After the major series of island hopping in the Pacific, it came down to the decision to invade Okinawa to support the overall strategic plan of tightening the noose and strangling Japan with the ultimate goal of Japan’s unconditional surrender. The Ryukyu islands were an integral part of the Japanese defenses and the seizure and operationalization of the airfields on the islands would allow for the possibility to strike Japan’s homeland with strategic bombing campaigns. Although the US had material advantages over the Japanese throughout the Pacific theater there were no guarantees that the US would be successful without detailed planning and analysis of the Japanese forces in the Ryukyus. This paper will analyze the important operational elements as they relate to the planning and preparation for the landing on Okinawa (Operation Iceberg)
First, it is important to look at the time, space, force considerations of the Allied forces in the Pacific. The US wanted the unconditional surrender of Japan and in respect to time they preferred to end the war quickly. It was very important that the US forces continue to put continuous pressure on the Japanese and to maintain a constant blockade which gradually became tighter as the war continued. The US had plans to take both Luzon and Iwo Jima while leaping toward the Ryukyu island chain but must be able to give the forces enough time to regain composure and prepare the troops for another battle. The timeframe for the operation was set for March or early April which would give the troops adequate time to plan and prepare as well as mitigate possible weather concerns for the May typhoon season.
While looking at the space considerations, the two separate force movements from the north and south would meet up around the Ryukyu’s area for the Okinawa invasion. The decision was made not to invade Formosa and continue up the Chinese coastline due to the fact that anything past Luzon would be nice but not necessary in order to attack Japan. Okinawa was decided to be the best means to support the invasion, therefore Formosa was excluded. The major space issue would be that of logistically supporting the forces when a resupply timeline was 120 days. There was also the issue of planning troop embarkation and moving them to the designated landing areas with a limited number of ships, all of which would require a vast amount of upfront planning in order to be successful.
Finally, the availability of forces would be another critical factor in the planning phase. The fight in Europe against Germany was still ongoing making the planned landing forces to be about 183,000. The estimates available to the Allied forces was that Japan had up to 65,000 defenders and that the terrain on the island was very favorable to the defense therefore the Japanese would likely be able to defend the landing areas with limited numbers. The Japanese air threat would also be a major threat to the landing forces....