Chapter XXVII
Logistics at Kerama Retto for the Okinawa Operation

Suicide Plane Attacks

Daring initiative has been a characteristic of American operations in both strategy and tactics. Our enemies have known the book doctrines as well as we, but they could not throw the book overboard and try something new as freely as we. Thus at time we have had the advantage of projecting moves that they did not anticipate. The capture of Kerama Retto is an example.

This small group of islands lies about 15 miles southwest of Okinawa. The idea of seizing it for use as a forward base before the main assault was a bold conception. To replenish fuel and ammunition from the anchorage there, so near the objective, increased immeasurably the effectiveness in useful hours of the fire-support and mine-sweeping ships. Also, maintaining repair facilities close at hand aided in quickly returning some damaged ships to duty, whereas many precious days would have been lost had the cripples returned to Guam, Ulithi, or some other rear base. Several crippled destroyers might have been lost altogether without such immediate succor. Originally conceived as an anchorage principally for fuel and ammunition replacement, the emphasis at Kerama Retto shifted to salvage and repair as enemy air attacks increased.

Apparently the capture of the Kerama Retto group came as a complete surprise to the enemy: its defenses were comparatively light. Japanese plans to use it as a base for small suicide torpedo boats went awry when, during the first and second days of operations, several hundred of these boats were captured in caves on the various islands and destroyed, fortunately before they could be used against our assault forces.


Map: Kerama Retto
Kerama Retto


The Western Islands Attack Group, Task Group 51.1, transporting the 77th Infantry Division, came to Kerama Retto from Leyte. Its major tasks, under Rear Admiral I.N. Kiland, were to capture the islands, beginning about 6 days prior to the main assault, and to establish an anchorage for logistic support of the fleet. At 8 a.m. 26 March the first units of the 77th went ashore, supported by naval gunfire and air bombardment. Although resistance on the beaches was light, Japanese suicide planes immediately proved a serious menace to our ships.

On the 27th Task Group 51.6, the first salvage and repair facility, began operations with two fleet tugs, Yuma and Tekesta; 1 salvage tug, Clamp; and 1 landing-craft repair ship, Egeria; establishing itself in a well-sheltered location termed "Cripple Creek" or "Wiseman's Cove," to give emergency repairs to battle-damaged ships. The first job began at once, patching up the destroyer Kimberly, which had been hit by a Kamikaze several hours prior to the assault the day before. Patched into seaworthiness, the Kimberly returned to Ulithi.

By the 28th all organized resistance in the Kerama Retto area was over. That day the seaplane unit arrived in the anchorage, followed by eight LST ammunition ships and three tankers of the Logistic Support Group, Atascosa, Brazos, and Kishwaukee, screened by four destroyer escorts. The oiler Tomahawk, accompanied by the merchant ammunition ship Las Vegas Victory, relieved the Atascosa on the 31st, while the oilers Brazos and Kishwaukee remained as station tankers. Three converted Liberty Ships, the Camel, Elk, and Whippet, joined 2 April for base fueling. Fleet tankers were called forward by Admiral Turner, Commander Task Force 51, coming to Kerama either from the at-sea vessels of Task Group 50.8 or from Ulithi about every third day thereafter.

On 1 April the tanker Ponaganset brought in the first water cargo. Until relieved by the tanker Soubarissen on the 25th, she discharged water to damaged vessels, and various patrol, amphibious, and mine craft. She also issued most of the fog oil and smoke pots used in the anchorage, as well as quantities of lubricating oil and motor gasoline. On the 3d and again on the 6th she went alongside the Indianapolis, flagship of Admiral Spruance, to furnish food and potable water, as the cruiser's evaporators were inoperable as a result of a suicide-plane attack on 31 March. The cruiser was alongside the Clamp for temporary repairs before returning to Mare Island Navy Yard.

Repair facilities were augmented 2 April by the arrival of landing-craft repairships Endymion and Coronis, and the battle-damage repair ship Oceanus. Because of the heavy toll of damaged ships, these too were soon


Destroyer Newcomb damaged by suicide attacks.
Destroyer Newcomb damaged by suicide attacks.


overtaxed, shortage of mechanics and of material for structural and other repairs being a serious handicap. In spite of a loan of Seabee personnel and the cannibalizing of equipment from vessels patched up for return to rear bases, the problem of damaged ships was becoming very serious.

Kerama Retto anchorage was not secure from the Kamikazes. While the fast carrier force did not replenish there, the harbor was the logistic center for escort carriers of Task Group 52.1. The task-group commander reported that the "main desire of carriers at Kerama Retto is to get their supplies and get out as fast as possible." The escort carrier Sangammon was badly damaged shortly after leaving the harbor, while at least two carriers were attacked at anchor and barely escaped damage. Others were attacked either approaching or leaving.

Enemy air activity was, however, surprisingly light during the first weeks of the occupation. This was extremely fortunate because antiaircraft defense was limited to the ships at anchor; no defenses were set up ashore until later. On 6 April the first serious air attacks occurred when the two merchant Army ammunition carriers Hobbs Victory and Logan Victory were hit by suicide planes. Efforts to extinguish the fires were futile because of detonating ammunition. Both ships sank during the night after a furious pyrotechnic display.

Several of our ships were hit during the succeeding days. One notable casualty occurred 28 April, when a suicide attack was made on the hospital transportPinkney, serving as station hospital ship in the anchorage. About 80 percent of the crew was attending a movie in No. 6 hold when the plane crashed amidships. The entire engineroom and all auxiliaries were put out of operation, so the men had to fight the fire with only handy-billy pumps and carbon-dioxide extinguishers. The fleet tug Molala came alongside, put her fire-fighting crew aboard, and turned water on the blaze. With the assistance of several landing craft and landing ships the flames were under control in about 3 hours.

At the time of the explosion an emergency appendectomy was being performed in the Pinkney's operating room. All lights went out, but the surgeons and the corpsmen completed the operation--the work illuminated by a flashlight--and then evacuated the patient to another ship.

The Molala remained alongside the Pinkney next day to supply power for pumping out the engineroom. She was relieved by the net-layer Terebinth, which was later forced to cast off and get under way because of heavy seas. On 4 May the Pinkney was towed to a more protected anchorage to await repairs with several other badly hurt ships. Three days later she was sufficiently seaworthy to return to the rear area.


Damage to the flight deck of Sangamon
Damage to the flight deck of Sangamon.


Indicative of the more or less constant tension at Kerama Retto, the headquarters ship Mount McKinley, flying Admiral Kiland's flag, reported that her crew went to general quarters 75 times during April. The Combat information center of that ship was charged with the air defense of the area, accounting for 25 enemy planes shot down. Fortunately, during the month, the Kamikazes succeeded in Kerama Retto only in the instances above mentioned.

By the end of the first week of April, with the Okinawa operation but a few days old, battle-damaged ships were accumulating at Kerama faster than facilities could accommodate them. To assist in the supervision of emergency repairs to destroyer types, Captain A.I. McKee, Assistant Fleet Maintenance Officer of Service Force Pacific, was brought from Ulithi. He arrived 16 April in ARD-13, a floating 3,500-ton drydock, towed by the fleet tug Jicarilla, accompanied by the battle-damaged repair ship Nestor, tug Molala, four support landing craft, and two destroyers. He remained at Kerama until the arrival of Captain Rhoads, ComServRon Ten's Representative B, on 17 May.

Besides battle damage, much routine repair and maintenance work was accumulating. The majority of the smaller vessels requiring work were LCI types and patrol craft which had operational deficiencies after long periods of service, some coming direct from Iwo Jima without opportunity for maintenance, and many reporting that they had had no maintenance or overhaul for as long as 9 months. Once at the objective they naturally had not let-up. A very serious handicap arose from the lack of replacement parts for worn-out and damaged equipment for these two types,. which resulted in some ships operating on one engine or at reduced speeds. Overtaxed docking facilities, a shortage of parts, inoperative sonar or radar equipment, and lack of electronics repairmen kept many badly needed patrol craft out of useful service. In several cases patrol craft had to return to the rear for repairs which could not be handled at the objective except after long delays.

In the case of landing craft, some shortages of anchors, cable, manila mooring lines, propellers, and engine spares developed. Unsalvagable ships and those patched up for return to rear areas were cannibalized to supply these shortages. All Seabees who could be spared were sent to Kerama to alleviate the shortage of mechanics. The use of these trained men and their welding equipment and tools made a considerable contribution toward getting damaged ships back into action in a hurry.

Originally it was intended to use the Egeria and the landing ship dock Gunston Hall for repairs to boat-pool craft, but both had to be used for


Damage to Kiland's flagship Mount McKinley
Damage to Kiland's flagship Mount McKinley.


major work only. Repair facilities for boats, including hull repair shops and engine repair shops, were established on pontoon causeway sections. By this means most boat overhaul and repair was accomplished. A second LSD, the Casa Grande, joined for small-boat repair on 4 April. She reported "there appears to be plenty of work in store for us for some time to come."

As was to be expected, the boats originally assigned to the boat pool were inadequate for transportation and the miscellaneous services required. To build up the pool 31 LCVP's, 4 LCM's, and 3 LCP(L)'s or (R)'s were removed from transports returning to rear areas. The Casa Grande furnished 12 LCM(6)'s out of a total of 16 on board. The final total of boats was 51 LCVP's 36 LCM's, 5 LCP(L)'s or (R)'s, and 17 LCT's, which proved barely adequate to the heavy workload imposed on them. Of the group, 15 LCVP's were reserved for smoke-making duty only.

The salvage unit on 1 April consisted of the salvage tugs Clamp and Gear; two fleet tugs, Yuma and Tekesta; and several landing craft. The fleet tugs Molala and Jicarilla joined on the 9th. The large salvage pumps on the Clamp and Gear proved valuable in keeping damaged ships afloat until temporary underwater patching was effected. The busy tugs were alerted for service at all times, and brought battle-damaged destroyers and other vessels in from picket and screening stations. By night salvage craft were strategically located throughout the anchorage to aid ships in case of fire or of damage by suicide planes. During the period of severe enemy activity, twice as many of these ships could have been utilized had they been available. The Gear and Clamp were released from salvage duty 15 May and sailed to Ulithi.

On 1 May three additional repair facilities arrived from the rear--the Vestal, salvage tug Deliver, and auxiliary repair ship Zanaiah. The destroyer tender Hamul arrived on the 10th, and within a few hours had her first destroyer alongside. The same day Captain Rhoads, Commodore Carter's Representative B, previously at Saipan, came aboard to established his headquarters. A week later he assumed direction of logistics in the Okinawa area, relieving Admiral Kiland.

Another casualty in the anchorage occurred early on 1 May when the minelayer Terror, serving as tender for minecraft, was hit by a suicide plane and set on fire topside. Order had been given to make smoke, but it had not become fully effective. Salvage craft went alongside immediately and the fires in the superstructure were rapidly controlled, but the damage was heavy, a check of it showing 41 killed, 7 missing, and 123


wounded. It was felt by some that the ship would not have been attacked had she not opened fire on the plane, thereby disclosing her position. Though the moon was out, visibility from aloft was not good. After temporary repairs and removal of all useful spare parts, the ship would not be repaired in the forward area, and she was sent back to the Mare Island Navy Yard.

A most important feature of the Kerama Retto plan was the ammunition replenishment program. The Okinawa Operation Plan provided that all vessels except battleships should be prepared to receive ammunition at sea. Actually, because of shortage of ammunition ships, transfer of ammunition at sea was made to ships of the fast carrier force only. Those of the Joint Expeditionary Force, especially fire-support ships, and the escort carriers were resupplied at Kerama Retto.

To start the replenishment the 8 LST's loaded with dire-support ammunition were available, each equipped with special cranes, slings, and other gear necessary. This type of ship was first used at Iwo Jima and had proved its worth there as it did later at Okinawa. Loading was effected direct from the LST's to combatant ships, without transfer by smaller craft, when demand for ammunition was particularly urgent. Two LST's were needed simultaneously to replenish satisfactorily each battleship or heavy cruiser during the course of a day, one for each light cruiser and one for every two escorts in a 4-hour period. Only about half the LST's which could have been satisfactorily used were available.

Although each ammunition-carrying LST was reported to have four camels and six large fenders on sailing, they arrived with no camels and very few large fenders. Because this type of equipment is absolutely essential in any kind of swell or heavy weather, transfer of ammunition was slowed decidedly and in a few instances prevented altogether. Commanding officers repeatedly emphasized the importance of placing camels between ships when transferring fuel and ammunition.

These LST's proved particularly successful in contributing to the rapid replenishment of fire-support ships for 3 days before the main assault, and prevented the difficulty encountered in previous operations of having fire-support ships practically empty upon completion of D-day missions. A total of 3,000 tons of naval ammunition was given the fire-support ships in the 3 days preceding 1 April.

Following the delivery of their initial loads to the battleships, the LST's reloaded ammunition from the naval ammunition and merchant-type ammunition ships whenever these were not discharging directly


Damage to the destroyer Hazelwood
Damage to the destroyer Hazelwood.


Pennsylvania low in water after being torpedoed by plane
Pennsylvania low in water after being torpedoed by plane.


into the fire-support ships, and thereafter those LST's discharged to the fire-support ships. This permitted faster unloading of the large ammunition carriers and reduced the numbers of them required to be in port at any one time, besides expediting transfers by providing more sides for working. For instance, two or three LST's could lie alongside a battleship simultaneously, transferring two or three times as much ammunition as could have been handled had the big fellow been required to receive from a single AE or AKE.

To expedite resupply, all possible arrangements were worked out the night before. Generally, battleships, cruisers, and escort carriers submitted their needs by dispatch the night before arriving, and all ammunition carriers submitted their available inventories by 6 p.m. daily. That enabled definite assignments of the ammunition craft, thus saving a great deal of time. Destroyers and other escort types did not submit their requirements in advance. Destroyers were sent to Kerama on schedule with the larger ships, regardless of ammunition expenditure, so that they might fuel and also screen these vessels en route.

As a general rule two ammunition ships--one carrier loaded and one bombardment loaded--were at Kerama Retto at all times. Eight LCT's from the boat pool were assigned duties of taking ammunition from LST's and AE's for further aid in delivery to combatant ships. But until the arrival of eight more LCT's early in April, the disposal of empty cartridge and powder tanks was a perplexing problem. Because of the insistence of several ships that empties be dumped into the craft transporting the ammunition, the latter craft were made useless as ammunition carriers until the empties could be disposed of on the beach or put on vessels especially furnished for that purpose. It was necessary in a few instances to throw empties overboard.

Sixteen LCM's were assigned from the boat pool for ammunition work, carrying the smaller types for reasons of weight and protection from the weather. Three weeks after replenishment began a few LSM's became available for ammunitioning. Though the number available varied form time to time because of other requirements, generally at least two were assigned ammunition duties exclusively. They proved most useful for supply and for receiving empties. Because they carried large crews, they were excellent for ammunition work with all types except carriers.

To be in readiness to service combatant ships with the quantity and types required in the limited time available, considerable tonnage had to be preloaded and consolidated, much of this being done every night. For


Maryland taking turret gun powder
Maryland taking turret gun powder.


the carriers, ammunition was transferred from the ammunition ships into LCM's for delivery. Battleships go their from LCT's loaded the night before, and from LST's ordered alongside. For the most part, cruisers were sent alongside ammunition ships to receive direct, as well as from LST's also alongside. Destroyers and escorts went alongside LST's and received their supplies direct. Battleships, cruisers, and carriers were required to furnish working parties ranging from 50 to 200 hands each for handling ammunition. Since most ships were replenished only during daylight, these working parties were not available at night, when most of the preloading and consolidation of cargo was under way. A permanent working force of 500 could have been utilized had it been available.

Changes in the tactical situation brought changes in the types of ammunition used. When it became apparent that proximity-fused projectiles were best suited to combat the increased number of suicide planes, the demand for this type of destroyer ammunition immediately increased. Except for a few types, the supplies at Kerama Retto proved adequate at all times. From 28 March through 16 May the ammunition issued was 37,915.6 tons. The number of replenishments for the larger types were: Battleship 56; heavy cruiser 38; light cruiser 22; escort carrier 53; destroyer 330. Other small types brought the total to 610.

During the same period 1,137 ships received 1,295,000 barrels of black oil and 337,000 barrels of Diesel fuel. A much greater quantity of gasoline was consumed at Kerama than had been anticipated, because more extensive seaplane operations were conducted than were originally contemplated, and battleships and cruisers also burned an unusual amount. As a rule the escort carriers received their supplies in their operating areas and not at Kerama Retto.

Because fleet oilers were permitted to remain at the objective 3 days only, there was seldom time to fuel screening ships and station tankers and still transfer aviation gasoline to the seaplane tenders and fire-support ships. As a result, tankers occasionally left the area without discharging the aviation gasoline needed by the forces at the objective. For future operations it was recommended that a loaded station tanker with aviation gasoline be provided at the objective for later issue, and that several small barges or bowser boats (small craft equipped with pump and carrying a supply of gasoline) be provided to supply the gas to fire-support ships while receiving other logistic services. The schedule of tanker arrivals at Kerama was about every third day. Their cargoes were discharged into station tankers; two for black


oil, one for Diesel, two for black and Diesel, and one for gasoline.

As facilities in the anchorage expanded for fuel, ammunition, and repairs, a greater need for supply facilities developed than had been anticipated. Naval personnel needing logistic support at Kerama soon approximated 110,000, considering ships stationed in the anchorage, those under repairs, and ships reporting for fuel and ammunition. Normal replenishment of provisions, general stores, clothing, and small stores had been last available during the staging period in mid-March. Losses of provisions and stores by battle damage added to the demand, reducing normal reserves still lower. As a result the cargo carried by provisions and stores issue ships proved insufficient to provide full replenishment to normal operating stock.

At first replacement of provisions lost by battle damage was available only from large ships stationed at Kerama, or from ships returning to the rear. Naturally only limited amounts could be obtained in this way, and very little, if anything, could be had from incoming fleet tankers, as they had usually expended their excess while fueling at sea before reaching Kerama. By mid-April destroyers and destroyer escorts required normal provision replenishment, in addition to battle-damaged ships.

On 18 April the cargo transport Azimech arrived at Kerama. Before her departure 10 days later, she issued 2,800 tons of dry provisions to 221 vessels, at least half of her deliveries under difficult conditions. Ships generally came into Kerama Retto after dawn and left before dusk the same day, and fueling and ammunitioning had priority over provisioning. Vessels stationed at Kerama could have issues only at night, a hazardous procedure because of the frequent air alerts in the anchorage. The Azimech carried a limited stock of clothing and small stores which was quickly expended in filling the needs of survivors and in issues to ships caring for them. She left for Hagushi Beach to discharge the remainder of her provisions cargo at that objective.

On 26 April the food ship Adria arrived with fresh and frozen provisions. Her entire cargo was exhausted by 4 May without provisioning all ships normally receiving logistic support at this base. Issues were made on the basis of a 20-day supply, and 219 vessels received Adria's entire cargo of 1,470 tons. Next arrival was the Castor on 1 May with general stores, issued chiefly to repair facilities and including only such items as were essential to place damaged ships in operable condition. She left for Hagushi on the 4th and returned to Kerama 23 May with a remnant cargo which she discharged before departing.

The Antares on the 10th brought in 1,500 tons of general stores but


no clothing, small stores, or ship's stores stock. Her cargo was more adaptable to filling the needs of repair facilities than to normal replacement of GSK items to fleet units. She issued to repair facilities, ships arriving for logistics, and to station units, but because of limited nature, only about 20 percent of the requisitions submitted could be filled. Issues were made to 170 ships.

Next came the cargo ship Matar, on 14 May, with 5,800 tons of dry provisions, about 75 percent of a normal cargo of clothing and small stores, and an incomplete loading of ship's store stock and medical items. Controlled issues of clothing and ship's store stock were necessary because of limited quantities. Shoes in proper sizes were especially critical items. However, the ship's dry provisions were adequate and allowed a 30-day supply for vessels receiving replenishment. The Bridge on the 15th brought a combined cargo of fresh-frozen and dry provisions. She had previously made issues at Okinawa, so a large part of her fresh-frozen, frozen and some of her dry provisions had already been exhausted before arrival. On 22 May the Latona came into Kerama with a much-needed cargo of 1,276 tons of fresh and 450 tons of dry provisions. Of the fresh, 522 tons were issued before she sailed for the Hagushi area, which was an anchorage off the west coast of Okinawa, 25 miles from Kerama Retto. By the end of May the supply situation was virtually adjusted, and repetition of the critical early days was no longer feared.

Freight handling presented a problem at the Kerama Retto anchorage. Tankers and escort carriers brought in freight consigned to ships in the Okinawa area. If the particular ship was known to be stationed at Hagushi, delivery was made by one of the ammunition ferry craft or the LCI patrol. When a ship was expected to arrive for logistics within a short time, arrangements were made for temporary stowage of her freight aboard one of the ships permanently assigned to Kerama. Vessels of the support carrier unit left air-drop supplies for delivery on the western beaches of Okinawa. To distribute this, one LSM met the designated escort carriers, received the cargo, and when a sizable load had accumulated went to Hagushi Beach to discharge. On 20 May, LST's <>851 and 795 were sent to Kerama from Hagushi designated for receiving, stowage, and redistribution of freight.

Before night attacks began the supply of smoke materials and equipment to ships in the anchorage was considered sufficient. About the middle of April, however, because of abnormal requirements, the supply reached the critical stage and rationing became necessary for most effective coverage. All ships present were repeatedly warned to conserve


fog oil, and Admiral Turner, Commander Task Force 51, issued directives covering the use of substitutes and dilution with 25 percent Diesel oil. Despite all precautions the supply remained critical until the arrival of the Clovis Victory 19 May. To add to the difficulty, smoke generators broke down under heavy use and replacements and spare parts were unobtainable. When the Vestal arrived on 30 April, generator repairs were undertaken, but some had to be cannibalized to keep others operating. Smoke materials and generators were removed from ships returning to the rear. The situation was partially relieved by the arrival of a limited number of generators and spare parts about 12 May.

Captain Rhoads, who had taken over Kiland's logistic duties, was responsible thereafter in both Kerama and Okinawa areas for all supplies, ammunition, repairs, assignment of replacement personnel, assignment of berths and anchorages except in the seaplane area, provision and direction of harbormaster, and operational control of the boat pool. Admiral Kiland retained responsibility for local distribution of smoke-making equipment, spare parts and smoke material, exercised the military functions of senior officer present afloat, and administered salvage, casualties, mail, net and buoy unit, and antisubmarine and smoke screens.

Captain Rhoad's subordinates in other areas were Lieutenant F.E.A. Wilden, fuel and water representative aboard the tanker Armadillo; Lieutenant (j.g.) E.E. Wilcke, GSK and provisions aboard the Ancon (on the Auburn after 3 June); Pay Clerk W.E. Click, assistant fuel officer aboard the gasoline tanker Hiwassee: These three ships at Hagushi. Click supervised delivery of all aviation and motor gasoline, and lubricants from YOGL's to shore installations. Some confusion arose during the first few days after the change of command. Many requests for fueling and ammunition assignments were made to the activities formerly handling them, resulting in some delay until finally relayed to Rhoads. All fueling was done during daylight, as the harbor was completely blacked out at night.

Ammunition replenishment continued, but Commander Task Force 51, who became Commander Task Force 31 on 28 May, was responsible for determining the ammunition necessary at Kerama Retto to replenish all forces in the area, and requested it direct from Commander Service Squadron Ten; Captain Rhoads was responsible, in turn, for the actual distribution replenishment of all ships arriving at Kerama Retto. Commander Task Force 51 designated fire-support ships for replenishment approximately 36 hours in advance of their scheduled time. The ships then submitted requests to Captain Rhoads, who was expected to be


able to meet their needs. Ammunition expenditure was extremely high, but so long as the supply was adequate, no restrictions were placed on the amount fired, except for star shells, when, after 17 May, 720 rounds were allowed per night. Smoke and smoke equipment appeared to be in adequate quantities during the later phase of the operation.

Fueling operations were handled on much the same basis as previous schedules. Every third day a fleet oiler arrived at Hagushi Beach from Admiral Beary's Logistic Support Group, fueled the screening vessels under way inside the screen during daylight, and anchored before dark the first night at Hagushi. The second night the oiler was sent to Kerama to refill station ships there and give aviation gas to the seaplane tenders. It remained there the third day and night and left with the escorts that brought in the next tanker. The average oiler cargo at Hagushi consisted of 75,000 barrels of black oil, 8,000 barrels of Diesel oil and 350,000 gallons of aviation gasoline. Ashore in the Okinawa area there was tank storage on 21 June, at Hagushi for 798,000 gallons of aviation gasoline, 84,000 gallons of motor gasoline; at Ie Shima, 168,000 gallons of aviation gasoline, and no motor gas.

Besides the repair ships under his direct operational control, Captain Rhoads also had the assistance of Admiral Turner's repair ships at Kerama--the Egeria, Oceanus, and Casa Grande. Commander Task Force 51 continued to repair landing craft at Hagushi Beach with the Achelous, Coronis, Gunston Hall, and Oak Hill; at Nakagusuku Wan (Buckner Bay), with Endymion and Lindewald; and at Naga Wan the Epping Forest. On 1 June Captain Rhoads assumed all repair work in the Okinawa area and was given all Admiral Turner's repair ships.

Two additional drydocks reached Kerama Retto late in May, bringing the total to four ARD's. The ARD's 22 and 27 were towed by the fleet tugs Menominee and Tenino. ARD-27 reached Kerama 22 May; ARD-22 on the 26th. The destroyer tender Cascade arrived 2 June for additional tender service.

For provisioning all types of small craft, the barracks ships Wythe, Yolo, and Presque Isle, known as LST mother ships and first tried by Turner at Iwo, were turned over to Captain Rhoads by Turner. They provided fresh and dry provisions, Diesel oil, and fresh water, and had considerable berthing space aboard for boat-pool personnel. The three replenished their own cargoes whenever provision and refrigerator ships arrived. The Wythe was anchored at Kerama throughout the Okinawa campaign, and served a gradually decreasing number of small craft as additional supply facilities were brought forward during May and June


In July she moved with other service ships to Buckner Bay. During May she issued 162 tons of fresh and 143 tons of dry provisions, 38,980 gallons of Diesel oil, and 88,600 gallons of fresh water, besides berthing and feeding the Kerama Retto Boat Pool during the entire period.

The other two were stationed at Hagushi Beach from L-day onward, but the Presque Isle made alternate trips approximately every 10 days to Nakagusuku Wan and Ie Shima to replenish small craft in those areas. Yolo remained at anchor 1,000 yards off the beach in the Yontan airfield vicinity where, since air activity was keen, it was necessary to carry out much of the replenishment between air raids. She described her activities during May:

"In carrying out our assignments as a Landing Craft Tender for the second month off Okinawa, our operations for the month consisted of taking 407b ships of all classes alongside. These ships were serviced in all categories of supplies--provisions both fresh and dry, fuel, fresh water, ship's store items, medical services when needed, at times laundry facilities based on a standard unit, taking into account the needs of the ship, our own supply on hand, and the number of ships dependent upon us. Issues amounted to a total of 549,012 pounds of dry provisions, 382,814 pounds of fresh and frozen, 574,446 gallons of fresh water, 51,984 gallons of fuel, and 8 tons of fresh bread. Still another function of the ship was to act as a barracks for the Northern Boat Pool. In this capacity we took care of the needs of 120 men daily and provided mooring and fueling facilities for 20 small boats."

Under Captain Rhoads, Representative B of Squadron Ten, provisioning of all combatant ships continued at Kerama. Issues were restricted to 10-day supply for larger vessels, 20-day for others, with fire-support, radar picket, and screen ships given priority over station units. From 17 May to 21 June, the date Okinawa was declared secured, 10 supply ships discharged 25,372 tons of cargo at Okinawa, representing all categories, with dry provisions heading the list.

The service and salvage group operated independently of Captain Rhoads, but its duties after 17 May were salvage and rescue of ships only. Repair work it formerly did was assumed by Rhoads' group. Its various units were at Kerama Retto, Ie Shima, Hagushi Beach, and Nakagusuku Wan. With the exception of the Hagushi unit, which operated directly under the salvage group commander, all were operationally controlled by the respective SOPA's. The total consisted of 3 salvage tugs, 12 fleet tugs, 6 rescue tugs, 4 LCI's, and 2 LCT's constantly ready in their assigned areas for calls to assist damaged ships.

Harbor clearance was another important duty of these vessels. When Asato Gawa, a small boat harbor just north of Naha, was opened from seaward, an investigation was made to clear that area for beaching of


landing craft to replenish supply dumps near the front lines, at that time inaccessible because of rainy weather. In agreement with the island command, salvage personnel and equipment cleared the area of numerous wrecks obstructing landing craft traffic.

As soon as Naha Harbor could be entered, the salvage group went in to clear away wrecks to make docking space available as quickly as possible. Various Army groups assisted, and in 7 days 10 LCT's and 15 barge berths were available. Service Squadron Twelve, ordinarily charged with harbor clearance, gradually made equipment and personnel available to continue the project.

The salvage group also undertook to improve tanker moorings at Hagushi Beach because of the fire hazard in supplying the island of Okinawa with aviation and motor gasoline. Fuel was transferred into smaller tankers, and from them into four non-self-propelled barges anchored near the terminus of the pipeline. The salvage group assisted in designing and constructing a terminal mooring whereby a fleet oiler could discharge directly into the pipelines. Besides lessening the fire hazard this insured a continuous supply of gasoline regardless of weather or sea conditions. At times, under the old system, the amount on hand ashore became reduced to 1 day's supply.

The task-group commander reported that difficulties arose during the operation through lack of communication facilities aboard the fleet tugs. While temporary headquarters were in the LSD-6 at Nakagusuku Wan, communications were so difficult that carrier pigeons were employed for the speedy transmission of vital information.

Several important recommendations regarding future operations, besides the need for better communications, were made by Commander Service and Salvage Group. He stressed the importance of having suitable small craft assigned to salvage and rescue units for passing lines to ships needing assistance at the each during assault operations. Experience showed that numerous ships suffered major hull damage only as a result of lack of proper small craft for passing of tow wires at sea as well as at the beaches. With heavy surf, amphibious trucks (DUKW's) are invaluable; at sea and with favorable sea conditions, LCVP's and LCM's may be used.

He further suggested that a number of LCM's befitted with fire-fighting and rescue breathing apparatus and transported to the objective as fire-fighting units, as they can assist ships in shoal water and maneuver through smoke protection without endangering ships at anchor. In fire fighting, where time is vital, fleet tugs and rescue vessels are too slow in


YMS-92 stern blown off
YMS-92 stern blown off.


reaching ships needing help in an anchorage covered by smoke. Briefing all ships on the necessity of transmitting correct information regarding damage is of prime importance if proper and ample assistance is to be dispatched. In numerous cases during the Okinawa operation insufficient information resulted in the dispatch of salvage units badly needed elsewhere.

In summing up the various aspects of accomplishment at Kerama Retto it is not difficult to see why task-force commanders were unanimous in their praise of the facilities offered. Because of the unprecedented number of Kamikaze attacks the ability to accomplish battle-damage repairs in a calm anchorage near the objective saved many heavily damaged ships which, without the benefit of quick on-the-spot temporary repairs, would not have been able to reach the rear. The Japanese never suspected that we had this advantage.

While complete provisioning, fueling, and ammunitioning at sea had been proved for the fast carrier force, many more ships and personnel of the service force than were available in the Okinawa operation would have been required at sea to make replenishment an accomplished fact for all fleet forces. The logistic anchorage base at Kerama Retto was, like the use of Kwajalein lagoon in the Marshalls operation, of even greater value, in all re spects, to the success of the Okinawa operation. With the securing of the island late in June after a long bloody battle of nearly 3 months, the mission of Kerama Retto was completed. Most of the service-force facilities moved to anchorage in Nakagusuku Wan (Buckner Bay), Okinawa, which was to be the principal floating-equipment base for the final stages of the war.


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Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation