US Lost More than 14,000 Men During Battle of Okinawa

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Two Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment during fighting at Wana Ridge during the Battle of Okinawa, May 1945. On the left, Davis Hargraves  provides covering fire with his M1 Thompson sub-machine gun as Gabriel Chavarria (on the right), with a Browning Automatic Rifle, prepares to break cover to move to a different position.

Wana Ridge was a long coral spine running out of northern Shuri Hill and was lined on both sides with Okinawan tombs. Japanese emplacements in the tombs and on the reverse slope of the ridge forced the Marines to carefully fight their way through the fortifications. A Japanese counterattack on the Marines on the ridge on 22 May was repelled. It is not known if this photo was taken before or after the Japanese counterattack. Note that the photographer has apparently taken the picture from a covered position behind the ridgeline.

Date 1945. Research at the National Archives: Pictures of World War II. Identification number: 127-N-123170. Author Staff Sergent Walter F. Kleine

” With the captured capital of Naha as a background, Marine Maj. Gen. Lemuel Shepherd, commanding general of the 6th Marine Division, relaxes on an Okinawan ridge long enough to consult a map of the terrain.” Pfc. Sam Weiner, ca. June 1945. 127-GR-95-122119. National Archives Identifier: 532374

Corsair fighter looses its load of rocket projectiles on a run against a Jap stronghold on Okinawa. In the lower background is the smoke of battle as Marine units move in to follow up with a Sunday punch.” Lt. David D. Duncan, ca. June 1945. 127-GR-97-126420. National Archives Identifier: 532375

USS BUNKER HILL hit by two Kamikazes in 30 seconds on 11 May 1945 off Kyushu. Dead-372. Wounded-264. Taken on May 11, 1945, this photo shows the aircraft carrier USS Bunker Hill burning after being hit by two Japanese kamikaze attacks during the Battle of Okinawa.

General Records of the Department of the Navy, 1804 – 1958; Record Group 80; National Archives.

The Buckner Memorial near Itoman, Okinawa. Lieutenant General Simon Buckner was killed on this spot during the battle of Okinawa. As Commander of the American 10th Army, he was watching the progress of the battle. This memorial has the story engraved in English on one side and Japanese on the other.

(courtesy Truman Presidential Library)

Curiously, General Buckner’s father was Lt. General Simon Bolivar Buckner (April 1, 1823 – January 8, 1914) who surrendered the vital Confederate position of Fort Donelson to Union General U.S. Grant.

The Breakout Of The 1st Marines From The Chosin Reservoir: An American Epic Of Courage – Part 10

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All Marine units set up warming tents heated with wood or kerosene fired stoves. Pans of hot water were heated so men could wash or make coffee or thaw their C-rations. Without these shelters, there could have been no other way for the Marines to warm up and without the ability to get warm, combat would have been many times more difficult.

During daylight hours, most warming tents were packed with freezing Marines. Only those manning the defense perimeter remained outside but doing so on what the Marines called a “50% watch” still meant that half the men were outside in their combat positions. Nights was the worst because it was the coldest and everyone had to be up and at their post.

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US Marines manning a defense outpost during the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir Campaign.

SUSTAINING HEALTH & PERFORMANCE IN THE COLD: Environmental Medicine Guidance for Cold-Weather Operations, prepared by the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine confirms in a scientific way what we all intuitively know — when you are freezing your ass off everything becomes more difficult to do.

Soldiers in the field encounter significantly more problems than usual. Heavy clothing including proper gear to protect the ears, neck, face and head can make it difficult to hear and see. Just turning your head is difficult. Visual acuity and depth perception begin to degrade when the temperature drops below freezing. Weapons malfunction. Eyeglasses, gun-sights, rifle scopes, binoculars; all will suffer from condensation which reduces their functionality by fogging the lenses.

As November 1950 turned to December, Marines of the First Infantry now had two enemies to contend with: the cold and the Chinese.
[Sources: US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine. Image courtesy of The Saratogian.]