The Battle of Okinawa
Few events have shaped the world in such violent and multitudinous ways as the events of World War II. Probably the most profound event was the use of atomic weapons on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This decision was not made lightly and many factors led up to that ultimate outcome, one of those key factors was the Battle of Okinawa. During the Battle of Okinawa the Japanese fought so tenaciously down to almost the last man that it sealed their fate and convinced the President of the United States to use atomic weapons to end the war.
The road leading to the invasion of Okinawa, also known as Operation Iceberg (Rottman), began almost a decade earlier. In 1937 Japan, which already had troops stationed in Manchuria, invaded China in an attempt to control the entire eastern coast and seize vast amounts of resources and land. As Japan continued its march south, it also seized control of French Indochina and the islands of the Dutch East Indies. In an attempt to stop Japan the President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, ordered an oil embargo and froze all Japanese assets in the U.S. This action was the prime contributor to the December 7th attack on the American fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, which entered the U.S. into World War II (Esposito). In order to stop the Japanese advance through the Pacific the U.S. adopted an “island hopping” campaign that called for invasions of key islands throughout the Pacific Ocean that would cut off the Japanese supply lines and eventually take the war to the Japanese homeland. In April of 1945, it was determined that Okinawa would be the next island to be invaded. The actual planning for Operation Iceberg began almost one year prior in May 1944. There were many considerations that had to be weighed before the decision was made on invading Okinawa. The decision for invasion was between Okinawa and the Formosa, an island 100 miles off the coast of China. Both options had their share of pro and cons, but Formosa was ultimately deemed too risky due to its’ large size and ability to be easily reinforced and it was agreed that Okinawa would be the next objective (Rottman). Okinawa was a strategic island in the fact that its three main airfields were being used by Japanese fighters to harass Allied bombing missions heading toward mainland Japan. If the island could be secured then not only would air superiority be complete but that the U.S. could then use those same airfields to strike Japan as Okinawa is located only 320 nm from Japan’s southernmost island of Kyushu. Perhaps more importantly though is the fact that Okinawa would be used as an ideal staging ground for Operation Olympic, the planned invasion of mainland Japan. Olympic had been scheduled for November of 1945 and would have required the use of 14 combat divisions and the largest naval armada in world history (Hallas). However, due to the actions on Okinawa, Operation Olympic was never launched.
The Allied forces involved in Iceberg totaled 182,000 combatants divided into five divisions of the U.S. Tenth Army. The U.S. Army divisions involved were the 7th, 27th, 77th, 81st, and 96th , and two Marine divisions, the 1st and 6th, fought on the island while the 2nd Marine Division remained as an amphibious reserve and was never brought ashore. The invasion was also supported by almost 1,500 U.S. and British ships. The Japanese forces on Okinawa totaled over 130,000 men divided into about 2 ½ divisions. The primary combat units were the 62nd and 24th Divisions as well as the 44th Independent Mixed Brigade, all three units comprised the Japanese 32nd Army (Rottman). There are two key roles in any armed conflict, that of the combatant and that of the commander. For the Allies the overall commander was Admiral Raymond Spruance, he was in charge of Task Force 50 also known as TF 50, which was a robust mixture of massive Navy, Marine and Army forces. Under TF 50 was Vice Admiral...
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