Articles Page Two
The Division Sails
There was elaborate instruction about the island where they were going a pretty place to look at it seemed but with good many other things that would not be so pretty. According to the intelligence reports, running true to form for islands destined for Marine attack, it had Malaria, dengue fever, leprosy, plague, typhus, dysentery, filariasis and virtually every skin disease afflicting mankind. Plus two of the worlds most deadly snakes, the Habu and Kufau.
There were flies by the million, mosquitoes and a climate claimed to be mad uncomfortable by one of the highest average humidity rates of the world through the temperature was only about that of the southern United States. The annual rainfall averaged 120 inches. The troops were to land in the dry season, but might expect six inches of rain during the first month ashore and nine inches during the next. An expectation, which it is worth noting, was fully met.
The inhabitants were poor and most of them were involved in agriculture. Most Okinawan's lived in small villages of thatch-roofed huts, with the more prosperous citizens in stone houses. The islands capital and largest city, near the southern end was named Naha.
The northern end of the island held high sheer mountains of some scenic beauty honeycombed with caves reachable only over narrow trails on which vehicular traffic could not move. In the hills were more rolling terrain and ravines. All around the shore Okinawa lay behind reefs extending 200-400 yards at the landing beaches and as far as 1000 yards in other places.
While they were learning all this about their objective the men of the Division were moving up to the staging point at Ulithi, which was reached on March 22.
On March 27, 1945 they sailed for Okinawa. Four days later the Marines checked weapons and quietly attended religious services. The next day was April 1, and also Easter Sunday. They would be thrown on the beaches of Okinawa. The Divisions zone of action was on the left flank of the Tenth Army, and its initial objective the capture of the vital Yontan Airfield. Within the Division the 22nd Regiment was assigned to land on the left and strike inland to the town of Hanza. On the right the 4th would drive straight inland to Yontan. The 29th Marines were in Corps reserve for the III Amphibious Corps, which compromised the First as well as the Sixth Division.
The Landing on Okinawa
That Easter dawn was hailed by the crash of guns from some 1,200 ships, the largest war fleet that ever sailed, with the heavy artillery of battleships and cruisers concentration on the sloping ground from the beach to Yontan Airfield, 1200 yards inland. By 5:30 Marines were topside watching the bombardment.
Japanese planes began to attack in the early morning light, at first only the local reserves, apparently for their efforts were not well coordinated and though there were several narrow escapes from bombs for suicide attacks, there were no hits and at least five planes were shot down. Meantime the gunfire had changed direction slightly, and the carrier-based aircraft were blasting fortifications along the shore and inland toward the airfield.
The bright sunlight of the spring morning was considered a good omen for the coming battle as the assault troops in amphibian tractors headed for the beach to make their landing at 8:30 am. April 1, 1945, the designated H-hour. At 8:37 they reached the beach. The 22nd Marines near Hanza on the series of beaches designated as Green, the 4th Regiment on the Red beaches opposite Yontan Airfield.
Neither Colonel Schneiders 22nd Regiment nor Colonel Shapleys 4th wasted time trying to solve they mystery or congratulating them-selves. They pushed inland rapidly but cautiously. Within an hour the 22nd had moved 500 yards forward and by 10:30 the 22nd and 4th had reached their days objective with only few casualties. There was still plenty of good daylight. So the orders were to continue the advance with all possible vigor.
Early in the afternoon the 22nd reached Castle Hill named for an old Chinese castle that was supposed to have occupied its summit at some time in the past.
In their zone the men of the 4th Marines were making equally rapid progress. The 1st Battalion was 300 yards inland. Within the hour the 4th was on Yontan Airfield with no resistance.
The airfield was found deserted except for camouflaged bamboo poles to look like antiaircraft guns and dummy aircrafts.
A review of the days activities showed the operation successful beyond all expectation except that the movement of supplies was hampered by the fringing reefs, which were even worse than anticipated. The 22nd Marines spent a quite night, subject to only a few attempts of infiltration. On the front of the 4th there was intermittent machine-gun and mortar fire throughout the night.
The Drive up Ishikawa
At 7:15 the next morning the attack was resumed to seize the Love plus 5 line and to clear Zanpa Misaki, which was considered a menace to the Divisions left flank. The 22d moved forward against insignificant resistance but on the front of the 4th the opposition began to pile up during the afternoon. The action of Company L, of the 3rd Battalion, was typical.
This unit entered a ravine with a small stream winding down its center between high, sheer ridges covered by a heavy growth of brush and scrub pine. At one point the surrounding ridges pinched the ravine to a width of ten yards beyond which it widened out to a rice paddy surrounded by hills. As the company moved into the ravine a single Japanese ran from a cave fired a shot and leaped back into hiding. There was no further sign of the enemy as the column paused at the neck of the ravine while patrols were sent to the top of the ridge.
The 1st Platoon under Lieutenant Marvin Plock moved out along the left where the ridge sloped down into the ravine, 200 yards above the neck. The 3rd Platoon along the ridge to the right while the 2nd Platoon under Lieutenant Daniel Brewster moved through the neck and the company commander Captain Nelson Dale moved at the head of the column up the ravine.
A machine-gun team which crossed the ridge found itself faced by a Japanese manned cave not visible from above. The entire machine-gun team was destroyed before it could fire a shot.
April 2 was drawing to an end, Marines wounded in the isolated platoon were dying for lack of care and several Navy Corpsmen had been killed while trying to treat the injured. Brewsters platoon was in danger of being destroyed and the position of the entire company was jeopardized.
He gave the order to move out and the men started down the ravine towards the caves. The Marines drove forward. The 1st platoon in front.
The sudden sweep caught the Japanese off balance and the attack went right through, flame-thrower men firing in caves as they went past.
The 1st Battalion 4th Marines, was caught in a similar desperate fight, about 250 Japanese being killed in the two strong points on the battalion front before the attack was halted at 4:30 p.m. with the lines advanced 1000 yards.
The 1st Battalion, 29th Regiment, cleared Zanpa Misaki on the left, during the day. Which found only a few Japanese in the area, but the advance of the division as a whole had considerably slowed down. Now it was up against the rough and rising terrain that covers the approaches to the Yontan Zan massif. That night the night of April 2-3 was quiet in all sectors except that of the 3rd Battalion, 4th. As on the preceding night this unit received intermittent mortar and machine gun fire, with frequent infiltration attempts.
Meanwhile, the supporting echelons were having their troubles due to the advance. The difficult character of the reef and the inadequacy of the road net. There was a narrow coastal road running from one tip of the island to the other, but the routes across the inland from east to west were little more than trails not designed for heavy wheeled traffic. Most of the bridges were out. Marine engineers and Navy Seabees were required to do some remarkable jobs of construction in preparing the trails to carry the needed food, water and ammo to the front lines.
Despite the hard fighting some units had met, it was clear that the main body of enemy troops was still ahead and constant probing of several directions was undertaken to develop the situation. A Recon Company made a push along the coastal road to the base of the Ishikawa Isthmus.
This made it clear that the Division could move rapidly toward the East Coast. The Division Commander was very desire of pressing the advance for a number of reasons. He felt it most important to locate and destroy the main body of the enemy before he could organize his defenses: To obtain the ports along the coast as security against the Japanese counter-landings: to seal off any enemy forces in the Northern part of the island and thus to protect the Tenth Armys left flank: and to occupy strategies areas of the island, from which anticipated attempts at guerrilla warfare could be broken up by patrolling.
The Division continued its advance. The 4th and 22nd Regiments crossed the mid-island watershed and worked well down into the foothills on the opposite slope. The difficulties of the 22nd were mainly with the rough country: The 4th plunged into a region of sharp ridges and deep, wooded gullies where I found a few scattered Japanese.
By April 4 the division had reached the East Coast and had established a line across the base of the Ishikawa Isthmus from Nakodomari to Ishikawa. The 2 assault regiments came down out of the foothills and swinging slightly to the northeast, advanced toward the isthmus. They were now in a rolling grassy land with only a few trees near dwellings or on ridges. Housed were deserted. Only now and then there was a smattering of fire from their advance units as the ran into scattered groups of Japanese who fought only enough to make the advance delay and move cautiously but it did not observably slow the drive of the Marines who reached their L plus 15 objectives within 5 days.
This swift advance caused the plans of the III Amphibious Corps commander to be modified and the modification brought order for the Sixth Division to sweep on the northward up the Ishikawa Isthmus. Seize the seaport town of Nago, then drive on to the Motobu Peninsula and the northern tip of the island.
On April 6 the attack was resumed with the 4th Marines advancing along the East Coast of the Ishikawa Isthmus. While the 29th passed through the 22nd and moved up the West Coast. The 3rd Battalion 29th moved rapidly along the coastal road accompanied by tanks and meeting hardly any enemy resistance. On the East Coast there was a supply road of somewhat less importance along which the enemy had destroyed most of the bridges. Meanwhile the 22nd now in Division reserve combed the area behind the assault regiments.
The 6th Engineer Battalion, which had by this time turned the work on Yontan Airfield over to the 58th Seabees was close behind the assault elements improving the roads and building bridges as the need arose.
The Reconnaissance Company with its usual accompaniment of tanks, meanwhile advanced up the west coast road as far as Awa then returned to Nago and swung north to the cross the base of Motobu Peninsula s far as the smaller town of Nakaoshi. There were more Japanese here than father south and the company had quite a few sharp actions. As the Recon extended westward it became evident that the enemy had probably selected the Peninsulas mountainous area as his final defensive position in the north.
It would have to be taken, but before beginning the assault the Division paused to reorganize. On April 8th the 22nd Regiment was deployed across the island from Nakaoshi to Ora to block off the northern area and cover the rear of the 29th. The 4th was assembled in the vicinity of Ora ready to move in to assist either of the other two regiments and supplied some elements for the probing advances to the northward made by the 22nd.
Company K of the 4th for example went on an extended foot and amphibian tractor patrol, moving rapidly up the east coast while the 2nd Battalion 22nd under Lieutenant Colonel Horatio Woodhouse with a batter of artillery and Company A, 6th Tank Battalion moved north by forced marches along the west coast of the island. The battalion reached Hedo Misaki on April 14 after beating down scattered and ineffective resistance. They secured the northern tip of Okinawa. An advanced base was set up there and patrols were sent southward to make contact with similar patrols from the 4th. There was no major fighting but a good many minor skirmishes with enemy stragglers mainly by night as the Japanese tried to infiltrate throughout Marine lines. Apparently with the object of joining their forces on Motobu.
Battle for Mount Yaetake
Motobu Peninsula was a distinctive and individualized portion of Okinawa. The Japanese assigned to the defense of the area knew the country intimately and had spent a long time organizing it, whereas the information on the US side was somewhat inadequate. As much of the peninsula had been under cloud when reconnaissance photos were taken. In addition, many important trails were concealed under trees and were thus invisible from the air.
The peninsula just out to the west from Okinawa in the form of a stubby, crooked thumb, only a little longer than it is wide. Midway of the peninsula, running from east to west, a stream bisected the tow principal ranges of hills and empties into the China Sea near the small town of Toguchi. On the northern side, about two-thirds of the way to the western tip, a small group of islands protects Unten Harbor, where the Japanese Navy had a base for midget sub-marines, complete with underground workshops, a concealed marine railway and a power plant. Adjacent to the submarine base was a torpedo storage station.
They constituted Mount Yaetake, 1,200 feet tall. The Japanese commander had chosen this as his main defensive area, since from its escarpments he would be enabled to deny to US forces the effective use of the Nago area, while himself controlling both the Nago-Toguchi and Itomi-Toguchi roads.
The Peninsula was about ten miles long and nearly eight miles wide, or as large as the entire island of Saipan. From the height of Mount Yaetake the enemy could control the approaches to Toguchi with field artillery and naval guns: he could interdict the road to Itomi: could keep under observation any movement of troops to the northward, and intercept patrols or halt attackers by long range fire.
The terrain within the Peninsula was such that it was impossible for the attackers to use mechanized equipment and it even presented serious difficulties to the passage of infantry.
After the fighting was over, it was discovered that Colonel Udo had maintained his command post in the center of Mount Yaetake in a complex cave system which embraced all the means required for an effective defense, including telephone and radio communications installation.
This was the position against which the 29th Regiment was moving, in accordance with a plan, which called for the 3rd Battalion to circle the southern and western coast to Toguchi, while the 2nd Battalion was to march north along the northern coast, and the 1st Battalion to proceed along the inland trail which leads from Nago to Itomi.
On the morning of April 9 this movement began, with the three battalions practically abreast. Light resistance was encountered that day by all columns. The following morning the 1st and 3rd Battalions made an attempt to open the road that separated them, the latter battalion reaching the town of Toguchi in the afternoon under heavy rain.
Two companies of the 3rd Battalion moved out from Toguchi with flank patrols on either side of the trial. About 800 yards east of Toguchi.
To the east the 1st Battalion worked forward close to Manna and almost within sight of the ocean. Companies A and B in the lead began a withdrawal, but as they passed an open draw and approached a bridge they ran into another belt of fire.
During the next three days the 29th Regiment conducted a series of probing operations which developed the limits of the enemys position and enabled the division staff to make some deduction as to his defense plans.
The Divisions intelligence work had been well and thoroughly done and by this time it was known almost exactly where the enemy was and in what strength. In preparation for a decisive drive the 4th marines were brought from the east coast and installed on the southwest coast of the peninsula near the 3d Battalion, 29th, the plan being for these two units the 4th Regiment with the 3d Battalion of the 29th attached to attack eastward toward the central mass of Mount Yaetake. The other town battalions of the 29th would simultaneously move westward from Itomi clear the Japanese from the Manna-Itomi road and drive them southwest in conduction with the 4th Marines.
The plan and the terrain on which was executed produced a campaign of considerable professional interest, centering on the fact that it was an operation of mountain maneuver.
In the coordinated attack of April 14 the 4th Marines with the 3d, 29th Marines attached undertook initially to seize a 700 foot ridge which was about 1,200 yards inland from the coast, and which dominated the western coastal road. The situation was unique in that the direction of attack was east, while the remaining two battalions of the 29th Marines simultaneously drove westward toward Yaetake and from the Itomi area.
The attack to seize the 700-foot ridge began at 8:30am with the 3d Battalion, 29th on the left and the 2d Battalion, 4th on the right. There was surprisingly light resistance and the objective was seized by noon.
But the night of the 14th it was possible to narrow the General Shepherds offensive down to more specific objectives. The 4th Marines plan of attack for the next day the 15th, involved an advance with three battalions abreast, driving 1000 yards farther inland to the next ridge which stood between the advancing forces and Yaetake peak.
By noon the regiment was halfway to its objective on the left the 3d Battalion, 29th Marines was in a savage battle to gain the summit of Green Hill . On the front of the 1st and 2d Battalions of the 4th Marines, the defense was increasing in its tenacity. Before the day ended Company G had 65 casualties while three company commanders in the 2d Battalion were evacuated. Many lives were saved because of the will of other Marines to save them.
Plans for the following day involved a convergent effort, which would gradually shift the direction of the Divisions attack toward the north.
The 1st Battalion 22d Marines was moved into position on th extreme right of the 4th Marines and assigned the mission of working north towards Yaetake, making physical contact with the 4th on the left and the 29th on the right. On the opposite side of Yaetake moving generally towards the 4th the 29th commenced to swing its flanks to the north and west meeting only light resistance as it struck the base of Yaetake itself. Meanwhile the 1st Battalion 22d was having difficulty with the steep rocky terrain in its assigned zone, although the actual resistance encountered was light.
With the capture of Green Hill, the stage setting was complete for the assault of Yaetake. The 2d Battalion of the 29th on Green Hill and the 2d Battalion of the 4th held their positions and supported the 1st and 3d Battalions by fire as the latter moved directly north. The 1st Battalion, 22d had been unable to reach its assigned objective and the 29th Marines were still not in position to close the exhausting gap the right of the 4th was in the air. It was a gamble to press the attack but the pocket of enemy resistance had been quite clearly defined.
Every available Marine shouldered as much ammo as he could carry and moved it toward the front. The ammunition came none too soon. In a desperate and fanatical Banzi attack the Japanese rushed forward to close in hand to hand combat with the waiting Marines.
The day after the capture of the crest was given to reorganization, re-supply and the patrolling of the Itomi-Toguchi road. The suppression of resistance on the peninsula had now become a matter of patrols and searching among the jagged hills. From April 20-May 2 when the Armys 27 Division relieved the Marines; the Sixth conducted continual patrol activities, killing a few Japanese in its area almost every night but fewer as the days went by. The Divisions losses for the period were 236 killed 1,061 wounded and 7 missing. During the drive from Yontan Airfield to the northern limit of Okinawa practically every type of maneuver known to military science was employed and every type of supply problem encountered. General Shepherd announced the end of the organized resistance in the northern two-thirds of the island on April 20.
There remained three small islands off the Motbu coast, still in Japanese hands. They were probably undefended but were a potential threat, especially if the enemy should find resources to attempt a counter-landing. The Fleet Marine Force Reconnaissance Battalion which had been operating on the island since shortly after L-day, was sent up on the night of April 19-20 to make a rubber-boat reconnaissance of the two larger islands, Sesoko Shima to the west of Motobu, and Yagachi Shima to the north, the larger one being part of the outer barrier for the midge submarine base at Unten.
The reconnaissance showed no trace of enemy troops and the battalion took over the islands moving in by night armored amphibians had been used to carry troops to attack at the same time supplying covering fire from their guns. On April 22, Genera Vandegrift Commandant of the Marine Corps visited the Sixth Division headquarters at Nago and was present when the flag was raised to signalize the conquest of the northern part of Okinawa.
The Sixth Division can well be proud of its accomplishments on Okinawa,the Commandant said. The Marine Corps proudly welcomes you to the roll of distinguished divisions that have been victorious over the Japanese wherever they have found him
The Battle of the Asa Kawa
The 22nd Marine Regiment was a veteran unit and its men, like most experienced soldiers, could form their own accurate estimates of terrain enemy capabilities and the difficulty of a prospective operation. This time the Marines of the 22nd knew they were facing a tough one, but along with their experience they had acquired the true Marine esprit de corps which is perhaps better defined as guts and they were ready to go.
The Division Commander sent them forward late on the night of May 9 after the building of the Asa Kawa footbridge. It was 3:30 on the morning of May 10 when the first units started across the stream, the 2nd Battalion wading on the left, the 3rd Battalion using the bridge.
Heavy fire came down in the crossing area but each assault battalion was able to push two companies across the stream before dawn, when a Japanese suicide team rushed the bridge with a satchel charge of TNT and blew it out. The assault forces regrouped on the south side of the stream and at 5:20 a coordinated attack was launched under cover of a smoke screen.
The attack had air support from dive-bombers and rocket planes with good help from self-propelled guns and 37s on the north bank. The advance on the left was toward a large concrete sugar mill, whose main buildings had been almost completely destroyed by naval and aerial bombardment.
By 6 o'clock the 1st Battalion, which had been directed to maintain contact between the other two battalions was across the Asa Kawa and had pushed to the high ground south of the mill, while the 3rd Battalion on the seaward flank drove southward on an 800 yard front.
All daylong the company measured its gains in feet and whenever a group larger than a squad tried to ascend to the crest the limestone hill spat fire. By nightfall there were only seven men left out of fifty in the platoon of Lieutenant Loftis and in another platoon there were only twelve men. The 6th Tank Battalion had moved one company forward in an effort to provide the armored fire support of which the infantry stood in so much need, but they could not make it through the mud and silt of the river mouth. The night General Shepherd ordered the erection of a Bailey bridge. And Company C of the tank battalion moved up to join Company B at the base of a cliff near the point where the bridge was to be set up so that both companies could cross as soon as the span was in place.
The Japanese had their own ideas about this, however, and the engineers had hardly started work when the enemy began an interdiction of fire against the bridge site. Three men were hit but continued their work when the job was done and they watched grimy and sleepy eyed as the long line of mediums rumbled across and into action.
Lieutenant Colonel Robert Denig Jr. the tank battalion commander led the machines into action Close beside and behind them the infantry again surged forward a few laborious yards at a time, mopping up the Japanese who scurried from caves and tombs as the tank guns attacked.
The coral hill that had proved to be so stubborn on the pervious day was still a problem for Major Myers 1st Battalion whose advance was halted before it. In the early afternoon he called for a naval gunfire support USS Indianapolis, flagship of the fleet stood in near the mouth of the Asa Kawa. Carefully registered on the hilltop and then laid a succession of almost perfect 8-inch concentrations on the hill knocking loose great lumps of coral that tumbled down the hillside. Both were beaten down and one platoon of Company C crawled past to work on a third strongpoint, but the Japanese reoccupied the original positions by means of their intricate tunnel system and cut off the platoon. On one side Captain Lloyd with a squad led by Sergeant Passanante rushed one of the tombs and in 5 minutes half the squad was down. The rest took shelter. It was evident that the infantry alone would not be able to make it. The whole of Company C was withdrawn some 400 yards while the tanks came forward to fire point-blank into the tombs that rimmed the ridge. At 4:15 the company or what was left of it went in once more and this time reached the top. There were less than two thirds of them now, tired and shaken, but as darkness fell they dug in to prepare for a counterattack. It came.
For the first time the Japanese began to appear in groups of more than two or three, counterattacking the slim band of Marines repeatedly from midnight on, under cover of a heavy mortar barrage.
On the following morning a count showed that Company C had lost 35 killed and 68 wounded out of an original 256 while taking Charlie Hill.
Now, in order to maintain the advance, the 2nd Battalion drove forward on the 22nd Regiments left flank, forming its movement to that of the 1st. All this time the 3rd Battalion had been engaged in a struggle, which rivaled that for Charlie Hill in ferocity-, a battle for the cliff area that ran to the sea. They made it and when they had won the place the commanding general sent a message to the battalion commander:
Through high-powered field glasses I observed your courageous attack on the steep ridge you seized this afternoon. I commend every officer and man who participated in this assault for his personal bravery and the fine teamwork exercised by all units capturing this precipitous and strongly defended terrain feature. The actions of your men are in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps.
At the close of that day May 11, the Division had pushed forward 700 to 1000 yards mopping up the areas behind its lines. All through this advance Japanese artillery continued to fire into the 22nd from the direction of Shuri. Nor was the beach area held by the 29th Regiment off Machinato Airfield neglected. The Japanese pumped an almost continuous rain of shells into the tomb-dotted area and during an exceptionally heavy downpour of fire on the night of May 11 two enemy barges were destroyed.
There was one slight adjustment in the front line order of battle. The 3rd Battalion, 29th Regiment, was brought from the Machinato area on May 12 to form a link between the left of the 22nd Regiment and the First Marine Division which was up against the key Shuri hill position who's steep slopes and powerful defenses made its advance painfully slow.
The positions of the battalion covered at once the left flank of the 22nd Regiment and the right flank of the First Division. About this time the 3rd Battalion, 29th was committed it became apparent that while the 1st and 3rd Battalions, 22nd had secured high ground their further advance would be even more bitterly opposed because the enemy still held the ridge which dominated the Asa Kawa valley on the south. The Keypoint of this ridge lay in the 2nd Battalions zone of action, and accordingly the regiments main effort was shifted to the left. Against the ridge the 2nd Battalion made its drive with Companies E and G abreast and Company F in reserve. The attack had been going on only half and hour when Japanese machine-gun fire heavy and accurate even by the standards of Okinawa, was encountered.
Company E on the left inched forward while Company G on the right sought and finally made contact with the 1st Battalion which unit appeared to be making satisfactory progress. But both companies had to work up and open draw, and on this the Japanese concentrated so terrific a mortar barrage that evacuation of the wounded became a serious problem.
On May 13 the 22nd continued its forward drive. The 3rd Battalion forced its way slowly ahead along the seacoast, the 1st Battalion made the main effort along a valley in the center of the regiments zone but it was under continual accurate fire from machine-guns and mortars. The 2nd Battalion on the left gained little in the face of flanking fire from the Shuri sore spot.
On the morning of May 13 the main effort was made on the left with the 2nd Battalion, 22nd and the 3rd Battalion 29th striving toward the high ground overlooking the upper reaches of the Asato River. Both the artillery ashore and the ships lying in the offing provided intensive preparation and supporting firs, but the resistance was heavy from the beginning and became steadily more so.
The patrol crept down a ridge toward Amike before dawn. There were a number of well-armed Japanese in there, as they well knew for the enemy had fired on the ridge all night.
The Division had now worked its way through the Asa Kawa defense line, and on a narrow front had seized the north bank of the Asato River at its mouth. If this hold could be further exploited and expanded inland it was possible that the whole enemy defense system would collapse.
That night it was clear to General Shepherd that the combat efficiency of the 22nd Regiment had been considerably reduced by the rigors of this 2000-yard advance. Casualties had come to over eight hundred and the remaining men were very tired. He therefore decided to resume the attack on the following day, May 14 with the 29th Marines making the main effort on the left supported by the 22nd Marines.
Sugar Loaf Hill
During the fighting on May 12, the Sixth Division for the first time touched an area where the most bitter, costly-and decisive-action on Okinawa was to take place. Along most of its line the attack of the Division that day moved forward fairly, but on the extreme left where the objective was the high ground overlooking the upper reaches of the Asato River, there was intense resistance. At that time no one knew the tremendous importance attached by the Japanese. To this ragged, chopped-up area, not until several days later of experience with the fierce and well coordinated resistance at this point that the Sixth Division learned that General Ushijima regarded the place as a key to his main system of defense.
During the days fighting on the 12th. The 22d succeeded in making limited gains on the right, but later in the afternoon the advance of the 2d Battalion on the regimental left was brought sharply to a standstill. An irregular rectangular hill that was destined to go down in the legend of the Marine Corps as "Sugar Loaf".
The name of course came from its shape. It stands forth as an insignificant looking terrain feature shadowed by the towering Shuri hill mass an ugly pile of mingled coral and volcanic rock. The southeast of Sugar Loaf lies another hill named Half Moon, and to the south was Horseshoe. Sugar Loaf thus formed the point of an arrowhead aimed at the center of the advancing Sixth, with the two southern hills standing as the broad and sturdy base of the arrow. The enemy perceived that while these 3 hills were in its possession, there was little to fear from any flanking movement by the west.
Each key-point in the system could render assistance to all the rest. There was a deep depression within the Horseshoe, which gave the enemy protected mortar positions, impregnable to anything but short-range attack by means of aimed rifle fire and grenades. A network of tunnels and galleries throughout the whole system facilitated the covered movement of supplies and troops. Finally the 3 hills rose abruptly from surrounding bare terrain and there were no covered avenues of approach into the enemy maze. Troops attacking any one element of the position were in full view and exposed to enemy fire from the other two points, and the entire Sugar Loaf area presented a clear target to the enemy machine guns, mortars, and artillery placed on the Shuri hill mass.
As yet unaware of the enemys estimate of Sugar Loafs value, the 2d Battalion 22d Marines launched a tank-infantry attack against it as part of the operations of the afternoon of May 12. One company, Company G, led the advance. The infantry suffered light casualties for the first nine hundred yards of the advance, as assault elements approached the high ground. But fire increased steadily and finally two platoons were pinned down, while guns well concealed in caves battered at the accompanying tanks. The Japanese plan of defense was to hide and fight underground and in caves. Captain Owen T. Stebbins, the company commander and Lieutenant Dale W. Bair gathered 40 men of the remaining men and went forward in a charge.
At the end of one hundred yards only 12 men were on their feet. Captain Stebbins was hit and as Bair took charge he too was hit. With critical injuries Lieutenant Bair assembled enough Marines to increase the size of the group to twenty-five. Led by tanks, they charged again and attained the top of Sugar Loaf Hill. Four men-10% of the original platoon plus only a handful of those who had reinforced them reached the top.
The men not yet hit took cover in small depressions on the approach to the hill and began moving the wounded into the deep ruts made by tanks.
Lieutenant Bair completely disregarded his own safety, as he stood on the crest of the hill, with a light machine gun in his uninjured arm to cover the rescue efforts of the wounded. But the rescue of the wounded did not take the hill. Three times the survivors of Company G reached the summit and there times they were driven off by mortar fire and hand grenades from the enemy but they kept on coming these Marines had guts.
Nightfall found the key hill still in enemy hands. On the following day the 22d Marines gradually oriented its main effort against the Sugar Loaf area and were able in mid afternoon to reach the summit of the hill with elements of the 2d Battalion. But again the horrible enemy fire and counterattacks by the Japanese drove the survivors back to the low ground, the Divisions attack actually had been brought to a halt by its supreme test the Sugar Loaf, Half Moon, Horseshoe defense.
To meet the challenge the Division attacked on the 14th with the 22d and 29th Regiments abreast. The 29th making the main effort on the left. Both units met resistance from the start. On its front the 22d was able, in limited advance to seize some 1500 yards of the Asatos north bank fronting the city of Naha. On the left however the 2d Battalion through with attacking with its entire infantry strength but,was unable to seize and retain a foothold on the Sugar Loaf. Under cover Companies F and G were able to secure a lodgment on the hill by 3pm, but enemy fire was forcing them back again. Nevertheless the battalion commander determined to make a final attempt while some daylight still remained. He ordered E Company to support the attack by fire while F and G together assaulted the hill. 2 hours afterwards 150 of the men who began the advance only 40 men remained casualties were continuing and evacuation was extremely difficult due to the constant mortar and rifle fire. Supplies were almost exhausted and the spirit of the few survivors was fading along with the remaining daylight. At this point Major Henry Courtney Jr. an executive officer of the 2d Battalion. (Received the Medal of Honor for this action) Led the advance of the 22d Regiment to the northern tip of the island walking as part of the point, far ahead of the main body, and more recently had refused to be evacuated when slightly wounded by artillery fragments on May 10th. Now as dusk was approaching he was gathering a group of 26 men, dispatched by Colonel Woodhouse, arrived carrying much needed ammunition and few rations. Major Courtney immediately commandeered their services and in the strange quiet that sometimes follows an enemy barrage he addressed the entire group convincing them to take the hill during nightfall, saying it might be to late to wait till morning. He looked from one to another of the intent young faces around him and said "hes heading to the top of Sugar Loaf Hill whos coming along?" The Marines moved forward at once and with Courtney at their head and continually leading them onward. He led the charge himself and was still out ahead of his men when a Japanese grenade exploded inches from him and he fell mortally wounded, but the remaining Marines kept digging in. When morning came there were only 15 survivors of the 46 who had actually stormed the hill and at dawn enemy artillery, mortar and infiltration forced their withdrawal. That morning of May 15th came in behind mists. A day which saw fighting on the front of the Sixth Division reach a pitch rarely equaled during the entire campaign or any other for that matter. The enemy could not afford to relinquish Sugar Loaf and on this day the determination to hold it was actually felt by the Division. It was a day, which saw heroism become commonplace.
However the Japanese were not yet ready to give up. The attack resumed the following morning with the 22d again striking at Sugar Loaf Hill while the 29th undertook to seize Half Moon and thereby protect the 22nd left flank. Immediately after moving out the 1st Battalion, 22nd encountered intense automatic weapons fire from the town of Takamotoji, which had hitherto been quiet. By early afternoon the 29th was well up on the Half Moon slope. Under this protection of the 3rd Battalion, 22nd had worked itself around on the left of the regimental line to a position from which another assault jumped off at 3pm. With tank and artillery support, and immediately ran into a terrific counter barrage from Shuri hill mass. During the day the 3d Battalion of the 29th had worked its was along the east side of the railroad track until Companies G could make it across open ground and reach the northwestern end of the Half Moon. Altogether the two companies had less than sixty men on the side of the hill and many of those were wounded without reinforcements the men could not maintain their precarious foothold. The longer they remained the heavier the casualties would be. It wasnt until well after midnight that all the wounded were pulled out.
As time went by there were more and more casualties for the Marines. The Marines had made every attempt at Sugar Loaf and each attack cost more casualties and exhausted more supplies. General Ushijima realized that his Sugar Loaf position had been shaken and was in danger of falling. He attempted once more to reinforce under cover of darkness, but the counterattack was observed while forming and twelve battalions of artillery put down a concentration that inflicted such losses on the enemy that he gave up the effort.
The 2nd Battalion 29th Marines Regiment attacked on that morning, May 18. Tanks tried to work their way through minefields on both sides of the hill but met with little success. Nevertheless the battalion had worked so far forward on the flanks of the hill that by 10 am it was considered feasible to attempt a combined tank-infantry assault. This time the effort was won though. The tanks encircled the hill from both sides and the infantrymen joined them as soon as the caves on the reverse slopes were sealed. For an hour the fighting was furious but when it relaxed a trifle the Marines were firmly dug in all around Sugar Loaf Hill.
The driving machine-like precision with which the 2nd Battalion executed this maneuver the swift planning with which new situations were met and the determination with which the attack was pressed, were all evidence of the ability of the 2nd Battalion. Overseeing its every move calm and determined Colonel Robb had fought his battalion through to its important objective Sugar Loaf Hill.
During the ten-day period that ended with the capture of Sugar Loaf, the Division had lost 2,662 killed and wounded. On Sugar Loaf Hill the Marine Corpss newest division was called upon to perform its most difficult task and did not fail. To those who gave their lives who chose Sugar Loaf for a valiant last stand and who met death gloriously. They made Sugar Loaf hallowed ground.
Occupation of Yokosuka
There were indications for some days that the war was about to reach its end, but days are not weeks, and weeks would not have been too much in which to plan the initial occupation of the Japanese mainland, the first in history.
One unit charged with the occupation was designated Task Force A, with the 4th Marines at its core. The III Amphibious Corps drew preliminary plans for this force on August 11, and quartermaster officers were told that the force must be prepared to embark within 48 hours. This called for the complete re-outfitting of six thousand men, the correction of all equipment shortages and the preparation of plans for combat loading the seven ships that were to carry the force. Operations officers had little opportunity to make advance plans, the task force was organized in only 24 hours before its headquarters left Guam. In those 24 hours intelligence officers hastily assembled maps and reports while personnel officers filtered replacements received form the Transient Center, Marianas Area, to fill out the 4th with the 600 men it was under strength.
The atmosphere was tense on August 21 when the convoy of five assaults transports one assault cargo ship and one LST made contact with the Third Fleet in the waters off Honshu. There were the battleships Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin, with the array of carriers that included the Yorktown, Saratoga, and Bon Homme Richard.
Reinforcing units attached to the 4th Marines for Task Force A were the 1st Battalion, 15th Marines, Company C, 6th Tank Battalion, Tank Maintenance Section of the 6th Service Battalion, Company A 6th Engineer Battalion, Company A, 6th Pioneer Battalion, Company A, 6th Medical Battalion, Truck Company, 6th Motor Transport Battalion, 1st Platoon, Ordinance Company, Service Platoon and Supply Platoon, 6th Service Battalion, one section of the Sixth Division Band, the Shore Party Communications Team, Shore Fire Control Party and Air-Ground Liaison Team of the 6th Assault Signal Company, Company A of the 4th Amphibious Tractor Battalion, Company D, 6th Medical Battalion, all under Landing Force Headquarters, which consisted of the headquarters detachment and the 1st Platoon of the 6th Military Police Company.
The assembled and operations of the landing force presented some problems unique even in Marine experience. Only the 4th Marines and it reinforcing elements, with the Royal Marine Commandos had been combat trained as units, supplies had been embarked for no more than the elements provided by the Sixth Division and the divers unit had had no opportunities to work together. In fact the units from the Fleet were not even formed into companies and battalions until after the breeches buoy transfer had taken place. They had no field radio or other communications equipment, not transportation or water supply equipment. All had to be provided for them chiefly form Task Force supplies.
The primary mission of the force was the seizure and occupation of the great Yokosuka Naval Base, including the adjacent air station.
Plan One was to land across the reasonably good beaches at Zushi on the southwest coast of the Miura Peninsula seize that area then advance five miles overland in town columns to the Yokosuka Naval Base.
Plan Two called for sailing directly into Tokyo Bay through a passage cleared in the minefields and effacing simultaneous landings at the Yokosuka Navy Yard and at the Air Station, the troops then moving to seal off the peninsula and secure the Zushi Area.
Plan one was initially preferred because it was believed there was some peril of Japanese treachery in sending all ships and troops through the narrow, fortified Uraga Strait of Tokyo Bay, before any troops had landed. However when an aerial photographs were delivered and showed the town cross-peninsula roads disappearing several times in tunnels throughout the ridges, this plan was discarded for Plan Two, which struck directly at the objective.
On August 21 a dispatch was received from Eight Army command directing the execution of Plan Two and adding that the landing force should secure the Uraga-Kubichi-Yokosuka-Funakoshi area of the Miura Peninsula. The Armys 11th Airborne Division was to land at Atsugi Airfield a few miles above the northern end of the peninsula and would be responsible for securing the reminder of Miura. Their landing from the air was scheduled to be simultaneous with that of the naval units format he sea. Additional orders followed for the early demilitarization of the fort and shore batteries on Futtsu Saki, a long narrow peninsula jutting from the Eastern Shore into Uraga Strait at the mouth of Tokyo Bay.
There are four small islands in Uraga strait. The original plan had provided for elements of the British landing force to seize these and insure the safety of ships entering Tokyo Bay, but when the orders about Futtsu Saki were received this plan was modified to include landing by the reserve battalion of the 4th marines on that cape ASAP after daylight on L-day. As soon as this mission was complete the battalion was to re-embark in its landing craft and act as reserve for the main 4th Marines landing at Yokosuka Navy Yard.
Two teams of two observation planes each were to afford air observation for the landing, and although there were to be no combat planes in direct support, approximately one thousand were available on call, aboard carriers hovering in the offing. Naval gunfire support if necessary was to be furnished by the cruiser San Diego, four destroyers and twelve assault craft
Two underwater demolition teams were assigned one to the British units for their island landings and the other to the 2nd Battalion 4th Marines for Futtsu Saki. This battalion also was furnished a team of ten Navy gunners mates to demilitarize the heavy coast defense guns on the peninsula.
The landing was scheduled for August 30. On the 28th General Clement and Admiral Badger, aboard the San Diego proceeded to Tokyo Bay to give instructions to the commander of the Yokosuka Naval Base area and other officials. These instructions were explicit and complete, the Japanese were directed to clear the landing areas of all personnel except skeleton Maintenance crews. To demilitarize and mark all coast defenses and antiaircraft installations with whit flags visible for four miles at sea: to have Japanese officers and guides at the beach to meet the landing force, and to provided motor transport and other facilities to aid the landing troops.
On the morning of August 27, Task Force 31 sailed into Sagami Bay and anchored within sight of the snows of Fuijyama. Three days later the force was in Tokyo bay.
At 5:50 the first American troops to set foot on Japanese soil-the first foreign invaders ever to touch the Japanese mainland-reached shore. They were men of the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, commanded by Major Frank Carney. While two companies were seizing the main fort and armory at the center of Futtsu Saki, the third company landed on the extreme tip of the peninsula and occupied the second fort. At both places caches of arms and ammunition were taken and Japanese soldiers surrendered meekly.
This seemed to be the answer to the question everyone on the transports had been asking. Whether the Japanese would fight or not. Meanwhile the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, commanded by Major Wilson B. Hunt landed and occupied the Yokosuka Naval Base without incident the 1st Battalion seized Yokosuka Airfield and began demilitarizing the installations there. Only a few Japanese were present, all wearing white armbands. At 10am General Clement and his staff came ashore and established the landing force command post on the beach. They were met by a Japanese Navy captain, a Kempei colonel and a party of other officers who formally surrendered the area and received instructions as to what forms of cooperation were expected of them, with the warning that failure to cooperate would be severely dealt with. At 10:15 the U.S. flag was raised over the old Headquarters Building with appropriate ceremony. Vice Admiral Totsuka, commandant of the naval base, was instructed to be present at 10:30 to make a formal surrender of the Tokyo Bay area to Rear Admiral Carney, Chief of Staff to Admiral Halsey.
The actual ceremony took place at 10:45am and it marked a memorable moment in Marine Corps history, the climax of the four years of Pacific fighting that had begun with the black days of Bataan and had led on and on through the days of Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Emirau, Eniwetok, Guam, Saipan, and Okinawa.
The regiment of sea-going Marines accordingly came ashore to relieve the 1st Battalion, 4th at the airfield while the regiment of bluejackets relieved the 3rd Battalion at the navy yard.
Two days later the Marine general was aboard the USS Missouri to witness the historic signing of the signing of the Japanese surrender. By that date the Navy landing party was garrisoning the eastern half of the navy yard, the sea-going Marines were occupying the entire airfield and the British were securing installations along the beach between the airfield and navy yard.
On September 6 the 4th Marines took over the entire naval base area and the sailors and sea-going marines and British forces returned to their ships. The liberation of the allied prisoners provided many pleasant episodes. Among the famous Marines released by the occupation forces was Lieutenant Colonel James Devereux who had commanded the Wake Island detachment that took so heavy a toll of Japanese before the place fell. At Yokosuka, 120 liberated members of the Old Marines were brought down from Yokohama to meet the men of the
Another event of this period was the arrival of General Shepherd and his Aide, Lieutenant Benjamin Read, on September 5. The General inspected all units in the Yokosuka area and at a formal ceremony awarded decorations to a number of men for exploits in the Okinawa campaign. Fifteen days later the Fleet Landing Force was dissolved, General Clement and his staff leaving for Guam, but the 4th Marines remained at Yokosuka as a garrison.
It was some weeks after the end of the war when the men of the Sixth Division learned of the mission for which they had been training on Guam. They were to have taken part in the attack on the Japanese mainland near Tokyo in February 1946. But with the surrender of the adversaries a new training program was necessary for the task the Division would be performing in a world without war in it. Emphasis was placed on occupation duty, street fighting and the maintenance of order among civilian population.
Early in September came preparatory orders for the move to Northern China. The Sixth Division, less those elements still in Japan, was to move to Shantung Peninsula, occupying Tsingtao and nearby Tsangkou Airfield on the southern coast, and the port of Chefoo on the northern coast.
In case the Tsingtao-Chefoo landing proved impractical, the Division was to land at Shanghai secure the Tachange and Shanghai-Chiangwan airfields, the part of Shanghai around the Huang-Pu River and the area as far south as might be necessary to join hands with the First Marine Division, which also had an alternate plan for landing at Shanghai if its scheduled assignment to Tietsin and Peiping were changed.
Major defense installations were also a question, and high on the list was information about places where allied prisoners were being held. Less than a week later the troops began filing aboard the twelve transports and five cargo ships that were to carry them to China. General Shepherd, General Clement and staff boarded the convoys flagship, USS Dade, October 1, and on the next day the ships sailed.
The route of the convoy carried it past the southern tip of Okinawa where the Division had spent so much blood. Now it seemed a tiny, peaceful landmass in the distance. In this area General Shepherd and a small staff transferred to the destroyer escort Melvin K. Nawman to run to Tsingtao ahead of the convoy and make a detailed reconnaissance prior to landing the troops. Already at this time it seemed probable that planes for landing the 29th Marines at Chefoo might have to be changed, as this city was in the hands of the Chinese Communists, who showed little intention of withdrawing.
Before leaving the Dade, the General issued a statement explaining their mission to his men. A few days later the Dades weekly newspaper, The Invader dedicated an issue to the Sixth Division, in which the Generals statement appeared:
United States forces have been designated to participate in the occupation of certain sections of China in order to assist Chinese Central Government forces in the disarmament of Japanese troops. The III Amphibious Corps will occupy the Tientsin-Tsingtao area pending the arrival of Chinese government troops. The Sixth Division will participate in the occupation of the Tsingtao-Chefoo, to assist local authorities in maintaining order and in preventing disease and starvation. To release, care for, and evacuate recovered Allied military personnel and Allied internees, to cooperate with Chinese Central Government forces: to accept, when necessary, local surrender of Japanese forces, as authorized by higher authority, and to assist the Chinese in effecting the disarming and confining of these forces.
It is apparent from the foregoing that the function of the Sixth Marine Division in its occupation of the Tsingtao and Chefoo areas in one of assisting a friendly nation in the discharge of a large and complex task.
General Shepherds departure was like a signal as the convoy turned northward into the East China Sea, the weather broke and the ships labored throughout monstrous seas. It was the outer edge of the great typhoon that caused such extensive damage at Okinawa, and it prevented the convoy from reaching Tsingtao on October 10, the anniversary of the Chinese Republics foundation, as had been planned. At dawn on the 11th word of land in sight was passed and by the time the troops had finished breakfast they were headed into Kiaochow Bay. The ships came in single file, with hundreds of Navy and Marine Corps planes overhead in V formations, as out of the distance rose the city which was the first glimpse of anything approaching civilization that many of the troops had see in two years. Nor did it represent civilization alone, here was and adventure-China, a land that was a name in a geography book to most.
Tsingtao, long a subject of international disputes, became increasingly important with the development of air power. From its airfields planes can patrol most of the Yellow Sea and control the shipping routes of the North China coast.
The Reconnaissance Company remained on guard for ten days, until the arrival of Marine Air Group 32 from Okinawa, at which time the Sixth Divisions artillery observation squadron; VMO-6 also came in from the aircraft carrier Bougainville.
Back at Tsingtao itself, many of Chinese lined the streets to cheer the marines marching by giving the thumbs up salute and watched the tanks go by. Japanese buildings taken over as troop billets, including Shantung University and several primary schools. One school assigned to the 15th Marines was totally destroyed by fire before they arrived. At the old German barracks taken over by the 6th Tank Battalion, Japanese solders had ripped out the telephone lines that had to be reinstalled. The 29th Marines were brought ashore at Tsingtao 5 days after the initial landing.
All units of the Division except the 4th Marines still on duty in Japan, were present, and General Shepherd issued a special division order, which said:
You are about to participate in the formal surrender of the Japanese military force in the Tsingtao area. It is an historic event which each of you shall long remember. It is the goal for which we have fought during these past four years, and I am sure the personal satisfaction each of you obtains from witnessing the local Japanese Army commander lay down his sword in complete defeat will, in a small measure, compensate for the dangers and hardships to which you have been exposed during your service in this war.
More than 12 thousand marines stood at attention in the oval race course, their tanks and weapons forming a powerful display of military might, and a Japanese major general signed the surrender document. He was Major General Eiji Nagano, commander of the 5th Independent Mixed Brigade. Ten copies were signed by General Shepherd and Lieutenant General Chen-Pao-tsang, representing the Chinese Ministry of War. Then General Nagano lay down his pen, unhooked his sword and place it on the table in front of General Shepherd, an action presently imitated by his staff they were then escorted from the field, and the Division Band played the American National Anthem, the Chinese National Anthem and the Marine Corps Hymn.
6th Marine Division in the Pacific
2d Raider Battalion
1st Raider Battalion
3d Raider Battalion
2d Raider Battalion
2d Provisional Raider Regiment
3d Raider Battalion
1st Raider Battalion
1st Provisional Raider Regiment
1st Raider Battalion
2d Raider Battalion
6th Marine Division
1st Battalion 29th Marines
1st Povisional Marine Brigade
6th Marine Division
6th Marine Division
6th Marine Division