobu Peninsula, and Motobu
Peninsula, would be captured simultaneously, followed immediately by the capture of northern Okinawa.
As a by-product of the early planning for the slightly overstuffed size of the reinforced divisions for the Iwo Jima and Okinawa assaults, it became necessary to increase the number of transports in each of the transport divisions from three or four transports to five transports and the number of cargo ships from one to two. This change was promulgated by CINCPAC on 12 September 1944.29
The early and the final drafts of CTF 51's Okinawa Operation Order called for Vice Admiral Turner to leave Iwo Jima "about 1 March" for Guam and Leyte to conduct rehearsals and do last minute planning. His actual departure from Iwo Jima did not occur until 9 March, on which day the rehearsal of the Western Island Attack Group (TG 51.1) commenced in Leyte Gulf. The 9th of March was the last day possible for his flagship to make passage to Leyte if he was to observe the rehearsals of the Southern Attack Force (TF 55), scheduled to begin in the Bincay-Tarraguna Area of Leyte Gulf on 16 March.
The Northern Attack Force (TF 53) under Rear Admiral Reifsnider loaded and embarked its troops way down in the Solomons far from the scrutiny of Vice Admiral Turner. It held its rehearsal in the Cape Esperance area, Guadalcanal from 1 to 7 March 1945.
The rehearsals of the three major assault forces all differed a bit, some being held up by the late arrival of assault LST's. But, in general, during the early parts of the rehearsals troops were boated, but not landed, while in later parts they were landed. Gunfire and air bombardment support were actual or simulated, depending on the phase of the rehearsal or whether the rehearsals were taking place in inhabited areas. Vice Admiral Turner commented:
The dispersion of troops and shipping allocated to the Joint Expeditionary Force for the Okinawa Operation, from the Philippines to the West Coast, and in the South Pacific precluded a joint rehearsal of all units.30
Poor to bad weather dogged the rehearsals.
Heavy swells, wind and almost continual rainy conditions caused delays in the schedule of landings. . . .
Considering the complexity of the operation and the relative inexperience of naval personnel involved, the curtailment of these exercises by weather conditions made the training provided entirely inadequate.
* * * * *Even this modest schedule could not be carried out in its entirety, because of the heavy surf on the beaches.31
Planning for Use of PT Boats at Okinawa
Before relating the story of the Okinawa assault, the reason for the absence of PT boats in the assault forces will be mentioned.
Vice Admiral Turner, and many other naval officers who had witnessed the PT boat operations in the Guadalcanal and New Georgia operations, thought that the PT boats were anywhere from somewhat to vastly overrated by the public and the press.
Admiral Hall tells the story that prior to the Okinawa operation the overall commander of the PT boats, who had participated in the South Pacific operations, reported to him in Leyte for duty in connection with training for the upcoming Okinawa landings. Admiral Hall asked Admiral Turner by despatch what part the PT boats would play in the operations so he could arrange appropriate training for them. Vice Admiral Turner informed Admiral Hall that the PT boats would not even be allowed to enter the Okinawa area until D plus 4 or later. Admiral Hall explained:
He evidently had no use for them, and I had no use for them. When I was doing my part of the Normandy landing, (OMAHA Beach) they were of no use whatsoever.32
The Navy at Okinawa
Maintaining the Navy afloat in the seas around Okinawa was a difficult, bloody and long protracted struggle. The amphibians did their amphibious tasks of assault landing two corps so expeditiously and so well that the fact that these tasks had to be accomplished, if the Tenth Army was to be put
on a successful course, largely has been forgotten. The main naval struggle was not between the naval amphibians and unhospitable beaches or between Japanese dug in at the beachhead and on-rushing landing craft, but between U.S. radar picket ships, their supporting small craft, and the fighter aircraft on the one side and the Japanese kamikaze on the other side.
As one commodore stated the case from the viewpoint of the radar picket ship:
Never in the annals of our glorious naval history have naval forces done so much with so little against such odds for so long a period.33
Without in any way indicating a lack of appreciation of this particularly bloody part of the Navy's Okinawa campaign, the amphibious assault landings will be described.
The amphibians expected and prepared for the worst. As Commander Transport Squadron 14 wrote in his Action Report:
It was assumed that there would be considerable enemy submarine and motor torpedo boat activity as well as strong enemy air attacks against the transport groups. . . . Intelligence indicated that the enemy was prepared to use small suicide boats in attacks against shipping. The reports indicated further that the beaches would be well defended, and photographs disclosed that pill boxes and trenches had been constructed along the beaches and that a fringing reef about 400 yards wide would have to be crossed. . . . It was assumed that the enemy would make a fanatical resistance.34
The waters of the East China Sea are mostly less than 100 fathoms deep and hence mineable. Mines also are a favorite weapon of those on the defensive. So it was fully expected that the Japanese would heavily mine the waters around Okinawa. While no surprise, the need for minesweeping was accentuated when the destroyer Halligan (DD-584), screening prelanding bombardment units, blew up and sank twelve miles west of Naha on 26 March 1945, when she steamed into an area not yet declared swept.
Over 500 mines were swept up by the Mine Flotilla. Additionally, large numbers of floating mines were sunk by rifle or machine gun fire by the
Mine Flotilla as well as by all ships of all types deployed in Okinawan waters.35
The Amphibian Armada Begins to Move
The first important amphibious event planned for the Okinawa operation was the assault landings on the various islands of Kerama Retto. This task had been assigned to the Western Island Attack Group, TG 51.1, under Rear Admiral I.N. Kiland.
The Tractor Flotilla, the advance echelon of this Group, was underway for Okinawa from Leyte, Central Philippines, on 19 March 1945. There were 22
Left to right: Rear Admiral Forrest Sherman (Deputy Chief of Staff to CINCPAC),
Admiral Raymond A. Spruance (COMFIFTHFLT), Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz (CINCPAC),
and Vice Admiral Kelly Turner (CTF 51) on board USS Eldorado off Okinawa.
LSTs, 14 LSMs and 40 LCIs in its advance echelon and 20 transports and cargo ships in the second echelon, departing San Pedro Bay, Leyte, on 21 March 1945. There had been the usual problems before sailing, as this report indicates:
Loading was from exposed, and, for the most part on underdeveloped beaches. Surf and swell damaged many boats, several beyond repair. In spite of the delayed arrival, inexperienced personnel and unfavorable weather, loading was completed on schedule, with minor exceptions.36
A minesweeper unit of the Mine Flotilla, which was a major group in the Amphibious Support Force, had left Ulithi for Okinawa 24 hours after the Tractor Flotilla of the Western Island Attack Group had sailed from Leyte. The rest of the Amphibious Support Force (TF 52), under Rear Admiral Blandy, and the Gunfire and Covering Force (TF 54), under Rear Admiral M.L. Deyo, also were underway from Ulithi for Okinawa on 21 March. The Eldorado, flagship of Vice Admiral Turner, sailed from San Pedro Bay, Leyte, on 27 March with the Southern Attack Force. The Northern Attack Force had departed the Guadalcanal Area on 15 March.
The Mine Flotilla had been directed to commence minesweeping off Okinawa on 24 March, and the pre-landing bombardment was scheduled to begin on 25 March 1945.
The Seaplane Base Group (TG 51.20), the Demonstration Tractor Group (TG 51.8), and Transport Unit Charlie (TU 51.2.1), the latter two involved in demonstrations off the southeast beaches of Okinawa on Love Day, rehearsed in the Marianas. They staged through Saipan and were underway for Okinawa between 23 and 27 March 1945.
Surface and Air Bombardment
In order to keep the Japanese in doubt as long as possible as to the actual landing beaches, the pre-landing bombardments--surface and air--were planned and carried out to devote major efforts to the destruction of Japanese defenses positioned to oppose either the real landing, or a landing where the amphibious demonstration was to be carried out. Additionally a major effort was devoted to the destruction of weapons threatening our ships and aircraft, particularly any that would interfere with our minesweeping or UDT operations. Accordingly, large areas of Okinawa were left untouched during this period.
The actual presence of mines slowed the minesweeping, but as the minesweeping proceeded, the surface ship bombardment was carried out closer and closer to the beach, overcoming the poor visibility conditions which made targets difficult to locate. It took four days of firing before gun ranges of the landing were lowered to 8,000 yards and it was not until 29 March that CTF 52 logged:
Effective bombardment of Okinawa began this date. Ships were able to close the range.35a
As the Support Carrier Group (Rear Admiral C.T. Durgin) of the Amphibious Support Force moved into the Okinawa area, the number and frequency of our own air attacks increased markedly. Between arrival in the area and Love Day, the planes from the jeep carriers of Task Group 52.1 flew better than 3,000 sorties and attacked every military objective in sight in the areas back of the landing beaches, both at Hagushi and on the southeastern coast of Okinawa.
Indicative of the surface bombardment effort, the Gunfire Support Force (TF 54), Rear Admiral Deyo commanding, prior to the landings, dropped some 27,000 shells, 5-inch or larger, on military targets within range of the ships' guns and did extensive damage to any military targets that were visible to gunners and their air spotters. All seawalls along the beaches were breached. By late on 31 March, CTF 52, Rear Admiral Blandy, was able to report to Commander Expeditionary Force:
The preparation was sufficient for a successful landing.36a
And it was. Rear Admiral Blandy and his many skillful supporting juniors had put together under very trying circumstances a first rate shooting, bombing, minesweeping, and demolition effort. They had overcome misty weather, excellent camouflage, and difficult terrain and absorbed attacks by Japanese submarines, suicide boats and suicide planes. They had done a professional job, one of which they could be very proud.
Kerama Retto Assault Landings
The divisional assault landings on Kerama Retto involved approximately
the same basic troop strength (one division) as our initial Guadalcanal landing, where our amphibious campaign in the Pacific had started less than three years before.
Kerama Retto was a complicated amphibious assault since it required initial assault landings on eight small beaches on four different islands, and subsequent assault landings on three additional islands. Before Kerama Retto was secured, altogether fifteen separate assault landings had been made, including five shore-to-shore landings. The Commander of the assault reported:
In spite of narrow beaches, with bad approaches, and rugged and difficult terrain, all landings were quickly established against light opposition, and control of the islands was gained rapidly and on schedule.37
Fueling and ammunition replenishment in the Kerama Retto was started on 28 March. The first seaplanes arrived and began operation from the seaplane base on 29 March 1945. Use of salvage and repair facilities commenced when the Kimberly (DD-521) was given emergency repairs on 26 March 1945, and calls for help steadily increased thereafter.
The anchorage was afflicted with ground swells, but otherwise near perfect. The trouble resulting from the swells was summarized by this report:
Brazos reported ground swells in anchorage were causing excessive damage to destroyers and tankers. Fenders were being carried away at a high rate.38
Field artillery and anti-aircraft guns were landed on Keise Shima on 31 March (Love Day minus one).
An immediate unexpected benefit from the Kerama Retto assault was the capture or destruction of more than 350 Japanese "suicide" boats largely hidden away in caves in the various islands.
These small 18-foot, plywood speedboats, powered by a Chevrolet automobile engine, and carrying two 250-pound depth charges on a rack behind the one-man crew, the steersman, were designed to damage amphibious ships and craft in their tender underbellies. Considerable effort was expended on them by the Japanese and great results anticipated. Actually, only three successful attacks were made on our naval forces during the months ahead by Japanese suicide boats and these were by boats based in the Naha area. Five craft of LCI Flotilla 21, as late as 3-4 May 1945, located and sank eleven of these Japanese suicide craft in a spirited action which prevented a
further attack on the unloaded cargo ships at this late date in the Okinawa campaign.39
The Hagushi Assault Landings
While the seaplane anchorage was being established in Kerama Retto and the repair basin anchorage buoys laid out and occupied, the Underwater Demolition Teams accomplished their difficult and dangerous tasks off the Hagushi beaches on Okinawa with a minimum of real interference from the Japanese, and a maximum of gunfire support from the Gunfire and Covering Force (TF 54).
A reported 2,900 wooden post obstructions off the beaches were located, and on 30 and 31 March, largely destroyed by the UDT. The UDT reports in regards to the beaches were quite favorable.
Stormy waters slowed the amphibians of the main assault force enroute to Okinawa.
The weather throughout the cruise from Leyte Gulf to the objective was poor with the exception of the day prior to our arrival. Visibility was only fair, the skies were always overcast, rain squalls were frequent; the seas were unusually rough causing the ship to labor when headed into the seas; winds were North by Northeast and about forces 5 to 6. The best that could be said about this kind of weather was, that it did serve to screen our movements. . . .40
* * * * *. . . Progress was delayed by bad weather and at one time it [Southern Tractor Flotilla] was nearly twelve hours behind schedule. By cutting corners and running at maximum possible sustained speed, the Tractor Flotilla made up its lost time and arrived in the Transport Area in time to launch the assault on schedule.41
In the days before Loran, during the disagreeable rainy weather:
Navigation was uncertain because of the almost continuous overcast during the entire voyage and the positions of both Task Force Fifty-Five and other Task Forces converging in to the approach channel were not exactly known. This resulted in a very hectic evening and night preceding Love Day, but after considerable scrambling, the leading convoy began the last leg of
Hagushi Assault Landing, Okinawa.
the approach exactly on time, and arrived in the Transport area precisely as planned.42
* * * * *Weather and surf conditions were generally favorable for landing craft operations except April 4th and 5th.43
And so, on Easter morning, 1945, the amphibians approaching Okinawa were battling poor visibility due to an after-storm haze. As Commander LST Flotilla Three reported it:
At sunrise 1 April 1945, visibility was only fair. This degree of visibility continued throughout the approach of this unit. It was difficult to make out navigational aids on Okinawa due to low hanging clouds and mist. . . .44
Sunrise was at 0621. Morning twilight had begun at 0503, but because of Japanese air attacks on the assembling armada, the ships had been "making smoke" steadily from 0515 until 0552, which didn't improve the overall visibility.
It is only fair to report that when the Army recorder had reveille, he saw the day a bit differently. According to the Army boss man, General Buckner, the day
dawned with cloudy to clear skies, moderate east to northeast winds, negligible surf, and a temperature of 75°.45
The Place of Greatest Danger Belongs to Me
Admiral Hall told me:
On April 1, 1945, in the Teton, as Commander Southern Attack Force, I was headed into the Transport Area at Okinawa, and my Flag Captain was about to anchor. Just at this time the Eldorado flying Admiral Turner's flag, came up from astern and steamed right through an area where some Japanese shore batteries were dropping their splashes and on in close to the beach. I told the skipper of the Teton that if he let Admiral Turner get any closer to the enemy than I was, I would relieve him. So he steamed in closer to the beach than the Eldorado and anchored.46
Despite the smoky haze, and the difficulty of making out navigational
USS Teton (AGC-14), flagship of Rear Admiral J.L. Hall in the Okinawa Operation.
aids, the troop carriers of the two main assault forces commenced disembarking their amphibious troops on 1 April in the correct Transport Areas and on time.
Nearly Everybody is Needed
The Demonstration Group, TG 51.2, demonstrated not only once but twice off the southeast beaches and then landed the troops of the Tenth Army Reserve who, together with the Second Marine Division, were aboard the demonstrating transports, over the Hagushi beaches on Love Day plus one. The Marine Second Division, Major General T. E. Watson, USMC, in these same demonstrating transports did not get ashore in the Ryukyus as a division. On 3 June 1945 Regimental Combat Team Eight initiated the capture of four undefended outlying islands where long-range radar and fighter directory facilities were established.
In due time, the Expeditionary Force Floating Reserve, TG 51.3, Commodore John B. McGovern, Commander, which lifted the 27th Infantry,
Major General George W. Griner, AUS, was called forward from Ulithi where it had been staged from Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides. One battalion from one regiment of the 27th captured the Eastern Islands off Chimu Wan and Nakagusuku Wan, commencing 10 April. The rest of the 27th Division landed over the Hagushi beaches and joined the XIV Corps.
The troops (77th Infantry, Major General Andrew D. Bruce), who had so successfully captured Kerama Retto, assaulted Ie Shima off the Motobu Peninsula on Love Day plus fifteen and captured that island five days later. This operation, initially planned for Phase II, became an imperative during early April 1945, in order to provide timely radar warnings as well as a base for fighter aircraft further north from the landing beaches, to combat kamikaze attacks on the Transport Areas.
All the assigned troops got into the operation except those in the designated Area Reserve, Commodore D.W. Loomis (CTG 51.4), and the 81st Infantry, Major General Paul Mueller, AUS. This Task Group remained on call at Noumea, New Caledonia, throughout the operation.
How Hour--1 April 1945
The lead LVT waves from the two amphibious corps, each of which initially landed two of its three divisions abreast on their designated Hagushi beaches (within the best four miles of the Hagushi coastal landing area) met their landing hour of 0830 or were late by a few minutes. The latest Lead Wave landing hit Blue Two at 0842.
This was accomplished despite the long period spent in transferring troops from transports to LSTs, then to amphibious tractors or amphibious tanks. These transfers were necessary since:
During the planning phase of the operation, the coral reef presented a problem in that there was no way of ascertaining definitely the depth of water over the reef. Therefore it was assumed that landing craft would not be able to traverse it, and that it would be necessary to transfer support troops and cargo at the line of traffic control, beyond the reef. . . . However, it was found that the reef was not as great an obstacle as had been anticipated. It was possible to discharge cargo onto the dry reef at low tide and pontoon barges were used to transfer cargo from landing boats to LVTs and DUKWs.47
The assault landing parts of the operation went marvelously well.
An Impressive Spectacle
One observer caught the drama of the landing in these words:
The approaching landing waves possessed something of the color and pageantry of medieval warfare, advancing relentlessly with their banners flying. In the calm sunlight of the morning, it was indeed an impressive spectacle.48
However, there were and continued to be problems for the seaman.
The Japanese did not seriously oppose the assault landing at the beachheads. The Marines had captured Yotitari Airfield by 1116 on the morning of 1 April 1945, and the Army troops had overrun Kadena Airfield by 1240 that same day. At the first of these airfields
The enemy plan of destroying the Yontan airfield was not carried out because the units charged with that responsibility were dissipated by our air attacks.49
By the end of the day the front lines were 4,000 to 5,000 yards from the assault beachhead along an eight-mile front. It was a day of major accomplishments by the amphibians. As Admiral Spruance reported in his Action Report:
Naturally, all attack commands were highly elated with this unexpected situation. The fierce fighting and heavy casualties considered unavoidable in taking this area had not materialized due to the sudden withdrawal of the unpredictable Jap.
By 1600, 50,000 troops were ashore. Unloading of cargo promptly followed the troop disembarkation, and:
Ground action in general was characterized by weak opposition to landings. The enlargement of the beachhead on Okinawa initially was rapid. Movement to the north was relatively fast against scattered resistance. . . .50
Before dark the next day, the XXIV Corps had reached the eastern coast of Okinawa and the Marines were well on their way to the Ishikawa Isthmus which they occupied on April 3rd. As Ishikawa Isthmus had been a Love Day plus ten objective in Lieutenant General Buckner's plan, it is abundantly clear that the Marines moved both with their accustomed speed and against light opposition.
Several weather fronts carrying high winds, moderate swells and choppy seas, caused logistical problems and other worries for the young seaman. One account stated:
The worst of these [frontal passages] occurred on L plus 4 day and resulted in serious damage to 12 LSTs and the loss of one LSM, three pontoon barges and a number of small landing boats. The loss of these last was due principally to the fact that they were hastily turned over to the boat pool by transports departing the following day and there was no shelter available for them.51
Everyone who was at the assault landings on Okinawa, in talking to this scribe about the campaign, recalled this frontal passage on 4 April 1945 along the following lines.
The weather deteriorated. The wind shifted to the north, its velocity increased to 20 knots, and then to 27 knots and finally to 35 knots, causing a very choppy sea with confused swells. Entries from various records made at the time tell the highlights of the amphibians' problems.
1308. CTF 51 directed special precautions be taken to prevent damage due to increasing wind and seas. . . .
1320. CTF 51 directed that all ships and craft clear beach until weather abated, special precautions be taken to secure barges and causeways, and that boats not urgently required be hoisted in.52
Despite this effort to clear the beaches:
2300. Reef punctured holes in ballast tanks and engine room of LST-756. Main engine room, forward bilge, control room badly holed and completely flooded. . . . Skin of ship punctured and bulkhead buckling in various places.
2325. LST-675 attempting to retract from beach, struck an uncharted pinnacle. Main engine flooded. Secured all power. Lines caught in propeller LST-675 broached and caused LSM-121 to broach. LSM-121 reported slowly breaking up. LST-756 reported engine room side giving way . . . Pumping unsuccessfully. . . . All power lost on engines and generators.53
The strong wind and rough water on the 5th and 6th of April required that:
All activities on the beach cease and no boats were unloaded from noon 5 April to the morning of the 7th.54
Twenty-one landing ships and craft were damaged in varying degrees from
broaching, grounding, or colliding after dragging anchor during this blowup.
Except for 4 and 5 April, weather and surf conditions were generally favorable for landing craft operations during the first six weeks of the Okinawa assault landing.
By 13 April 1945, the Marines had reached Hedo Point at the northern tip of Okinawa and by the 18th they reduced resistance in northern Okinawa to remnant groups.
By 24 April, the Marine III Corps had been alerted that they would be moved back southward.
By 1 May 1945, the III Corps of Marines, together with the Army's XXIV Corps and additional supporting troops, settled down for the long costly struggle to capture Japanese defensive positions in southern Okinawa.
The Japanese Face the Inevitable
One Japanese diary ended with entries as follows:
15 April. . . . The Philippines have fallen, Roosevelt is dead, and our Combined Fleet has come out and attacked, it appears.
16 April. . . . Corporal Kuroiwan has been made platoon commander, and I [a Superior Private] have become leader of the 2nd Squad.
17 April. . . . Our platoon will defend this ground to the death. Enemy vessels are lined up directly before us.55
The Logistic Support
The general cargo unloading proceeded rapidly during the good weather of the first few days after the assault landings despite an inability of the Shore Party to unload boats as rapidly as they arrived at the beach. The kamikazes ensured the rapidity with which all the amphibians unloaded their ships and craft. But this is not to say that there were no problems for the amphibians in unloading during the 81 days which elapsed before the island was captured and a secure base established for the final assault on the homeland of Japan.
As CTF 55 reported in his Okinawa Action Report:
The unloading was slowed down, however, by the unfavorable nature of the beaches, particularly White and Brown beaches, over which Transport Squadron Fourteen was discharging and by the inability of the Shore Party to unload the landing craft as fast as they could be loaded from the ships and sent to the beach.56
Or as another seasoned observer remarked:
Enemy air raids and choppy seas slowed unloading operations at times.57
In general, during the landing of reinforcements:
All troops were landed dry. . . .
Unloading operations were hampered during the first three days by rough weather. Nevertheless it was found possible to land boats loaded with vehicles on the beach. . . .
By the end of the third day, pontoon causeways were adjusted and cranes were set up at the seaward end so that boats with net loaded cargo were unloaded from half tide to high water. . . .58
* * * * *LSM were landed at the reef's edge of both beaches at high tide and unloaded into trucks at low water; into LVTs or DUKWs at high water. . . . Small craft with vehicles were unloaded at the reef's edge with the assistance of bulldozers and tractors at both beaches during the lower half of the tide cycle. . . .59 * * * * *The unloading of general cargo was more complicated. General cargo was taken from the ship via LCVPs or LCMs to the reef where it was transferred to pontoon barges and reloaded into LVTs and DUKWs for the beach. The necessity of handling general cargo three times before it reached the beach increased appreciably the time consumed unloading. . . . This ship at one time had boats in the water eighteen hours waiting to be unloaded.60 * * * * *The reef on PURPLE TWO extended out 300 yards, 85 percent of which was dry at low tide. During this stage LCMs and LCV(P)s came into inlets (natural and some blasted) where vehicles could be driven off under their own power. Cranes were used to unload cargo into trucks. During high tide (tidal range 5.8 ft) a crane on the causeway was used to unload into DUKWs and LVTs and trucks could be backed onto the causeway for receiving loads from ships' boats. . . .61 * * * * *
The boats rendezvoused off pontoon causeways where LSMs were moored. Because of ebbing tide, the troops went aboard the two LSMs over cargo nets, then descended from the ramps onto previously erected pontoon causeways, to the beach. . . .62
Altogether, during the 81 days of the operation, a dozen LSTs had major hull damage and many, many smaller ships, and particularly landing craft, found the pounding surf and whistling winds greater than their seaman's skill. As one Commanding Officer reported:
Coxswains of boats do their best but lack of heavy (up to 6") lines make it impossible to keep boats on station. Light lines (4"-5") part in seaway, or cleats pull out of boats.63
Landing craft of all types and pontoon barges suffered considerable damage from the landing on fringing coral reef, which covered the entire shore line in the landing area.64
It might be added that low stages of the tide made unloading difficult on the first day and that no landing craft could get over the outer reef even at high tide, until the Underwater Demolition Teams had blasted passages through the reefs.
The hurry to be the first away from the dreaded kamikazes also created problems, as one AKA report shows:
Secondly, there was a lack of two-fisted control on reef or beach in the White area particularly after departure of COMTRANSRON 14 and staff. The young officer left in charge on the reef was apparently inexperienced and the result was senseless and undignified bickering among the various APA and AKA officers, each anxious to get his ship out of the area ahead of the others.65
That the beaches were considerably less than perfect was recounted by LSM-220 in its Okinawa Action Report, covering 1 April 1945:
1050. Grounded out lightly on coral fringing reef with about eight feet of water off the bow between the coral ridges and heads. [Blue Beach]
1105. Retracted as water too deep to disembark the tanks.
1115. Grounded out in a different spot, but still too deep.
1120. Retracted from the reef. Proceeded to reef at Blue Beach II.
1145. Attempted landing on Blue II.
1200. Retracted from reef still unable to get in close enough to allow tanks to disembark. No enemy fire during these operations.
1536. Following beachmaster in LCVT PA200-13 to Beach Yellow II to attempt to land tanks.
1545. Grounded out on reef at speed 6 so as not to puncture hull on jagged coral heads and ridges.
1546. First tank off. . . .66
LSM-84 in its Action Report, also voiced the general complaint of the smaller amphibious ship:
Much difficulty was experienced in unloading vehicles. We beached on Yellow Two at 1820 1 April and prepared to disembark at next low tide. At 0153 disembarked bulldozer successfully with intention of towing cranes ashore with it. However, ramp inclination was very steep so that although there was only 1'10" of water, the protruding engines on the cranes went completely to the bottom and drowned out. . . . We waited for the next flood tide and then beached at three (3) other points seeking a better position. At each beaching, the ramp when completely dropped was one to two feet above the bottom and inclination too steep for cranes. Damaged starboard screw.67
A Group Commander of LSTs reported:
Discharge of cargo over the reefs surrounding Okinawa was difficult, and was hampered by unfavorable weather conditions during the first eleven days of the operation. Commanding Officers were often confused by conflicting orders to beach or retract as the shore authorities apparently did not trouble to clear such requests with naval authorities. On several occasions, it was found that shore authorities were allotting priorities for unloading to ships that had actually sailed.
Reefs in the entire area had long fingers and numerous heads which presented grave problems in beaching. . . .
. . . the reefs were of such structure as to prohibit even small craft (LCVPs and LCMs) from gaining access to dry land. . . .68
Submarines and Midget Submarines
As one transport reported:
There was never a dull moment during the sojourn at Okinawa. Throughout the day and night, attacks were very frequent and of various types. Midget submarines were sighted floating booby traps and makeshift destructive
charges, small suicide boats and parties of enemy swimmers were reported to be in the area. . . .69
Japanese submarines, for the first time in the Central Pacific campaign, operated aggressively and in strength against the task forces in the vicinity of Okinawa. Due to depth of water, the large Japanese submarines generally operated to the eastward of Okinawa. Four Japanese submarines were logged by the Japanese as being lost in this effort during operations near Okinawa in April 1945, and four more in May.70 Japanese midget submarines had little luck. Twenty-one midget submarine pens, containing six wrecked submarines and one eighteen-inch torpedo, were discovered by the Marines in the Motobu Peninsula. Only one midget submarine firing a torpedo was definitely sighted by our forces in the Okinawa area, but numerous others were destroyed and prevented from reaching firing positions.
On Love Day plus four, a midget submarine took a pot shot at the USS Catron (APA-71), but the torpedo missed and exploded on the reef. Other than this, the Japanese submarines were largely unable to get inside the antisubmarine screen around the transport areas.71
One of the assumptions in Admiral Spruance's Operations Plan issued way back in January 1945, had been:
That the operation will cause violent enemy air reaction from his air bases in Japan proper, China, Nansei Shoto (Ryukyu Chain), Formosa, and from carriers.
This assumption turned out to be all too correct.
The Amphibians and the Kamikaze
An actual indication of things to come occurred during the first day's prelanding shore bombardment of Okinawa by the Gunfire and Covering Force, days before the troops were to be assault-landed. A destroyer, a light minelayer, and a high speed transport, all in the Amphibious Force, were each hit by Japanese suicide planes on this day, Sunday, 25 March 1945. This weapon,
the suicide plane, reinforced a belief in its potency the next day when eight ships in the Expeditionary Force, including a battleship, a light cruiser, three destroyers, a destroyer escort, a destroyer minesweeper, and a minelayer were all damaged by suicide planes.
As Admiral Turner remarked:
One of the most effective weapons that the Japanese developed, in my opinion, was the use of the suicide bombers. The suiciders hurt the Navy badly at Okinawa. . . . Our chief method of defense was to spread out around the ships of the Amphibious Force at a considerable distance, pickets composed of one to five ships, destroyers, destroyer escorts, and small amphibious craft. . . .
One of the things that was very fortunate for the transports and the troops was that the Japanese suicide airplanes, as soon as they began to be attacked by our outlying fighters, would themselves deliver attacks on our pickets instead of trying to penetrate our screen to attack our transports. It was tough on the pickets, but the Japanese themselves thus contributed to the successful defense of the vulnerable elements of the Amphibious Force.72
LST-884 on 1 April 1945 at Kerama Retto, following an early morning kamikaze attack.
The landing craft (infantry) (LCI) had grown into a small gunboat, and was now labeled a landing craft support ship. The landing ship (medium) had been fitted with rockets and machine guns and was a potent anti-aircraft weapon. Both were ordered up to the radar picket line to provide additional heavy machine gun support for the destroyers, and also to provide a nearby rescue ship when the radar picket absorbed a kamikaze.
Both the large amphibious ships and smaller amphibious craft which had to fight back at this death-dealing weapon had the minimum in sophisticated gun controls which were needed to blow the kamikaze to smithereens before it came aboard. Despite this, they went about their multitude of tasks with enough equanimity to accomplish them effectively. Besides backing up the destroyer pickets, the tasks for the smaller amphibian included salvage duty, screening, and the unglamorous task of making smoke at night.
The Baka bomb, a piloted jet propelled explosive, which was launched from a twin-engined Japanese plane, was used to reinforce the kamikaze. Fortunately, the very high speed of this weapon tended to lead the Japanese to overshoot with it.
The most damaging air attack occurred on Friday, 6 April 1945, when 26 ships were hit by suicide planes and six of these sunk, including three amphibians, the Hobbs Victory, the Logan Victory, and the LST-447. Two more ships were damaged by horizontal bombers and due to even worse luck, seven United States ships were damaged by our own gunfire during the tremendous anti-aircraft gunfire effort.73
There were those who were discouraged and depressed by these losses. Fortunately, they were in the minority. One young officer in command of an LCI Mortar Support Division responded to his amphibian duties enthusiastically:
The tension which was so apparent in the personnel three weeks past during the Kerama Retto operation has now completely disappeared and although none of the crews have been off the crowded ships since 15 January, morale is very high. The action of the past three weeks has reacted as a tonic. WITH MEN LIKE THIS, CLEANING OUT THE JAPS IS A CINCH.74
The Flotilla Commander noted that this division had performed its duties, "vigorously and decisively."
The kamikaze attacks wrought great damage on our ships, but as Admiral Turner wrote:
By their steadfast courage and magnificent performance of duty in a nerve wracking job under morale shattering conditions, the crews of ships and craft in the Radar Picket Stations emblazoned a glorious new chapter in naval tradition.75
Pre-landing Gunfire Support
If there were any complaints in regard to prelanding naval gunfire support at Okinawa, they are buried very deep in the files and not located by this researcher. Ten battleships, nine cruisers, twenty-three destroyers and one hundred and seventy-seven LCI gunboats of various types dropped a massive and debilitating rain of shells on enemy positions in Okinawa. By 16 May, more than 25,000 tons of ammunition had been expended.76
The Famous USS Leutze in Kerama Retto on 6 April 1945 after kamikaze attack.
The End Result
Okinawa was a tremendous victory for the United States and a very costly one for the United States Navy.
Admiral Turner made this bow to his own amphibians:
The Amphibious Operations for the capture of Okinawa Gunto in terms of ships employed, naval gunfire delivered, naval air support conducted, and the magnitude of the logistic problems and distances involved may well be considered the largest single naval operation in the history of Pacific Ocean warfare. The capture of Okinawa Gunto with its potential base development will serve to further support the future operations in the China Sea, act as a springboard for attack on the main islands of Japan, and will serve as a base from which to sever the Japanese sea and air communication between the Asiatic mainland, Formosa, Malaya, and the East Indies.77
Fleet Admiral Nimitz's Headquarters in a background memorandum opined:
In summary, Okinawa gives us:
1. a base for supplying bomber and fighter cover for invasion of either China or Japan or both.
2. a good anchorage and naval supply base within 400 miles of the coast of Japan.
3. a forward staging area.
4. an important base for furthering the war of attrition, in which sustained heavy bombing and air-sea blockade are our major weapons.78
Three hundred and sixty-eight ships were damaged and thirty-six, including fifteen amphibious ships and twelve destroyers were sunk during the Okinawa campaign. One hundred and twelve amphibious ships and craft were damaged. The carnage among naval personnel was equally heavy. Four thousand nine hundred and seven officers and men of the Navy lost their lives, largely in battling the Japanese kamikazes. This was some six hundred more personnel killed than the Army suffered during the 25 March to 21 June battle, and some two thousand more than the Marines.79
It was a bloody struggle.
Grown to Full Size
When the last battle--Okinawa--was over and won, in the Pacific Fleet, the Amphibious Forces under Admiral Turner's command were manned by 657,000 officers and men and consisted of:
3 Amphibious Forces (3rd, 5th, 7th) 14 Amphibious Groups 1 Air Support Control Unit 14 Transport Squadrons of approximately 14 APAs and 6 AKAs each 27 LST Flotillas of 36 LSTs each 16 LCM Flotillas of 12 LCMs each 18 LCI Flotillas of 36 LCIs each 3 LCS Flotillas of 36 LCSs each 30 LCT Flotillas of 36 LCTs each 12 APD Divisions of 9 APD's each 140 APAs unassigned to Squadrons 20 AKAs unassigned to Squadrons 14 AGCs 11 LDSs 6 LSVs 1 Administrative Command with 5 subordinate bases and units 1 Training Command with 12 subordinate bases or schools 1 Underwater Demolition Team with 2 Squadrons.80
All the seagoing part of the command was not at Okinawa, as the usual rotation of ships and landing craft to shipyards for overhaul and improvement continued. Many new ships and craft were being trained and prepared for the prospective invasion of Japan. But some 1,213 ships and craft were employed by CTF 51 in the Assault Echelon and First Garrison Echelon of the Amphibious Force in the Okinawa campaign. The Landing Force totaled 182,112 troops, and the Garrison Force was half again as large. The total expeditionary troops employed was 451,866.
A Respite and a Planning Chore
One historian wrote:
In late May, Admiral Nimitz decided that his principal naval commanders had borne the strain of great responsibility for long enough. They had been
in continuous combat command at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and Nimitz thought it prudent to give them a rest. Too, he wished them to start planning for their important parts in the invasion of Kyushu, scheduled for the fall. Accordingly, he directed Admiral Halsey, Vice Admiral Harry W. Hill and Vice Admiral John S. McCain to relieve Spruance, Turner and Mitscher respectively.81
Actually, the despatch orders of the period will show that this decision was made in early April rather than "in late May." On 5 April, Fleet Admiral Nimitz had advised Fleet Admiral King that the country would be best served if Admiral Spruance commanded the naval phases of The Kyushu operation. Fleet Admiral King, on 9 April 1945, had informed Admiral Nimitz that the Fifth Fleet team of "Spruance and Turner" would command the naval phases of OLYMPIC (the invasion of Kyushu) and that they should be disengaged from ICEBERG as soon as practical. Fleet Admiral Nimitz flew into Yontan airfield on 22 April, and decided that the "disengagement" was becoming a practicality.82
On 1 May 1945, Vice Admiral Harry W. Hill, having been relieved of command of Amphibious Group Two, departed Pearl Harbor by air for Okinawa for the purpose of relieving Vice Admiral Turner as CTF 51. He arrived on board the Eldorado at Okinawa on 4 May 1945. The actual relief did not take place until 17 May, by which date it was considered possible to shift to Lieutenant General Buckner, Commanding General Tenth Army, responsibility for the defense and development of captured positions on Okinawa. The new CTF 51, on that date, reported to General Buckner for duty in control of the air defense of Okinawa and command of the Naval forces present.
When Admiral Hill was questioned in 1968 as to why he had taken two weeks in relieving, he said:
My staff had a lot to learn in the very hot kamikaze situation at Okinawa, before they were fully ready to take over from Kelly's Staff. He was taking all his people with him (except his air controller) to plan for OLYMPIC. I wanted my staff to be on top of the situation. This took time.83
On an earlier occasion Admiral Hill had written:
Relieving Turner at any time is tough. He had such a comprehensive grasp on every detail, and had a ready solution for every problem.84
It was a bit tougher at Okinawa.
It should be mentioned that Rear Admiral Hill had been promoted to Vice Admiral on 22 April 1945, and on that date had relieved Vice Admiral Turner, in absentia, as Commander Fifth Amphibious Force. Both Admiral Turner and Admiral Hill informed this writer that CINCPAC had named three officers as available for command of the Fifth Amphibious Force and had asked for recommendations and that the Turner choice, from among those three, had been Admiral Hill.
On 28 May 1945, while the Eldorado still was at Guam, notification
Oil painting of Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner, with Captain James H. Doyle,
Colonel Harold D. Harris and Commander John Lewis, by Albert K. Murray.
was received that Vice Admiral Turner was promoted to full Admiral, to date from 24 May 1945. He was the second and last officer in his Naval Academy Class (1908) to be promoted, while on the active list, to full admiral's rank, having been preceded by Admiral T. C. Kinkaid, who also had preceded him in promotion to the rank of Vice Admiral.
CINCPOA circulated his preliminary "Joint Staff Study" for OLYMPIC, the landing on the large southern Japanese home island of Kyushu, on 12 May 1945. COMPHIBSPAC did his planning for this operation in the Eldorado in Manila Bay, commencing on 14 June 1945, even though
neither Admiral Nimitz or Spruance considered that it would ever be necessary to invade the homeland of Japan. Our naval blockade was rapidly strangling the Japanese economy and could prove to be a decisive factor for an early peace. They both, as well as Admiral King, vigorously opposed the later decision of the JCS to invade Japan.85
Admiral Turner on 11 February 1947, in an address to the Air University, said:
The purpose of the landings on Kyushu was the neutralization of the southern part of Japan as an enemy base, and the establishment there of our own military, naval, and air bases required for the close tactical and strategical support of land, sea, and air forces that were to be employed later in the capture of Kyushu. We also hoped that the capture of Kyushu, combined with concurrent intensive operations by American strategic sea and air forces, might itself provide the Emperor of Japan with some reasons for surrendering before our invasion of Honshu became necessary.86
The situation in Mid-May 1945 was well summed up by the Intelligence Officer on Admiral Spruance's Fifth Fleet Staff in his Okinawa turn-over memorandum to the Third Fleet Intelligence Officer.
The Japanese gamble for Empire has failed. . . . Of the fighting forces, only the Army remains relatively strong. . . . The Japanese are defeated but we have not yet won the victory.87
It was hoped by those who had never heard of an atomic bomb, that OLYMPIC would win the victory.
Amphibiously, under Admiral Turner's command, there were to be 2,700 ships and craft in the Kyushu operation. There had been 1,213 ships and craft under his command for the Okinawa operation, 435 for the Marianas operation and 51 at Guadalcanal.
Admiral Turner noted:
After leaving Okinawa on May 19, I proceeded to Guam to consult with the Staffs of Admiral Nimitz and Admiral Spruance. Then in the middle of June, I went to Manila to arrange the cooperation between the Army and Navy for the future amphibious attack on the southern part of Kyushu, whose date was set for November 1, 1945. . . .88
The question of who would command all Army forces in the Pacific Theater and who would command all the Naval forces in the Pacific Theater, and who actually would command the forces in the invasion of Japan, had in no way been settled by the command order issued by Admiral Nimitz on 19 November 1944 for the invasion of Okinawa. But it was a straw in the wind indicating how the larger problem would be settled.
After months of discussion, an Army proposal was adopted, assigning General MacArthur the responsibility for planning and preparing for the land campaign in Japan, cooperating with Admiral Nimitz in these plans and preparations, and assigning Admiral Nimitz the responsibility of planning and preparing for the naval and amphibious phases of the invasion of Japan.89
As Admiral Turner remarked:
The agreements entered into between General MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz, and approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were that General MacArthur, in an emergency, could exercise supreme command for the operation for the invasion of Japan, both at Kyushu and later in Honshu. General MacArthur was to be the sole judge as to when such an emergency arose. . . .
General MacArthur agreed to retention by the Commander of the Amphibious Force of command of the Naval Forces and the Air Forces in the objective area until such time as the amphibious phase of the operation had been completed. . . .
And his judgment of what, in effect, was a transfer of Japan from the area under command of Admiral Nimitz to an area under General MacArthur, was that:
This decision was, I believe, justified because of the final overriding importance, in an extensive land campaign of the operations of ground troops.90
Between 14 June 1945, when Admiral Turner arrived in Manila Bay, and the dropping of the first atomic bomb at Hiroshima, Japan, on 6 August 1945, the staff of Commander Amphibious Forces, Pacific Fleet worked under a full head of steam in planning the amphibious phases of OLYMPIC. From 9 August until 15 August 1945, when a message was received from CINCPAC to cease all offensive operations against Japan, fires were slowly drawn from the OLYMPIC planning boilers, and lighted off on the planning for the demobilization of the Pacific Fleet Amphibious Forces. On 25 August 1945, Admiral Turner departed by air for Guam, later to proceed to Tokyo with CINCPAC to be present at the formal surrender of the Japanese.
A Long Look Ahead
After a little over two years' service following graduation from the Naval Academy, Ensign Turner wrote to his mother a few thoughts about the Navy and naval officers:
[The Navy] It takes a man's best and most earnest work and then not content with that, it takes his soul right out of him if he is not very careful--sucks him dry as a bone and then throws him aside to the dump heap.
* * * * *A naval officer of sixty is an old, old man, incapable of doing the work that a man of that age should do.91
Kelly Turner observed his sixtieth birthday at Okinawa. He was far from having been thrown on the dump heap, but he had many aches and pains and was leaning rather heavily on the bottle to keep himself physically doing his job which was well within the scope of his mental abilities. He had driven himself--at top speed through three years of combat--and only the Turner clan's love of hard work, and the umph from the bottom of the
bottle had kept Richmond Kelly Turner doing the work he relished so heartily.
One officer on his staff summarized the situation:
All the way back to Guam, he slept, rested and drank nothing but orange juice. When we arrived, he was his old self, able to persuade Admiral Nimitz and Admiral Spruance that there was no one in the United States Navy more capable than he in planning for Operation OLYMPIC. . . .92
Table of Contents * Previous Chapter (23) * Next Chapter (25)
1. Federal Records of World War II, Vol. II, Military Agencies, p. 54. National Archives Publication 51-8.
2. COMINCH to C/S Army, letter, FF1/A3-1 Ser 03248, 20 Sep. 1943.
3. (a) Asst. Chief os Staff Plans (Cooke) to S/S (Edwards) Memo 0f 29 Aug. 1943, and Edwards endorsement thereon; (b) Deputy C/S Army memo without file number to Admiral King of 5 Apr. 1944; (c) COMINCH to C/S Army, letter, Ser 00841 of 13 Mar. 1944, Subj: Joint Amphibious Warfare Development Committee, Appointment of.
4. COMINCH to C/S Army, letter, Ser 001189 of 15 Apr. 1944.
6. RKT to Admiral Denfeld, letter, 3 Feb. 1945.
9. King's Record, p. 598.
10. JCS 924/CCS 381.
12. COMFIFTHFLT Op Plan 1-45, para 2.
13. (a) JPS 174th and 176th Meetings, minutes, 11 Oct. and 25 Oct. 1944; (b) JCS 924/5 Operations for the Defeat of Japan, 27 Oct; 1944; (c) General Arnold's Memo of 6 Nov. 1944, on subject JCS paper; (d) Memo by COMINCH-CNO, Operations nfor the Defeat of Japan, 3 Nov. 1944.
14. (a) JCS 1215, Contributory Operations on the China Coast North of Swatow, 31 Dec. 1944; (b) JCS to CINCPOA, CM-OUT-22016, 16 Jan. 1945; (c) JCS 1079 Report by Joint Planning Staff, "Tactical Air Forces Required to accomplish Earliest Possible Conclusive Defeat of Japan," 29 Sep. 1944. Approved by JCS 14 Oct. 1944.
15. COMPHIBSPAC to CINCPOA, letter, Ser 000199 of 20 April 1945. See also COMPHIBSPAC to COMTHIRDPHIBPAC, letter, Ser 000210 of 22 May 1945.
16. CINCPAC-CINCPOA, letter, 00147 of 21 Nov. 1944, subj: Command Relationships on the Ryuryus Operation, p. 1. See also CINCPOA, letter, Ser 0080 of 16 Aug. 1944; subj: Commmand Relationships; COMFDIFTHFLT Op Plan 1-45, Annex I; CINCPAC-CINCPOA Op Plan 14-44, 31 Dec. 1945.
17. (a) CINCPAC-CINCPOA-Joint Staff Study Okinawa, 25 Oct. 1944, p. 1; (b) CINCPAC-CINCPOA, Op Plan 14-44, 31 Dec. 1944; (c) CTF 50 Op Plan 1-45, 3 Jan. 1945; (d) CTF 51 Op Plan A1-45, 9 Feb. 1945.
18. CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bulletin No. 161-44, Okinawa Gunto, 15 Nov. 1944.
19. (a) JICPOA Bulletins No. 63-44, Nansei Shoto, 15 May 1944, pp. 7, 37. CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bulletin No. 161-44, pp. 56-58; (b) COMFIFTHFLT to COMTHIRDFLT, memorandum, Ser 00121 of 17 May 1945, subj: Transfer of Command; (c) COMPHIBGRP Seven (CTG 51.1) Attack Order A701-45, Ser 0005 of 13 Mar. 1945.
20. CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bulletin No. 161-44, p. 10.
21. COMPHIBSPAC Op Plan A1-45, 9 Feb. 1945, pp. 31-33, 34.
22. COMFIFTHFLT Op Plan 1-45, 3 Jan. 1945, Annex F, Appendix I, para. 6a.
23. COMTRANSRON 16, Okinawa Action Report, 30 Apr. 1945, p. 12.
24. (a) CINCPAC Joint Staff Study ICEBERG, 5 Oct. 1944, Appendix A, para 1; (b) COMPHIBSPAC Op Plan A1-45, Annex B, para 3; (c) CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bullwetin No. 53-45, 25 Feb. 1945, p. 14; (d) Tenth Army (TF 56) Op Plan 1-45, 1 Jan. 1945, Annex 3, Sec (IV, para 3(b), and Sec V, para 1; (e) XXIV Corps G-3 Journal, Okinawa, FO 46; (f) Roy E. Appleman, Okinawa: The Last Battle, Vol. I in subseries The War in the Pacific of series UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington: Office of the Chief of Mililtary History, Department of the Army, 1948), Appendix B; (g) Charles S. Nichols and Henry I. Shaw, Okinawa: Victory in the Pacific, U.S. Marine Corps Monograph (Washington: Historical Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, 1955), Appendix V.
25. (a) CINCPAC Joint Staff Study ICEBERG, 5 Oct. 1944, Appendix A, para. 1; (b) Tenth Army (TF 56) Op Plan 1-45, Annex 3, Sec. IV, para. 3(b) and Sec. V, para. 1; (c) COMPHIBSPAC Op Plan A1-45, Annex B, para. 3; (d) CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bulletin No. 53-45, p. 14; (e) XXIV Corps, G-2 Summary No. 3, ICEBERG, 6 Mar. 1945.
26. Tenth Army Report of Operations in the Ryukyus, 3 Sep. 1945, Vol. 1, Ch. 3, pp. 3-0-7 to 3-0-9.
27. (a) CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bulletin No. 147-45, 16 Jun. 1945, 1-27; (b) Tenth Army Op Plan 1-45, Annex 3, G-2 estimatye, para. 4(a)(1) and 4(a)(2).
28. Tenth Army Op Plan 1-45, Section III, para. 10(e) and Annex 2, Operation Maps.
29. PACFLT Confidential Notice 29CN-44 of 12 Sep. 1944.
30. (a) COMPHIBSPAC (CTF (51) Okinawa Report, 25 Jul. 1945, Vol. I, Part II, para. 1.
31. (a) COMPHIBGRP Seven (CTG 51.1) Okinawa Action Report, 25 May 1945, Part II, paras. 4, 7, pp. 1, 2.; (b) COMPHIBGRP 12 (CTF 55) Okinawa Action Report, 31 Jul. 1945, Part II, para. 2, p. 1.
32. Interview with Admiral John Leslie Hall, USN (Ret.), 1-6 Nov. 1961. Hereafter Hall.
33. COMTASKFLOT Five, Okinawa Report, 20 Jul. 1945, p. 14.
34. COMTRANSRON 14, Okinawa Report, 28 Apr. 1945, p. 7.
35. (a) COMMINPAC (CTG 32.2), Report of Capture of Okinawa Gunto--Phases One and Two 23 July 1945; (b) CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bulletin No. 208-45, Japanese Minefields 31 August, 1945; (c) Theodore Roscoe, United States Destroyer Operations in World War II (Annapolis: U.S. Naval Institute, 1953), p. 469.
36 COMPHIBGRP Seven, Okinawa Report, 26 May, Part I, para. 5 p. 2.
35a. COMPHIBGRP One (Commander Amphibious Support Force CTF 52) Okinawa Report, 1 May 1945, Part V, Sec. C, para. D.
36a. CTF 52 Okinawa Report, 1 May 1945, Part V, Sec. C, para. 13(c). See also Sec. E, para. III; CTG 52.11 Action Report, 4 Apr. 1945, Okinawa Annexes (j) and (k); CINCPOA Advance Headquarters, 310518 Mar. 1945.
37. Ibid., Part I, para. 8.
38. Ibid., Part III, p. 50.
39. Ibid., (a) Part I, Sec. C, para. 3; (b) Part IV, Sec. A and Photographic Supplement showing boats, boat caves, etc.; (c) CTU 52.9.7 Okinawa Action Report, 4 May 1945.
40. CO LCI(M)-757 Okinawa Report, 10 Apr. 1945, p. 11.
41. COMPHIBGRP 12 Okinawa Report, 31 Jul. 1945, Part II, Sec. (B), pp. 1-2.
42. Ibid., Sec. (B), p. 2.
43. COMPHIBSPAC Okinawa Gunto Report, 25 Jul. 1945, Part II, p. 16.
44. COMLSTFLOT Three Action Report, Part III, para. A, p. 1.
45. Commanding General Tenth Army, Operations in Ryukyus Campaign, 3 Sep. 1945, Vol. I, p. 7-III-1.
47. CONTRANSRON 14 Okinawa Report, 24 Jan. 1945 [sic], p. 8.
48. CTF 54 Okinawa Report, 5 May 1945, p. 29.
49. COMGENSIXTHMARDIV, Okinawa Action Report, 15 Jun. 1945, Vol. 2.
50. COMPHIBSPAC Okinawa Gunto Report, 25 Jul. 1945, Vol. I, Part I, p. 2.
51. COMPHIBGRP 12 Okinawa Report, 31 Jul. 1945, Part V, Sec. B, p. 2.
52. Ibid., Part III, p. 10.
53. Extracts from the following reports were combined: COMPHIBSPAC Okinawa Report, Part III, pp. 10-11; COMLSRTFLOT Three Action Report, Part III, p. 6; LST-675 Damage Report, 5 Apr. 1945; LST-756 Damage Report, 2 May 1945, and CTG 55.2 Action Report, 28 Apr. 1945.
54. Capricornus Action Report, 13 Apr. 1945, p. 6.
55. CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bulletin 147-15, Translations Interrogation No. 32, 16 Jun. 1945, Item No. B-16, 054A, p. 53.
56. COMPHIBSPAC Okinawa Report, 31 Jul. 1945, Part II, p. 3.
57. COMLSTGRP 85, CTU 55.3.8 Okinawa Report, Part I, para. 6, Part III, p. 4.
58. COMTRANSRON 16 Okinawa Report, Phase I, 30 Apr. 1945, p. 11.
59. CONTRANSRON 16 Okinawa Report, Part VI, p. 13.
60. USS Cecil (APA-96) Okinawa Operation Report, 17 May 1945, Encl. (A), para. 4.
61. USS Deuel (APA-160) Okinawa Report, 26 Apr. 1945, p. 5.
62. USS darke (APA-159) Okinawa Report, 21 Apr. 1945, Encl. (A), p. 7.
63. USS Burleson (APA-67) Action Report, 7 Apr. 1945, p. 2.
64. COMPOHIBGRP 12 Okinawa Report, Part II, Sec. (c), p. 3.
65. USS Capricornus (AKA-57) Action Report, 13 Apr. 1945, p. 4.
66. LST-220 Action Report, 9 Apr. 1945, p. 6.
67. LSM-84 Action Report, 22 Apr. 1945, p. 3.
68. COMLSTGRP 63, Okinawa Report, 15 Apr. 1945, pp. 3, 4.
69. USS Joseph T. Dickman (APA-13) Action Report, 27 Apr. 1945, p. 4.
70. Military History Section, Far East Command, The Imperial Japanese Navy in World War II, February 1952, pp. 227, 229.
71. USS Catron (APA-71) War Diary, 5 Apr. 1945.
72. R.K. Turner, Speech Delivered at the Air University, Maxwell Field, Alabama, 11 Feb. 1947, p. 17.
73. Naval History Division, United States Naval Chronology, World War II (Washington: Govermment Printing Office, 1955), pp. 141-42.
[NOTE: Link is to the revised 1999 edition.]
74. Commander LCI Group 14, Okinawa Report and endorsements thereon, 20 Apr. 1945, p. 5.
75. COMPHIBSPAC Okinawa Report, Part II, p. 18.
76. Ibid., Part II, p. 15.
77. Ibid., Part I, p. 7.
78. CINCPAC Advance Headquarters Background Memorandum No. 47, p. 3.
79. CINCPAC-CINCPOA Monthly Operations Report, May 1945. Figures for those dead are as of 5 Novembefr 1945.
80. Administrative History of Amphibious Forces, Pacific Fleet.
81. Forrestel, Spruance, p. 215.
82. COMINCH and CNO to CINCPAC 091921 Apr. and related despatches.
83. Hill Interview, 15 Jan. 1968.
84. Hill memo of 17 Nov. 1966.
85. Hill memo of 17 Nov. 1966. See also King's Record, p. 366 and Forrestel, Spruance, p. 164.
86. Turner's speech, 11 Feb. 1947, p. 2.
87. COMFIFTHFLT to Admiral Halsey, memorandum, 17 May 1945, subj: Transfer of Command, Annex D, p. 1.
88. Turner's speechc, 11 Feb. 1947, p. 11.
89. (a) JCS 1259, Memo by C/S USA, Command in the Pacific, 26 Feb. 45; (b) COMINCH-CINCPAC Conference, 6 Mar. 1945; (c) JCS 1259/2 and JCS 1259/3; (d) Minutes of COMINCH Proposed Directive for Reorganization and Future Operations in the Pacific Theater, 10 Mar. 1945.
90. Turner's speech, 11 Feb. 1947, pp. 12-13.
91. RKT to Mother, letter 28 Oct. 1910.
92. Rear Admiral William C. Mott, USN (Ret.) to GCD, letter, 6 Dec. 1967.