The United States launched a large-scale invasion of Japanese main island On Okinawa, with the initial disembarkation of 60,000 Troops and Marines, on this day in history, April 1, 1945.
The Battle of Okinawa proved to be the last major engagement for the World War II and the largest battle of the entire war in the Pacific theater.
The kamikazes, the mass suicide of civilians, the use of children in combat, the deaths of senior officers, and horrific casualties on both sides determined the savage engagement that lasted nearly three months, ending in victory for the United States on June 22nd.
Its disastrous battle had a major impact on the shape of the world to come – it convinced President Truman that the atomic bomb would hasten the end of the war and save millions of lives.
“Despite the joint Marine Corps and Army landings In Okinawa at first unopposed, the dug-in Japanese defenders soon put up fierce resistance,” writes the National World War II Museum.
“The capture of Okinawa would provide the Allied forces with an air base from which bombers could strike Japan and a forward anchorage for Allied fleets. From Okinawa, American forces could increase air strikes against Japan and blockade important logistical routes, depriving the home islands of vital goods.”
Conquering Okinawa, which has a population of about 300,000, was a daunting challenge.
“Soldiers watched in horror as civilians jumped to their death over the slopes of Okinawa, often with their children at their side or in their arms.”
By the time Okinawa was secured by American forces on June 22, 1945, United State More than 49,000 casualties were suffered, including more than 12,500 men killed or missing,” reports the National World War II Museum.
It adds, “The besieged Okinawans suffered greatly in the fighting, with as many as 150,000 civilians killed”—about half of the island’s pre-invasion population.
American war planners are stunned by the fanatical suicide of both the civilians on the island and the kamikaze pilots attacking the American warships supporting the invasion.
Many soldiers watched in horror as civilians leaped to their death over the slopes of Okinawa, often with their children at their side or in their arms, rather than facing the American forces.
One area of Okinawa is still known today as Suicide Cliff.
Reuters reported in a 2007 anniversary story of the Battle of Okinawa that “many civilians, often entire families, committed suicide rather than surrender to the Americans, by some accounts on the orders of fanatical Japanese soldiers.”
One survivor told news outlets, “We were told that if the women are captured we will be raped and we must not allow ourselves to be captured.”
“Many civilians, often entire families, committed suicide rather than surrender.”
Four of us tried to commit suicide with a grenade, but it did not explode.”
Japan launched its first kamikaze attacks in 1944 at the Battle of Leyte Gulf. But the horrific suicide attack has reached its deadliest fever pitch in Okinawa.
And the Japanese launched 1,900 kamikaze attacks during the Okinawa Campaign, according to National Museum of the US Navy.
They struck 149 American ships, killing, wounding, or missing nearly 10,000 Americans.
The intense battle claimed the lives of senior soldiers on both sides of the conflict.
This was the only battle in the Pacific War [in which] “Both leaders were killed,” Michael Eyre of Texas A&M University Corpus Christi wrote.
“The Japanese commander, General Ushijima, committed Harikari and his American counterpart, Lieutenant General Buckner, were killed by mortar fire. Buckner was the highest ranking American officer killed in World War II. This shows the importance and ferocity of fighting for Okinawa.”
Perhaps the most famous person killed on Okinawa was famed American war correspondent Ernie Pyle, who chronicled the war in both Europe and Asia and won acclaim from American troops for his front-line reporting.
The 44-year-old Indiana native was killed instantly when he was shot in the head by enemy machine gun fire on April 18.
“The soldiers built a coffin for their friend and buried him with the others killed at Ie Shima,” according to the Indiana Historical Society.
He added that “about 200 men of all ranks and representatives of all sections of the armed forces attended the burial ceremony that took place on April 20 and lasted for about 10 minutes.”
The impact of the Battle of Okinawa can still be felt today.
The Imperial War Museum in London wrote: “The losses at Okinawa convinced American war planners that any invasion of Japan would result in unacceptable casualties.”
Their estimates, at worst as high as a million American soldiers, were a major factor in President Truman’s decision Use the atomic bomb. “