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For the 72 Million

The Okinawa Campaign, April 1 – June 22, 1945

In March, 1945, the last of the great amphibious operations of the War was in the final stages of planning. Okinawa, in the Ryukyu Islands, was considered part of the Japanese Home Islands. Its proximity to Japan meant that it could not be bypassed.

Unlike other island invasions, the operation in Okinawa would be targeting a large land mass. The battle was the last chance to stop an invasion of the home islands; 100,000 Japanese soldiers were on Okinawa, and 2000 kamikaze aircraft were standing by. The battleship Yamato was readied for a one-way mission to beach itself on Okinawa and use its 18-inch guns as static artillery.

Lt. General Mitsuro Ushijima and Lt. General Isamu Cho exhorted their men to kill ten of the enemy before they died, or one tank. The civilians on Okinawa, like on Saipan, were indoctrinated to believe that the Americans would kill everyone on the island. This would prove to be a very bloody invasion.

The Americans embarked 1,500 ships, the largest Pacific War fleet ever assembled. They embarked 500,000 men from all services. The British sent 22 ships, including fast carriers, in their Pacific Fleet. The Americans designated them Task Force 57.

On April 1, 1945, the first waves landed and within four days had achieved most of their major objectives. The counterattack came in the form of devastating kamikaze attacks, 1,900 by July, sinking or damaging 263 ships. The Americans were forced to sacrifice destroyers as picket ships to provide advance warning. The British carriers fared better, their armored decks providing better protection them the American wooden ones.

On April 6, 1945, American carrier aircraft located the battleship Yamato and her escort of one cruiser and eight destroyers before they reached Okinawa. Hit by five bombs and ten torpedoes, she rolled over on April 7 and sank. Most of her crew of 2700 were killed.

On 18 June, United States Army General Simon Bolivar Buckner was killed by Japanese artillery fire while monitoring the progress of his troops from a forward observation post. Buckner was replaced by United States Marine Major General Roy Geiger. Upon assuming command, Geiger became the only Marine to command a numbered army of the United States Army in combat; he was relieved five days later by Army General Joseph Stilwell. Okinawa was the only Pacific battle that saw both commanding officers killed in action.

In a running battle that lasted until July 2, the Japanese lost over 107,000 military and civilian casualties on land and 4,000 sailors at sea. American forces lost 6,800 Army, Navy and Marines on Okinawa and the surrounding islands, and another 5,000 men at sea. Wounded totaled over 35,000.

There was nothing to stand between the Allied armies and the Japanese Home Islands. Both sides prepared for a major invasion. As the European war ended, the Allies prepared to transfer their armies from Europe to the Pacific. This invasion was halted by the atomic bomb.

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