Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945
Battle of Okinawa - World War II
The Final Turning Point in the Pacific

Noah - Okinawa, 1945

I have lived through almost 80 Easter Sunday's in my lifetime and most were enjoyable as I observed the festival in the Christian Church commemorating the Resurrection of Christ, but on Easter 1945, this was not my best Easter.

As a member of about 20,000 men of the First Marine Division, we did not attend church services, but we did a lot of praying while we were shooting Easter eggs to the military solders of Japan.

The Battle of Okinawa, fought on the island of Okinawa in the Ryukyu Islands (south of the four big islands of Japan) was the largest amphibious assault during the Pacific campaign of World War II. It was the largest sea-land-air battle in history, running from April through June 1945.

No one on either side expected it to be the last major battle of the war, which it was. The Americans were planning Operation Downfall, the invasion of the main islands, which never happened due to Japanese surrender in August.

At some battles, such as Iwo Jima, there had been no civilians; but Okinawa had a large indigenous civilian population, and the civilian loss in the Typhoon of Steel was at least 130,000.

American losses were over 72,000 casualties, of whom 12,000 were killed or missing, over twice Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal combined. About a quarter of the civilian, Japanese, and American populations about the island in spring 1945 were killed. There were about 100,000 Japanese killed or captured; many preferred suicide to the disgrace of capture.

The American land campaign was controlled by the 10th Army, commanded by Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr. The army had two corps under its command, III Amphibious Corps, consisting of 1st and 6th Marine Divisions, with 2nd Marine Division as an afloat reserve, and XXIV Corps, consisting of the 7th, 27th, 77th and 96th Infantry Divisions. At the very end of the campaign, Buckner was killed by ricocheting shell fragments, becoming one of the most senior US casualties in the entire war.

The Japanese land campaign (mainly defensive) was led in the South by General Mitsuru Ushijima, who committed suicide at the end. General Takehido Udo commanded in the less-talked-about north of Okinawa.

Much happened before the land campaign

Before April 1, 1945

By late 1944 United States submarines had wreaked havoc on Japanese shipping. The U.S.S. Sturgeon sunk the bound-for-Okinawa troop ship Toyama Maru nine months before the land campaign. The Japanese loss was about 5,600. Japanese deaths are usually not even figured in battle losses. The Sturgeon escaped despite being pummeled by depth charges.

On October 10, 1944 - "10-10"

Okinawa gained a dubious shorthand for disaster: "10-10"
Waves of bombers pummeled the nearly defenseless island, causing untold wreckage on land; over 80% of Naha was destroyed and more than 65 boats were sunk. Japanese anti-aircraft technology was not up to the nimble American planes.

Shortly before the battle, the Japanese warship, the Yamato, was sunk by American air power on her trip to Okinawa. Widespread rumors that the ship was only given enough fuel for a one-way trip are false. Feifer debunks this as the Japanese had a plan to beach the Yamato on Okinawa's shore and use it as a land battery. Not that it would have done them much good on land.

The land battle took place over about 82 days after April 1, 1945

The North

The American Marines swept across the thin part of the south-central part of the island with relative ease (for World War II), soon taking the lightly-held north, though there was fierce fighting at Yae-dake Mountain and taking Kadena Air Base, Yomitan Air Base. Kadena remains the largest American air base in Asia, and its runways can handle big planes. The Japanese were to dearly regret losing Kadena and Yomitan air bases, and gave them up with little fight. The entire north fell on April 20.

Few Americans encountered the feared Habu snake, soon discarding their cumbersome leggings. Far worse awaited them in the South. The North was just a warm-up.

The South

Fighting in the South was hardest, the skillful Japanese soldiers hiding in caves, but the American advance was inexorable. The island fell on about June 21, though some Japanese continued fighting, including the future governor of Okinawa prefecture, Masahide Ota.

Battle of Okinawa

Conflict World War II , Pacific War
Date April 1 , 1945 June 21 , 1945
Place Okinawa , Japan
Result American victory

United States
Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr.
Mitsuru Ushijima
150,000 initially, 300,000
by the end of the battle
15,900 killed,
38,000 wounded
+ 26,000 non combat wounded,
763 planes shot down
107,000+ soldiers killed,
10,755 surrendered/captured,
100,000+ civilians killed


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