Friday, March 16, 2007

The Battle of Okinawa & How the War Started

Friday, June 29, 1945
By Combined News Services

GUAM – The Battle of Okinawa, lasting 83 days, was declared completed today as American forces moved into the mop-up stage of the operation, neutralizing pockets of Japanese resistance and taking far more prisoners than had been expected, Navy officials said.

Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, the top U.S. military commander of the operation, reported that the invasion’s success came at a high price: Nearly 12,000 U.S. soldiers, marines and sailors were killed during the battle that also saw the loss of more than 30 American warships, each and every one sunk by Japanese suicide planes, known as kamikazes, and nearly 800 aircraft.

About 65,000 American military personnel were wounded for a total of nearly 80,000 American casualties in the 83-day campaign, making it the bloodiest operation in the island-hopping drive against Japan.

Admiral Nimitz reported that 7,613 Army and Marine troops were killed, 31,807 were wounded and there were another 26,000 casualties, most of them suffering from combat fatigue. The Navy lost 4,320 sailors, with another 7,300 sailors wounded during the battle.

“Our casualties were high but not unexpected,” said Nimitz. “The Japs are a tough enemy, and we knew this would be a very difficult operation. It’s over.”

Included among the dead was the commanding officer of the ground troops, Lt. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr., commanding officer of the 10th Army, which included nearly 200,000 combat soldiers.

“General Buckner, I’m sorry to report, was killed at the front, observing the Marines,” said Admiral Nimitz. “A Japanese shell blew up a nearby rock and a fragment from that rock went through the General’s chest.”

Buckner is the highest ranking U.S. officer killed in combat in the Pacific, the Admiral reported.

Okinawa, an island about 60 miles long and 18 miles wide at its widest point, was defended by more than 100,000 Japanese troops. Other than the 10,000 Japanese soldiers that surrendered, the rest were either killed by American forces or by their own hand because they refused to surrender.

The operation also cost the lives of nearly 80,000 of the island’s native, civilian inhabitants. U.S. military personnel are distributing food and medical assistance to the surviving native population.

Okinawa, considered a part of Tokyo by the Japanese, is a highly valuable prize in the war because it’s 350 miles from Japan’s Kyushu island and less than 1,000 miles from Tokyo, putting these two targets within easy range of U.S. bombers soon be based on the island. Because of its size, Okinawa is considered, highly placed military sources say, an excellent staging point for an invasion of Japan.

One of the biggest problems that the Navy faced with Okinawa is that there was very little known about the island. Few Americans had visited it since Commodore Matthew Perry stopped by on his way to Japan in 1853.

Navy intelligence did track down an American citizen who had visited the island, and he provided valuable information. But the number and type of Japan’s forces on the island was a guess, Nimitz said, and that’s the reason so many American troops were used in the attack.

General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, commanding U.S. and Allied forces in the south Pacific, has been critical of the Okinawa operation, saying there was no reason to wipe out the entire Japanese force at such a cost to American life.

“They could have cordoned off the remaining Japanese troops and starved them,” the General said from his headquarters in Manila. Most of the Japanese troops had been bottled up in the southern part of the island, MacArthur said.

Prior to the attack, military sources said, it was thought that Japanese defenders would be entrenched throughout the island. They would be so well hidden, they said, that it would be difficult for American ground troops to overwhelm the enemy.

As a result, a new weapon was introduced during the Okinawa invasion – the flame-throwing tank, Admiral Nimitz said. It was used to kill Japanese troops hidden in caves throughout the island.

As the operation on Okinawa comes to an end, U.S. and Allied military planners are figuring out the next stage of the war against the sole remaining Axis Power, Japan.

“Japan will feel the full force and weight of the United States,” said General of the Army George Marshall, the Army’s commanding general. Marshall would not comment on MacArthur’s disagreement with the Navy over tactics used on Okinawa.

The Pentagon today said that nearly 400,000 Americans had been killed during the war and that nearly 600,000 more had been wounded.

“We’ve averaged about 5,000 killed and wounded every week since we entered the war,” said a Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Cdr. Elliot Jones.

Back in Washington, a document has surfaced that shows that Roosevelt administration may have actually provoked Japan into a war. Congressional sources say they’re releasing parts of the document now because President Roosevelt is dead.

Written by a Navy officer just prior to the 1940 presidential election, the document laid out eight proposals, that if taken by the United States, would likely provoke Japan into taking hostile action against the United States.

The proposals included arranging for the United States to have access to British bases in Singapore; assisting the Chinese government of Chiang Kai-shek in its attempt to defeat the Japanese invasion of China; placing the Pacific Fleet in Hawaii; insisting that the Dutch refuse to provide oil to Japan from their holdings in the West Indies; and embargoing all trade with Japan.

“All of these actions were taken by the Roosevelt administration,” said U.S. Sen. Alben Barkley, (D-KY), whose office released the document.

“It shows that the Roosevelt Administration deliberately pushed us into a war with Japan,” said U.S. Sen. Arthur Vandenburg, (R-MI). “Japan had no choice but to attack us.”

“This may hinder the Truman administration as it finds a way to end the war with Japan,” said Senator Barkley.

The Truman administration would not comment on the memo but said it was determined to find a way to accomplish both a political and military victory over Japan.

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