The Bloodiest Battle
The Battle of Okinawa (codenamed Operation Iceberg) proved to be the deadliest battle on the Pacific side of World War II. The battle involved six countries and more than 180,000 casualties. It became the last campaign in the Pacific and changed the course of history.
In part of the island hopping campaign, the United States knew in order to invade mainland Japan, they would need the last piece of the puzzle. Okinawa was the last island needed to be taken in order to serve as a base where the Americans can launch invasions on mainland Japan. The United States assembled a great fleet including forty aircraft carriers, 18 battle ships, 200 destroyers, and 180,000 men. The force all together consisted of over 1,300 US ships. The Japanese on the other hand were outnumbered by 60,000 and did not have the massive fleet as they used to have prior to the Battle of Midway. With the European side of the war almost over, the Americans could start to concentrate their forces on the Japanese.
Admiral Nimitz in charge of planning the whole operation decided on the strategy to ‘soften’ up the beaches and then proceed to quickly invade and take over the airfields necessary for the victory of Okinawa and the invasion of Japan. He would also use the fleet to cut sea lanes limiting Japan’s mobility of forces. The Japanese strategy on the other hand, was to consolidate and fortify their position south of the Island and conserve as much of their force as possible so that by the time the weakened Americans arrived, they would easily be defeated. Colonel Yahara, a senior Japanese officer, best describes Japan’s position, “Japan was frantically preparing for a final decisive battle on the home islands, leaving Okinawa to face a totally hopeless situation. From the beginning I had insisted that our proper strategy was to hold the enemy as long as possible, drain off his troops and supplies, and thus contribute our utmost to the final decisive battle for Japan proper." (Yahara, The Battle for Okinawa)
The Japanese chose not to defend the coastal line unlike they had in the Battle of Iwa Jima. They were prepared for a long battle. Japanese had also dug in a system of tunnels, pill boxes, and an underground headquarter for protection from US air raids.
Japan also planned to employ Kamikaze aircraft as a means of limiting the American navy and to lower their morale. Post-Midway, the Japanese have lost air superiority and experienced fighters and had to rely on inexperienced pilots to guide explosive-loaded planes in order to sink ships. The Japanese also used propaganda on the local Okinawans in order to gain manpower for their forces. The Japanese told the local population lies such as the American will rape the women, eat the children, and kill all the men. This propaganda had negative effects as the Okinawans started committing suicides in order to avoid this fate. However, the Japanese did enlist a numerous force from...