The Two Battles of the Pacific: Battle of Okinawa and Iwo Jima
The Battle of Iwo Jima
A five-week battle that happened between February to March of 1945, this was one of the first Pacific wars that happened on Japanese soil. It was the goal of the US to capture the island of Iwo Jima, including three airfields which will significantly give them strength to invade the mainland. However, a number of historians have battled and debated on the importance of this battle. For many, the islands would be useless for both a staging base or as a navy base. It may have been a mistake that led to thousands of lives lost.
The Japanese were significantly outnumbered from the start. There are about 21,000 soldiers to fight hundreds of thousands from the US military. Thousands of Japanese soldiers were killed in action, hundreds were taken the prisoner, and others either surrendered or succumbed to their wounds while staying within cave systems which they have built on the island. In history, the Battle of Iwo Jima is believed to be among the bloodiest in the world.
The Battle of Okinawa
The battle in the entire Pacific War which was a three-month long battle from April up to June of 1945. Since Okinawa is located in the Southernmost region of the country, the Allied forces (consisted of British, American, Australian, New Zealand, and Canada) planned to use this as their base for entry to the mainland. They plan to use it for both naval and air operations. This will be a strategic base for the possible victory of the Allied forces. The Battle of Okinawa is believed in history to be the final battle of the Pacific.
At this time, there is a total of 541,000 troops from the Allied forces with combat troops rising to about 250,000. Japanese soldiers were strongly outnumbered with only about 86,000 troops. Despite being outnumbered, the Japanese had the land advantage. The Allied forces only had entry through boats from the deep parts of the sea before going inland. This allowed the Japanese to easily put out the invasion.
The fight was absolutely ferocious battleships were sunk, and tanks were destroyed. The Kamikaze attacks were so intense that there are thousands of aircraft that have been lost and destroyed on the Japanese side alone.
Things to remember about the Battle of Okinawa from WW2
Battle of Okinawa Map
Okinawa is the largest of the Ryukyu Islands of Japan. It has an area of 1,200 square kilometers and is located about 600 kilometers to the South of Japan. The Battle of Okinawa is an amphibious warfare where watercrafts turn into tanks upon reaching the sea. Also known as submersibles, these vehicles have transported thousands of troops from naval ships to land. This was a special transport which had been developed by the Allied forces to increase their offensive advantage.
There are a number of disadvantages of the location to the Marines during the war. Since it is located on a southern island of Japan, the place has a subtropical climate where precipitation is quite common year round. This has posed a significant threat to the Americans and an advantage to the Japanese. The repetitive precipitation has created the prevalence of the disease to the Allied troops.
The mud has lowered their operational efficiency and has even decreased the efficiency of their machinery and artillery. The island, at the middle, is also filled with trees and hills. This had given the Japanese a good deal of concealment. They had multiple cave system that allows them to shoot at the Marines without being seen. The location proved to provide a strategic defense that became advantageous for the low number of Japanese forces.
Battle of Okinawa Date
The battle of Okinawa was an 82-day long battle that lasted from April until the end of June of 1945. This was one of the first successes of the Allied forces in invading Japanese bases. At this time, the Western division of the Axis forces had already been defeated. The Japanese are left to defend their country on their own, using only their own infantry. Also, the Japanese forces at this time have started to dwindle down and their defenses were weaker than ever. After continuous fighting in other parts of Asia and the Pacific, Japan was already on their toes are nearing surrender.
Battle of Okinawa Summary: A Timeline
The battle started on the 1st of April 1945, when the 10th Army of the Allied forces reached the Higashi beach. However, it was only three days later when the troops made their first contact with the Japanese defenses. On the 6th of April, hundreds of Kamikaze planes were sent out to sea to destroy US ships, destroyers, and more.
On the 20th of April, northern Okinawa was almost completely invaded and the Japanese soldiers have been sent to the hills and into hiding. It took about a month on May 24th, for the US forces to officially reach the capital city of Okinawa found at the center of the island in Shuri, Naha. It was the largest Japanese city ever taken by the US military.
Another month later on the 21st of June, the Allied forces announce that the entire island is secured. After a few days, the chief-of-staff of the Japanese military leading the forces in Okinawa had committed suicide. It was on the 2nd of July that the entire campaign was completed.
Important People from the Battle of Okinawa
Lt. General Mitsuru Ushijima was one of the most powerful generals that served during the Second World War. He is known to be the military leader of the 32nd Army which was at the forefront of the Battle of Okinawa.
Between 1942 and 1944, Ushijima was the Commandant of the Imperial Japanese Army Academy. He was able to train and educate thousands of soldiers during that time. Because the Japanese army was dwindling significantly before the end of the war, Ushijima was sent to Okinawa to lead the army divisions there. His skillful defense strategies are one of the most impressive and sophisticated at the time and he was able to strengthen his outnumbered army.
His troops, though they fought severely, was greatly outnumbered and was defeated after three months of endless fighting. Seeing that there is already no hope to win the battle, he was urged by General Simon Buckner to surrender. He had refused, with the notion that a surrender would make him and his men prisoners of war, and then decided to take his life like many other defeated military leaders before him.
Army Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr.
This man is also one of the most popular personalities in the battles in the Pacific. He was able to serve both the WWI and WWII. He was originally assigned to Alaska at the beginning of the war and was there from 1940 until 1944. In 1944, he was sent to Hawaii to organize what is known as the 10th Army who was ordered to invade Okinawa in Japan.
During the battle, the Lt. Gen. was followed by enemy artillery fire everywhere he went. He had succeeded to defy the odds until he was wounded by coral rocks that hit his chest during one particular attack. Lt. Gen. Buckner was killed in action in Okinawa on the 18th of June, just as the battle was about to end. He was the highest-ranking US military official that was killed in this battle. He was posthumously promoted to four-star general in July of 1945.
General Roy Geiger
This man was one of the most colored and honored men of the Second World War because he led his amphibious corps to victory in the Battle of Okinawa. He took over the command of the US 10th Army upon the death of Lt. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr.
This man had experience, he fought during the First World War in Dunkirk, France. He was first sent to Gibraltar at the beginning of the Second World War. He became the commanding general of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. A year later, he was stationed in Guadalcanal and was the commander of the combined Army, Marines, and Navy forces in the campaign. He is then sent to Guam and Southern Palau before being sent to Okinawa for his last battle. Geiger died in 1947 from lung cancer and was posthumously promoted to four-star general at the same day.
Battle of Okinawa Outcome
Battle of Okinawa who won
A lot of historians believed that the Battle of Okinawa and the Battle of Iwo Jima was a defeated battle even before it began. The Japanese were severely outnumbered and the Allied infantry is more aggressive than ever with the end of war within their midst.
The Japanese army was able to create a stronghold and secure their positions with their impressive battle and defense strategies. Their war tactics are unique and among the most impressive in the world as they were able to prolong the war and weaken the enemy, before finally surrendering despite being outnumbered. They have used the natural topography of their environment to create a system of caves that will conceal their men and prolong the fighting. They had used thousands of aircraft with their unique, but very horrific, kamikaze attacks to lower the enemy’s artillery and men.
However, the Allied forces had made ways around these strategies. Their men are equipped with fire guns that will send fire and smoke inside these caves. This will force the Japanese men to run out to avoid suffocation or death from fire. Once they are out, these men will be caught as prisoners of war.
It is believed that there are over 70,000 Japanese casualties and more than 50,000 Allied casualties that resulted from the Battle of Okinawa. The exact number of casualty is still unknown and these numbers remain as an estimate from after the war. Thousands were also wounded.
The worst of these is that there are hundreds of thousands of local residents who were affected by the battle. A number of these people have been transported even before the war began. Others chose to stay in their homes and wait for the battle to end.
In that short three months, thousands of aircraft have been destroyed. Numerous ships had been sunk. Hundreds of submersibles never reached the shore. The dead were lying on the sand and floating in the waters. It took them days, or even weeks to clean up and pick up the bodies due to the intensity of the war. Soldiers trying to remember their experiences can only describe the stench from the surroundings.
Physical and environmental damages
Okinawa is well-known to be home for its pristine beaches with white sand and crystal clear water. A lot of tourists go to this place just to enjoy the sand and the sea – it is truly one of Japan’s paradise. The Battle of Okinawa has turned the island from a paradise into a hell hole. The white sand and clear water were transformed into a place of devastation.
The environmental damage caused by the war to the island of Okinawa was so horrifying a lot of people thought that the island can never recover. Although there are still some places that exhibit the ruins from the war, seventy years after the Second World War Okinawa is once again paradise.