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 17

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American artillery spotter checking range of his units shells during the Meuse-Argonne offensive, World War I. Location: France. Date taken: October 5, 1918. Photo courtesy of Life Magazine.

In addition to their highly experienced officers and NCOs both commanding their Marines and fighting with them, effective command and control was achieved by having functioning equipment, such as radios and other means of communications. This was especially critical for the forward artillery spotters and air control officers who called in the fire missions.

Prior to fighting the Americans, the Chinese Communist troops had not required this type of comprehensive command and control and they never learned how to do it during their fighting in Korea. US military experience with artillery spotters controlling fire missions went back to the First World War.

Harassing fire directed towards Japanese positions in Southern Okinawa begins during the early morning hours of May 11, 1945 as an all out offensive gets underway.

[Source: The Chinese Failure at Chosin By Patrick C. Roe, Major, USMC (Ret) Chairman, Chosin Few Historical Committee. Images courtesy of Life Magazine and the US National Archives.]

Does the US Navy still have battleships?

Yes and No. There are no actively commissioned battleships in the US fleet though a variety of US Battleships are on display as museum ships throughout the US with the most notable being the USS Missouri.

The USS Missouri is an Iowa class battleship. This is the last battleship ever built by the United States. She entered service in June of 1944 and was assigned to the Pacific theater where she spent the remainder of the war. She actually never fought another ship or even fired at another ship. “The Mighty Mo” was a powerful ship for the era. Her main battery consisted of nine 16 inch guns grouped three to a turret in three turrets: two fore and one aft. A 16 inch gun was a gun which fired a shell 16 inches in diameter. Each of the shells weighed 2,700 pounds and could be fired as far as 20 miles. Primarily, the USS Missouri provided fire support for American troops in such battles as Iwo Jima and Okinawa. A friend of mine, the late Sander B. Weinstock, was a US Army sergeant and went ashore in the fourth or fifth wave during the invasion of Okinawa. The night before the landings, a phalanx of American battleships gave the island its strongest pounding, although they had been firing on it for several days. Sandy told me that he watched the bombardment for hours from the deck of his troopship and that it was the most awe inspiring sight he ever saw in his entire life. “The whole sky was lighted up.”

Although watching a line of American battleships blasting Japanese positions on such islands as Okinawa and Iwo Jima was an awesome spectacle, the ships actually did little damage to the Japanese troops and artillery pieces — much of it due to the relatively flat trajectory of shells fired from warships. Most of the men and the artillery were secure in deep tunnels and caves. Artillery pieces not hidden away, were usually emplaced in concrete bunkers which were then piled with sand and expertly camouflaged. Only a direct hit from the main battery of a battleship could destroy such an emplacement. American troops, particularly the US Marines at Tarawa and Iwo Jima, paid a terrible price in blood for the failure of the US Navy to provide effective fire support. The USS Missouri was decommissioned in 1955 after providing fire support to American troops in the Korean War.

This is not a reflection of the men who served aboard the ship in the 80s and 90s, however, modernizing the USS Iowa and the USS Missouri, both constructed in the mid-1940s, was a waste of time and energy and money and was done only because of the macho vanity of some politicians in Washington. Recommissioned in 1986 after several years of expensive and virtually useless refitting, the USS Missouri participated in the Gulf War. She provided a very expensive platform for firing cruise missiles. She fired her main batteries a number of times on Iraqi targets close to the shore. You will see from the video the antiquated operation of the actual main battery itself. In 1992 the ship was decommissioned and in 1998 she was donated to the USS Missouri Memorial Association and towed to Pearl Harbor where she was opened as a museum ship in January of 1999.

11 June 1944: USS Missouri being commissioned – that is formally placed into service with the Navy, in New York City.
A Japanese Kamikaze is shown just before colliding with the USS Missouri during the Battle of Okinawa in the Pacific Ocean, April 11, 1945. Recent findings suggest the historic photo was taken by Baker 2nd Class Harold “Buster” Campbell, one of the ship’s cooks. (AP Photo/Harold Campbell courtesy of Dan Campbell) – The plane is a Zero fighter and it struck the ship below the main deck and more or less bounced off the armor plating.
30 August 1945: Escorted by the destroyer USS Nicholas and followed by her sister battleship USS Iowa, the USS Missouri steams up Tokyo Bay.
Admiral William Halsey (on the right) welcomes five star Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Halsey committed so many blunders in the last two years of the war that a committee recommended he be court martialed. Nimitz refused to allow such a proceeding to take place.
2 September 1945: Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, architect of American victory in the Pacific, signs the Japanese Instrument of Surrender in Tokyo Bay aboard the USS Missouri.

The most common photo of this ceremony shows General Douglas MacArthur signing. He upstaged everyone on that day, as on every other day when cameras and the media were present. He used his psychotic narcissism to greatly inflate his achievements and obscure his mediocre record as a fighting general.

This plaque marks the actual spot where the Japanese signed the Instrument of Surrender. Their aggression in China and throughout Asia caused the deaths of tens of millions innocent people.
USS Missouri in the Panama Canal in the fall of 1945 returning to the United States from the Pacific. Note the close fit of the ship in the locks. The beam of US battleships of this era was determined by the dimensions of the largest locks in the Panama Canal.
Circa 1951: USS Missouri providing fire support for US troops in Korea.
February of 1985: USS Missouri being modernized in the US Naval shipyard in Long Beach, CA. This project was an expensive exercise in nostalgia. The day of the battleship had long been over.
USS Missouri at sea in the late 1980s after she was taken out of “mothballs” and refitted.
The battleship USS Missouri (BB 63) is towed past Diamond Head en route to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on June 21, 1998. Secretary of the Navy John H. Dalton signed the Donation Agreement on May 4th, allowing Missouri to be used as a museum near the Arizona Memorial. The ship was towed from Bremerton, Wash. (DoD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kerry E. Baker, U.S. Navy.)
Interior of the USS Missouri