Today In History, The Americans Captured The Island of Okinawa (1945)

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Today in history the American army overcomes the last pockets of resistance from the Japanese on Okinawa Island. This battle was to be one of the biggest and bloodiest in the Pacific War. The Americans had landed on the island some one month earlier and it resulted in a terrible battle. On April 1, 1945, the 10th Army, launched the invasion of Okinawa, as strategically Pacific island. Okinawa is located some one hundred miles off the coast of  Japan. It was seen by the Japanese as part of their own homeland and the population was Japanese.

The Americans wanted the island as it would allow them air bases near Japan. They cold then launch air raids on Japanese cities at will and this it was hoped could lead to the surrender of Japan. The Americans bombarded the island before they landed troops. There are estimated to have been some 100,000 Japanese soldiers defending the island, many hiding in pillboxes. They had all committed themselves to death rather than surrender. The Americans landed 60,000 marines and soldiers on the island. As they landed on the beach they experienced no resistance, however as they moved inland they came under fierce fire and savage fighting began.

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A Kamikaze attack on the USS Bunker Hill

The Japanese began Kamikaze attacks on the American ships at sea. These involved Japanese planes flying straight into vessels. The Battle of Okinawa, some 2000 Kamikaze missions during this operation and the Americans lost many ships and many sailors killed. Many experts believe that the Kamikaze tactics had been counterproductive for Japan.

During the next month, the battle for the island was intense and was fought on the land and sea. On land, the Americans and Japanese were engaged in a brutal battle. There was hand-to-hand fighting. The Americans had to fight for every inch of ground. The Japanese fought to the death and they often launched suicide attacks.  One night the Japanese engaged a mass infantry charge led by sword-waving officers. They led to a brutal battle in which both sides lost many men.

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American marines on Okinawa

On June 18, with U.S. victory in sight, the US commander was killed by a Japanese sniper. Some four days later his men reached the south of the island. This now had cut the island in two and had control of the vast majority of it. It was on the 22nd that the last Japanese resistance ended.

The Japanese casualties were very high. They had suffered some 120,000 dead. There were not many prisoners as the Japanese preferred suicide to capture.  The Americans had suffered some 12,000 dead and 35,000 wounded. They had also lost some 34 ships.

With the capture of Okinawa, the Allies prepared for the invasion of Japan. They intended to invade Japan from Okinawa and they planned to land on the southern island of Honshu.  However, because the Americans dropped the Atomic bomb the Japanese surrendered and ended the need for the invasion of Japan.

 

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