by Peter Xanthos
June 22 marks the 65th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Okinawa, the last big battle and the costliest of the Pacific war.
Sixty-five years ago on Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945, began the invasion of Okinawa, 300 miles from Japan.
U.S. military strategists concluded that the heavily fortified island of Okinawa had to be taken to be used as a stepping stone for the upcoming invasion of Japan. The battle for Okinawa lasted for three months - April, May and June 1945 turned out to be the costliest campaign of the Pacific war. It was a combined Navy, Army and Marine operation and the initial invasion armada consisted of 1,300 ships, including 18 battleships, 40 carriers, 200 destroyers and attack transports plus amphibious landing craft. The initial landing troops were only 50,000, but were expanded to a quarter of a million troops on the ground. There was little opposition on the beaches as the defenders' plan was to lure the invasion force into interior positions, which were heavily fortified and out of reach of naval and aerial bombardment.
After three months of fighting, Americans suffered 50,000 casualties, including 12,000 dead. The dead included 5,000 Navy, 4,000 Army, and 3,000 Marines. Navy casualties were high because of the constant kamikaze attacks on U.S. ships; 110,000 Japanese troops died and 7,400 were taken prisoners and were badly wounded. The giant battleship Yamato, escorted by a cruiser and eight destroyers, was sunk by U.S. planes launched from carriers. Between 75,000 to 160,000 Okinawa civilians died.
Gen. Simon Buckner, commander of the U.S. forces, was killed at a forward observation post when several Japanese shells hit the post. Famous Army journalist Ernie Pyle was killed while in a foxhole by a sniper.
Peter Xanthos of Grand Island, crew member of the attack transport USS Bingham, APA 225, which participated in the Okinawa engagement.