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6th Marine Division Uses “Corkscrew and Blowtorch“ Tactics on Okinawa

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Tenth Army commander General Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr. called the tactics used on Okinawa “corkscrew and blowtorch“ for the press. Demolitions were the corkscrew and flamethrowers the blowtorch. This view shows a team from the Sixth Marine Division using dynamite to seal a cave as the Marines approach the Shuri Line. The man closest to the camera has a SCR-300 “walkie-talkie“ radio. The three mutually supporting hills, Horseshoe, Half Moon and Sugar Loaf, rose abruptly from surrounding bare terrain. The flanks and rear of Sugar Loaf Hill were blanketed by fire from extensive cave and tunnel positions in Half Moon Hill to the southeast and the Horseshoe to the south. The Sixth Division‘s analysis of the terrain pointed out that: …the sharp depression included within the Horseshoe afforded mortar positions that were almost inaccessible to any arm short of direct, aimed rifle fire and hand grenades. Any attempt to capture Sugar Loaf by flanking action from east or west is immediately exposed to flat trajectory fire from both of the supporting terrain features. Likewise, an attempt to reduce either the Horseshoe or the Half Moon would be exposed to destructive, well-aimed fire from Sugar Loaf itself. In addition, the three localities are connected by a network of tunnels and galleries, facilitating the covered movement of reserves. As a final factor in the strength of the position it will be seen that all sides of Sugar Loaf Hill are precipitous, and there are no evident avenues of approach into the hill mass. For strategic location and tactical strength it is hard to conceive of a more powerful position than the Sugar Loaf terrain afforded. Added to all the foregoing was the bitter fact that troops assaulting this position presented a clear target to enemy machine guns, mortars, and artillery emplaced on the Shuri heights to their left and left rear.“ Between May 9-18, 1945, the Sixth Marine Division suffered 2,662 combat casualties in reducing the Sugar Loaf complex. Japanese casualties were much higher; almost all were killed. Only five Japanese were taken prisoner in early May 1945.
Image Filename wwii1355.jpg
Image Size 1.53 MB
Image Dimensions 2927 x 2316
Photographer Cusack, Robert M.
Photographer Title United States Marine Corps
Caption Author Jason McDonald
Date Photographed May 09, 1945
Location Sugar Loaf
City Sugar Loaf
State or Province Okinawa
Country Japan
Archive National Archives and Records Administration
Record Number
Status Caption ©2007, ©2024 MFA Productions LLC
Image in the Public Domain

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