As the American advance pushed further south, it ran headlong into lớn fortified Japanese positions & heavily defended caves near Kakazu Ridge, the first defensive perimeter in what would be called the Shuri Line. The rapid advance & relatively light American casualties sustained so far on Okinawa ended.
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Okinawa is known as the last major campaign of World War II. It was the largest campaign of the Pacific War, involving over half a million combatants from five sầu Allied nations. The chiến dịch was fought savagely in the air, on the l& & across the sea. In a war that had seen some of the most violent fighting in human history on some of the most unforgiving terrain và locales on the planet, Okinawa và the fight ashore made other Pacific campaigns pale in comparison.
American strategists saw Okinawa as both a staging point for the eventual invasion of Japan, & a dress rehearsal for that sự kiện. The largest of the Ryukyu Islands, and part of Japan’s Kyushu region, it was known that the isl& held a large civilian population và a terrain similar lớn that of Japan’s southernmost main islands. The civilian population of Okinawa, which was made up of native Okinawans and Japanese, numbered somewhere in the neighborhood of 300,000 people. This concentration of subjects of the Empire was easily the largest the Americans had faced in the entirety of the war. The civilian reaction lớn both the Americans and their own Japanese military would provide a horrific blueprint lớn what might lay ahead if the United States would indeed invaded nhật bản itself.
With its large size và cchiến bại proximity lớn nhật bản, Okinawa và its Kademãng cầu airfield would provide American forces with a tư vấn base cthảm bại lớn the trang chủ Islands. Kadena would be able to lớn tư vấn troops in Japan with relatively close air strikes from medium bombers and fighter aircraft. Okinawa itself, with its natural harbor, would also provide naval port facilities for Allied ships that would be needed lớn support the l& invasion of Japan. The islvà would also house hospital units to lớn treat the massive amount of American wounded that were anticipated for the invasion of nhật bản.
On the morning of April 1, 1945 an Allied fleet of over 260 warships swarmed the seas around Okinawa. It was the largest Allied fleet ever lớn put to sea in the Pacific theater, và it was needed. The warships were there khổng lồ protect the fleet of over 100 assault transports và supply ships needed lớn put ashore over 200,000 American combat troops of the newly formed Tenth Army that would be needed to lớn defeat Japanese General Mitsuru Ushijima’s army of over 67,000 Japanese defenders.
Expecting fierce resistance, American forces landed on the western coast of Okinawa virtually unopposed. American infantry, tanks, artillery and supplies poured ashore as soldiers of the 7th, 27th, 96th (& later 77th) Infantry Divisions, alongside their Marine brothers in the 1st và 6th Marine Divisions, swept aside paltry resistance và raced across the islvà. The lvà chiến dịch was moving so fast that objectives that were slated to be taken two weeks after L-Day were captured by the third day of the chiến dịch. Japanese resistance was fierce when encountered, but the defense of the islvà, at least the northern portion of it, was almost non-existent. Up lớn this point, the only area of significant resistance lay in the operational area of the 6th Marine Division, who had cornered a sizeable force of Japanese near the Motobu Peninsula. Marines of the 22nd Regiment forced the enemy through the peninsula và isolated them near a series of craggy ridges, called Yae-Dake, where the Marines eliminated the Japanese there by the 18th of April.
The l& chiến dịch was going incredibly well—in fact, almost too good lớn be true. With the northern over of Okinawa clear of enemy resistance, the Tenth Army wheeled south and made plans khổng lồ mop up the remainder of the islvà. For the most part, Japanese resistance had been weak. There were locations of stiff fighting, lượt thích the Motobu Peninsula & Cactus Ridge, but overall, Japanese defenders had been less than fanatical in holding their territory. Completion of the campaign would be just a matter of days away, or so it was thought.
As the American advance pushed further south, it ran headlong inkhổng lồ fortified Japanese positions & heavily defended caves near Kakazu Ridge, the first defensive perimeter in what would be called the Shuri Line. The rapid advance & relatively light American casualties sustained so far on Okinawa ended. American commanders realized immediately that the Japanese had been withholding their strongest defensive efforts, & had deployed them in an area in which the terrain favored the defenders. There would be no more lightning advances. In a period of just 24 hours, American casualties ashore nearly doubled. Okinawa, it was realized, would become a bloody slugfest.
The Army’s 96th Infantry Division lay before Kakazu Ridge on the morning of April 8, 1945 and prepared lớn make an assault on the positions that had halted their initial advance. With no preparatory artillery barrage, the two companies of infantry jumped off from their positions before day break so as khổng lồ achieve sầu surprise. One company from the 96th under the commvà of Lieutenant Willard Mitchell reached the top of Kakazu before Mitchell và his men were pinned down by furious Japanese fire. The Americans were unable lớn dig in on the rough coral tops of Kakazu, and thus were exposed khổng lồ well-aimed rifle fire và shrapnel from all angles. The Japanese, knowing they had their enemy at their mercy, sprang from their caves hurling grenades & satchel charges at the pinned down American infantry. The Japanese assault was halted with heavy losses. Mitchell’s men repelled the Japanese assault in hvà khổng lồ h& combat with fixed bayonets và rifle butts.
As Mitchell’s company was fighting for its life atop the ridge, another two companies under the comm& of Captain Jack Royster and Lieutenant Dave Belman advanced opposite Mitchell’s position. They, too, became pinned down. Two Japanese machine guns, well emplaced near the entrance of two separate caves, pinned Royster và Belman’s companies down. Seeing an opportunity to place fire on the Japanese machine gun crews, PFC. Edward Moskala crawled forward, unobserved by enemy eyes, and opened fire on the two Japanese positions with his Browning Automatic Rifle after lobbing grenades at the crews. Moskala’s one-man assault eliminated the Japanese machine guns và allowed Belman"s và Royster’s companies to begin a withdrawal. The two infantry units were able lớn move sầu off of the ridge crest and inlớn the valley below when the Japanese realized their enemy’s intent. Furious enemy fire poured in on the withdrawing Americans, forcing them to lớn take cover in previously occupied Japanese caves. Royster, half blinded by a mortar wound in the face & knowing full well that his company was on the verge of being overrun và annihilated, called his battalion for further tư vấn. Infantry tư vấn pushed forward only khổng lồ be stopped in its tracks by heavy Japanese mortar & machine gun fire. Royster radioed baông xã khổng lồ his battalion headquarters & requested a smoke barrage so they could retreat. He was ordered lớn hold the ridge at all costs. His position untenable, Royster again radioed for smoke and received the barrage, only lớn have sầu the first barrage blow baông xã in his own face due lớn wind. A second barrage was requested & then a third before enough smoke drifted in front of Royster’s position to lớn allow him và his battered company khổng lồ withdraw.
The exhausted GI’s of Royster"s and Belman’s companies began to lớn withdraw, crawling under enemy fire và dragging their wounded behind them as they crawled away. PFC Moskala, who had earlier eliminated two enemy machine gun positions, again volunteered khổng lồ act as rear guard as his company pulled away from the fight. Moskala provided fire tư vấn from his isolated position for three hours, killing over 25 of the enemy, while his comrades crawled away. Seeing his own opportunity to retreat, Moskala left his position and ran down the face of the ridge lớn rejoin his company. As he did so, he came across a single wounded man who had been mistakenly left behind. Moskala again provided fire tư vấn as the wounded man escaped down the ridge. Crawling baông chồng down the ridge, he again volunteered fire support, and moved towards another wounded member of his company. Shielding the man with his own body while killing at least four more Japanese, Moskala was struông chồng down by enemy fire và killed. For his selfless acts of compassion & bravery, Edward Moskala was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
Edward Moskala Medal of Honor Recipient
Lieutenant Willard Mitchell’s company, still holding its position atop the ridge, now became the focus of renewed Japanese efforts to destroy hlặng & his men. By 1600 hours Mitchell realized his position & that of his company was hopeless. Of the 89 men in his company, 15 had been killed & only 3 were uninjured by enemy fire. His ammunition supply was critical, at best, and the last Japanese attaông chồng had been made by well over 100 enemy soldiers. Stripping what ammunition could be found from the dead & utilizing captured Japanese weapons, Mitchell planned a retreat. Like Royster before hlặng, Mitchell called for a smoke barrage. The barrage worked flawlessly, allowing Mitchell & his men to lớn retreat from the position they had held fearlessly since sunrise.
The first American effort to lớn capture and hold Kakazu Ridge had failed. The 383rd Infantry Regiment, of which Mitchell, Royster and Belham’s companies were a part, suffered terribly. Over 300 men were casualties in the initial fight for Kakazu Ridge, with the regiment’s 1st Battalion officially at half strength và unable lớn continue offensive operations.
The fight for Kakazu Ridge did not kết thúc with the withdrawal of the 383rd’s 1st Battalion. Further offensives pounded the area until the 96th Infantry was relieved on April 12. The veteran 7th Infantry Division took over their former positions, and likewise ran into a Japanese meat grinder on and around the ridge. It, too, was worn to lớn a frazzle by the Japanese defenses. The 7th Infantry Division, though battered & worn down, still packed plenty of power. A Japanese counterattaông xã against the American positions resulted in heavy losses for the Japanese và forced the Japanese to lớn take a permanent defensive position around Kakazu. After defeating the Japanese counterattachồng, the depleted 7th was relieved by the 27th Infantry Division who also wore themselves down on the Japanese positions.
Not until April 21 did American infantry succeed in capturing Kakazu Ridge. And even then, the Japanese defenses had been reduced khổng lồ a pocket of die-hard defenders who had khổng lồ be rooted out lớn the last man. Kakazu had nearly bled three Army divisions Trắng và had stalled American offensive sầu plans in the area for three weeks, & while Kakazu Ridge had been a nightmare, the worst was yet khổng lồ come.