The Pacific 80 Years War.
Usually a hundred years has to pass, before historic conflicts, wars and events can emerge and be analysed free of tainted and biased political interests,
glorification of the victorious and demonization of the defeated.
The Pacific War is no exception, and until recently most historians of the conflict have been transparently one sided especially branding Japan as the sole aggressor and all other parties as the victims.
These commonly accepted, cofortably shallow "victory-addicted" historians, having published thousands of analysis of the Pacific War, often ignore the fact that "War is a mere continuation of politics by other means," (Clausewitz: "Der Krieg ist eine bloße Fortsetzung der Politik mit anderen Mitteln") and that both Japan and The US only pursued their state policy resulting in that many large and small events led to the spectacular military confrontation between the two major Pacific powers ending in a total restructuring and transformation of the political, economical and military landscape of the Pacific and Asia today.
The fact is that the first casualty in any armed conflict is the truth.
In my book I have tried to avoid branding like aggressor, war criminal, fanatic, fascistic, militaristic, trying to understand how and why a historically relatively peaceful progressive Japan, with no allies, Germany actually being an ally of nationalist China and not Japan, ended up in one of history's bloodiest conflicts with such overwhelming, superior combined adversaries as US/UK/China, later additionally the Soviet Union.
Never the less it is now a matter of historical record, that once the the Pacific War escalated into an all out military confrontation between Japan and China with her US and British allies, the Japanese did not pull their punches and displayed a modern naval excellence that put the legend of Western-Christian invincibility in the Pacific to rest forever. Consequently by the mid 20th century and into the 21st, inspiring other Asian and African nations to armed resistance of all forms of colonialism and foreign domination.
It also became evident that all the US-sponcered leaders, including Chiang Kai-shek , Syngman Rhee, Ngo Dinh Diem and Marcos not to mention Noriega, were all failures, ultimately resulting in America loosing most of her influence in Far Eastern events and major economies by the end of the 1980's.
My conclusion is that the Pearl Harbour-Hiroshima chain of events are only a part of a larger, more complex, hegemony oriented geopolitical scenario, mirroring only the more hidden, some logical some random, some local some global, developments and incidents, both minor and major but all interconnected.
To fully understand this, first of all the name of the conflict and its beginning and end must be revised and pinpointed.
The names such as II World War (European history writing), Greater Asian War (official Japanese name from 1941 on), The Pacific War ( US and Japanese naming) , The 15 Years War ( 1930-1945 according to Chinese, Korean and some Japanese historians) are not adequate since the Pacific War did not start in 1931 (battle of Mukden) or in 1941(Pearl Harbour) and it did not end in 1945.
Rising above political conventionalism and accepting the fact that many wars start with a peace treaty we can safely establish the beginning of the conflict as 1895 ( Shimonoseki Peace Treaty) and the end as 1975 (Fall or liberation of Saigon depending of point of view).
This 80 year period is an unbroken chain of small and big battles and armed conflicts one leading to the other, and an array of treaties and military alliances between ever changing parties and interests, from Opium traders, Californian Sugar barons,Oil companies, Jardine Matheson, Duch Shell or just the escalating ambitions of The New Colonialism in the Pacific and in East-Asia the major players being USA, UK, Japan, France, Holland, Russia/ Soviet Union and China.
In the USA, legendary President Theodore Roosevelt, setting the course for the "American century" in October 29, 1900 announced:
"I wish to see the United States the dominant power on the shores of the Pacific Ocean."
Actually he was only, officially institutionalizing the dramatic aggressive American westward expansion, beginning with the gentle annexation of Oregon with the Pacific harbours Seattle and Portland from Britain, and the conquest of 1,300,000 sq. km of Mexican national territory after a brutal war, ending with Mexico ceding the present day California, Nevada, Utah, part of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming and Texas, America paying Mexico 18 million $ (about 450 million in todays dollars) or about half the amount the US had offered Mexico before the war.
In 1867 USA had purchased Alaska for 7.2 million $ from Imperial Russia, adding an other 1,520,000 sq. km to US territory and geographically embracing the Pacific Ocean ready to future westward expansion eyeing the domination of China as final American industrial-political and strategical-naval goal, crowning the intruding into the Pacific with the annexation of Hawaii and the Philippines after the US war with Spain by the end of the century.
Map of American westward conquests, annexations and acquisitions in the 19 century:
Of course wars never go according to plans, conflicts have their own inertia and nobody thought at the beginning of The Pacific 80 Years War that it would become so long and so bloody.
Prelude to The 80 years Pacific war.
The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and later the US purchase of the gigantic Panama Canal project in 1904 (opened in 1914) accelerated the progress of New Imperialism (1871-1914) . During this period, the advanced European nations conquered 20% of the Earth's land area (nearly 23,000,000 km²). Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands, the remaining world regions that had not yet been colonized by Europeans, became the primary targets of this new phase of imperialist expansion; in the latter two regions, Japan and the United States joined the European powers in the scramble for territory. US and Europe motivated by gaining monopoly markets and trading-rights and Japan mainly driven by security concerns raw-material/energy-supplies particularly on the week and exposed Korean Peninsula considered a vassal of and dominated by a collapsing Imperial China as well as threatened by the aggressive Asian expansion of Imperial Russia.
Invasion of Japan had always come from the Korean peninsula. It is like "a pistol aimed at Japans hart". Additionally reliable, secure raw-material, steel and energy supplies had become vital to Japan.
Decline of British hegemony and free trade, the long depression (1873-1896), protectionist measures by Germany (1879), France (1881) resulting in limitation of both domestic and export markets forced governments and business leaders in Europe, and later the USA, to find the solution in sheltered overseas markets united to the home country behind steep tariff barriers. New overseas colonies would provide export markets free of foreign competition, while supplying cheap labour and raw materials.
This new imperialism, spearheaded by Christian missionaries, galvanizing the moral bases for "the large land grab" in Africa and Asia with the objective of mercantile monopolies also found support in Europe and USA by ultra-nationalist and racial supremacist forces as well as it was popularised to the general public by e.g Rudyard Kipling, a self-appointed ambassador of white supremacy, urging the United States to "Take up the White Man's burden" of bringing the European version of civilisation to the other peoples of the world, regardless of whether they wanted this form of civilisation or not.
Additionally modern industrial shipping and navies demanded new bases and deep-sea, ice-free harbours and strategically ideal reliable refilling stations and secure warehousing facilities. In the vast Pacific this resulted in US, British, French and German seizures and annexations of various islands and atolls in furious competition with each other and, until the US annexation of Hawaii, with the Kingdom of Hawaii. Events in Hawaii during this period can be considered prototype manual in this new imperialism.
In William Meyer's book U.S. War Against Asia he writes:
There was already a U.S. military presence in Hawaii, as in 1874 U.S. troops were used to suppress rioting following the electoral victory of David Kalākaua over Queen Emma in an election to pick a successor to King William Lunalilo, who was a puppet of the U.S. planters. In addition it was feared that if a trade treaty were not enacted the British might seize the islands. The Reciprocity Treaty of 1875 formalised trade relations between the nation of Hawaii and the United States of America. It provided for duty-free trade for most items. It might serve as a warning that a free trade treaty can be a prelude to annexation. Claus Spreckels became one of the richest men in the United States. Production of sugar cane in Hawaii doubled over the next decade. King Kalakaua was further corrupted by gifts from Spreckels, who also made loans to the Hawaiian government. His personal attorney, John T. Dare, was appointed Attorney General of Hawaii. The greater sugar production required large numbers of immigrants, making native Hawaiians a minority on their own islands. In 1887 American-identified citizens of Hawaii led a revolt that used military force to coerce King David Kalākaua to adopt a new constitution. The Americans were led by Lorrin A. Thurston, a sugar plantation developer and newspaper publisher. The House of Nobles, equivalent to the U.S. Senate, now became elected rather than appointed. But a property qualification requirement prevented poor citizens from voting; that included most descendants of the native Hawaiians. It also denied voting rights to anyone of Asian descent (Japanese and Chinese). It is unlikely that it is a coincidence that in 1887 the Hawaiian government gave the U.S. rights to use Wai Momi, renamed Pearl Harbour, as a naval base. In the 1890 McKinley tariff put all imported, unprocessed sugar on the duty-free list, after heavy lobbying and campaign contributions by the Sugar Trust, which had consolidated East Coast refiners. This left Hawaiian producers and the Spreckels refinery at a relative disadvantage; prices for their sugar fell 40%. Henry Havemeyer, leader of the Sugar Trust, had contributed substantially both to Republican Congressman McKinley and to Grover Cleveland, who would become the President in 1893, the first Democratic Party nominee to succeed since the Civil War. In addition, rather than continue to face ruinous competition, Spreckels made a deal with the Sugar Trust to pay for sugar in San Francisco the same price as was paid in New York City. But at that time there was a 2 cent per pound bounty for domestic sugar production. If Hawaii were annexed by the U.S., that bounty would save the Hawaiian growers. The U.S. international policy was one of imperial expansion; the U.S. Minister to Hawaii, John L. Stevens, encouraged Americans in Hawaii to seek annexation. Queen Liliukokalani had had enough of Americans by this time. She proposed changing the Hawaiian constitution to disenfranchise them. Although this proposal failed to pass, it served as a pretext for the 1893 revolt against Queen Liliukokalani. U.S. Marines aided the leaders of the pro-American coup. On January 16, 1893 a provisional government was proclaimed and recognised by Minister Stevens, who must have had instructions in advance from the government of the United States. In the last days of the Harrison Presidency a Treaty of Annexation was drawn up; it was signed February 14th, 1893. But the newly elected President, Grover Cleveland, refused to sign the treaty. He claimed the revolt was illegal and unfair to Queen Liliukokalani. He sent a special investigator to Hawaii who found the natives not in favour of annexation. But he had also been elected partly with large donations from the Sugar Trust, which opposed domestic production of sugar. Another problem for Spreckels and other planters was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1886. Hawaiian cane planters had become used to a system where Chinese were contracted in China to work essentially for food. If Hawaii became part of the United States that pool of nearly free labor would dry up. In the end Havemeyer had to sacrifice the Hawaiian pawn to make more meaningful gains. Congressman McKinley was elected President McKinley in the elections of 1896. The Sugar Trusts interests were aligned with the imperialist faction (Theodore Roosevelt being the best known member); war with Spain was provoked in order to gain Cuba and Puerto Rico. Amidst the fever of war, which was declared on April 11, 1898, the idea of annexing Hawaii became unstoppable. Formal annexation came on August 12, 1898, which gave full U.S. citizenship to citizens of Hawaii even if they were not of European descent. The Territory of Hawaii was not a democracy; a Governor was appointed by the President of the United States. The first appointed Governor was Sanford B. Dole. Dole had served as an appointed Associate Judge of the Supreme Court of Hawaii when it was an independent nation, but turned traitor to become the leader of the 1893 revolution and then President of the Republic that was established. His cousin James Drummond Dole developed the Hawaiian pineapple industry and the Dole Food Company; James did not move to Hawaii until after it had been annexed by the United States. In 1898 the only Hawaiian export of importance was sugar, valued at $16,614,622.
Fortunately, Hawaii was included in the U.S. census of 1900.
Here is the population, broken down by national derivation:
% of population
It is surprising that Japan did not go to war with the United States in 1898. She might have seized the Philippines and Hawaii while the U.S. had its hands full fighting Spain. But unlike the U.S., the Japanese were still trying to act like a civilized, peaceful nation. Over the next few decades, the U.S., Great Britain, Germany, Russian and France would continue to hammer home the lesson that being peaceful was for losers. Militarists would come to dominate the Japanese government and intimidate its normally peaceful population. But even so, Japan tried to stay at peace with the U.S. until it was given no other choice but war (or complete surrender) by the Franklin Roosevelt administration in 1940.
The Spanish American War with the objective of securing Cuba as a US vassal, eliminated Spain as a Pacific power and resulted in US annexing the Philippines, Guam and Samoa.
British rule in India was institutionalised in 1858 following a rebellion the previous year, and the 1880's saw Britain's conquest of Burma and French takeover in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos completing the French Indochinese Empire.
Imperialist ambitions and rivalries in the Pacific and Asia now inevitably came to focus on the vast Empire of China with more than a quarter of the world's population.
Chronology of The Pacific 80 Years War.
1895- Treaty of Shimonoseki
1895- Triple Intervention by Russia,France and Germany
1897- Trans-Siberian Railroad in Vladivostok
1898- Spanish-American war (Guam and Philippines annexed by USA )
1898- Treaty of Paris
1898- Philippine Declaration of Independence
1898- US annexation of Kingdom of Hawaii
1899- German-Spanish Treaty (About 6000 Pacific Islands bought by Germany including Carolines, Marianas and Palau for 17 million marks)
1900- Boxer rebellion and Eight-Nation Alliance
1902- Anglo-Japanese Treaty
1904- British invasion of Tibet
1904-1905 The Russo-Japanese war
1905- Russian revolution
1905- Secret Taft-Katsura agreement
1905- Renewal of Anglo-Japanese treaty
1905- Treaty of Porthmuth
1905- Formation of Asiatic Exclusion League in US and Canada
1912- Republic of China. End of Imperial China
1914- Siege of Tsingtao
1914- Battle of Bita Paka
1914- Occupation of German Samoa
1915- Japanese Navy in Singapore
1915- Twenty-One Demands
1917- Lansing-Ishii Agreement
1919- May Fourth Movement
1919- Treaty of Versailles
1922- Nine-Power Treaty
1911-1941 Sino-German alliance
1919-1927 Kuomintang, Sun-Yatsen, Chiang Kai-Shek and the Canton years
1927- Shanghai massacre
1927-1950 Chinese Civil war
1927-1937 Nanking decade
1928-1938 Mongolian-Soviet republic
1929-1939 Great Depression
1931- Mukden Incident
1936- Xi'an Incident
1936- Anti-Comintern pact, Sino-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact
1937- Madam Chiang Kai-Shek in US, recruiting American Pilots
1937- Sino-Japanese War
1939- Soviet-Japanese War (Khalkhin Gol}
1940- Japanese Invasion of French Indochina
1941- Japan Surrounded, ABCD
1941- Oil embargo, freezing of Japans assets
1941- Niitakayama Nobore
1941-1942 Battle of Philippines
1941- Battle of Malaya
1942- Battle of Slim River
1942- Battle of Singapore,Malay no Tora
1942- Battle of the Java Sea
1942- Battle of the Coral sea
1942- Battle of Midway
1942-1943 Battle of Guadalcanal
1943- Battle of Komandorsky Islands
1943- Battle of Attu
1943- Battle of Tarawa
1943- Cairo declaration
1944- Battle of China, Ichigo sakusen
1944- Battle of Saipan
1944- Battle of Palau
1945- Battle of Iwo Jima
1945- Battle of Okinawa
1945- Conventional Bombing of Japan
1945- Hiroshima and Nagasaki
1945- Bearing the Unbearable
1945- Battle of Taiwan
1945-1950 Battle of Korea
1945- Battle of Manchuria
1945-1950 Battle of Indonesia
1946-1954 Battle of Indochina
1954- Battle of Dien Bien Phu
1947- Battle of Burma
1950- Battle of Cambodia
1959-1975 Battle of Vietnam
1970- Battle of Laos
1975- Fall of Saigon
Conclusions and the Present
Battle of Saipan
3 000 killed
24 000 killed, 5 000 suicides
921 POW's, 22 000 civilians dead 10 000 wounded
The Invasion of Saipan began on June 13, 1944 with fifteen battleships firing
165.000 shells and 8.000 Marines landing on June 15 from 300 Landing Vehicles
on the west coast. The Japanese defence, was well organised, so artillery and
machine gun emplacements destroyed 20 amphibious tanks, but their
counterattack at night was repulsed by the marines and the Americans took the
Aslito airfield on June 18.
Due to the Imperial Navy losses in the battle of the Philippine Sea, resupply of
the garrison on Saipan had become hopeless and the Japanese had nowhere to
retreat, so their commander, General Yoshitsugu Saito organised defence in the
hills of central Saipan around Mount Tapotchau.
The fighting was bloody and intense with the American nicknames, such as
Purple Heart Ridge, Hell's Pocket, Death Valley going down in history, the
Japanese hiding in well camouflaged caves, executing hit and run night attacks,
the americans using flamethrowers to clear the bunkers.
The combat chaos deteriorated to a point when there was no distinction any
longer between civilians and troops and General Saito planned and ordered a
final suicidal banzai charge by his remaining 3000 men followed by barely armed
wounded and civilians with bamboo spears, the attack becoming the biggest
Banzai charge of the Pacific war leaving 650 Americans dead and wounded and
4.300 Japanese killed. On July 9, 1944 16:15 Admiral Turner declared Saipan
secure, with 3.000 americans dead, the entire Japanese garrison of 30.000 and
22.000 civilians killed and 10.000 americans wounded.
General Saito committed seppuku in a cave on July 10, but one Japanese officer, JIA Captain Sakae Oba kept on conducting an organised guerilla war, hiding during the day and fighting in the night holding out in the jungle until December 1, 1945. The Americans tried to defeat him and his men, even conducting a 10.000 man strong fingertip to fingertip
search-chain of the island, but could not find Captain Oba, who kept fighting for 16 month, until his commanding officer was brought in from Tokyo, ordering Oba to surrender using a megaphone. Only then did Captain Oba and his 46 men lay down their arms, marching singing out of the jungle.
Captain Oba (sitting, front-middle, wearing white collar) and company.
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Battle of Pelelui, Palau
1 800 killed
8 000 wounded
There were a total of about 30.000 Japanese troops on Palau, of which 11.000
men defended Pelelui, the organisation of the defence led by Colonel Kunio
Nakagawa. He concentrated on an inland defence, anchored around and in
Pelelui's highest point, mount Umurbogol overlooking most of the island
including the airfield, establishing fortified bunkers, underground positions taking
full advantage of the existing 500 limestone caves, connecting them by tunnels
installing heavy steel sliding doors for flame-thrower and napalm protection and
with multiple openings for both artillery and machine guns.
Additionally the Japanese blasted positions into Umurbogol for 81 mm and 150
mm mortars as well as 20 mm machine cannons, connecting the whole vast
system with tunnels allowing evacuation and reoccupation of defence positions
as needed. Also thousands of mines and explosive devices were laid on the
beaches and coral reefs especially on The Point which was strengthened with a
sealed 47 mm gun position and six 20 mm machine cannons. This was a radical
change of Japanese tactics, proving to be very efficient when confronted with
overwhelming enemy artillery and air power superiority.
The American Navy began pre-invasion bombardment on September 12, with
the battleships Pennsylvania, Maryland, Mississippi, Tennessee, Idaho, heavy
cruisers Colombus, Indianapolis, Louisville, Minneapolis and Portland, light
cruisers Cleveland, Denver, and Honolulu as well as three carriers and five light
carriers surrounding the small island dropping 14" shells, 16" rounds, 500 pound
bombs and 80.000 .50 caliber bullets on the island, the 1st Marines landing 8:30
September 15, convinced that all japanese positions were destroyed.
Opening the steel doors the Japanese opened fire with heavy artillery, 47 mm
and 20 mm machine guns wiping out 60 landing crafts. Casualties were horrific
as the occupants of the knocked out LVT's had to wade ashore in machine-gun
fire, many loosing rifles and other equipment. At the end of the day the marines
held on to a 3 km stretch of beach and nothing else, at a cost of 200 killed and
900 wounded, but US General Rupertus was still not aware of the radical change
of Japanese island-defence tactics.
Capturing the airfield, the American Corsair planes began landing September 26,
starting dive bombing missions across Pelelui rocketing cave openings and
napalm- attacks against the occupants. The Point was captured after bloody
hand to hand combat, the attacking US company reduced to 18 men suffering
157 casualties in the battle for The Point. Next, a particularly bloody battle took
place on what the Americans christened Bloody Nose Ridge suffering over 70%
casualties, the Japanese eventually inflicting a total of 60% casualties on the 1st
Marines, who lost 1750 out of 3000 men, with the 5th and 6th marines attacking
Umurbrogol suffering similar casualties loosing half their men by mid October. By
the third week of October all the remaining marines had to be evacuated from
the battle and the US army troops took over, fighting it out for another month,
before securing the island.
Finally, Colonel Nakagawa announcing: "Our sword is broken and we have run
out of spears" burned the regimental colours and committed seppuku and was
posthumously promoted to Lieutenant General.
Still Japanese lieutenant Ei Yamaguchi with a group of 26 infantry soldiers and
some navy personnel, held out in the caves until April 22, 1947, only surrendering when a Japanese Admiral was flown in, commanding them to surrender.
The fighting around Umurbrogol turned out to be among the bloodiest in US
military history and the Peleliu invasion a far cry from General William Rupertus
prediction of " just a three day battle".
Finally the US military realised that even island hopping with vastly superior
forces was not going to be a "Sunday picnic" and decided to apply material overkill
with no distinction between troops and civilians, man, women, children,
announcing that "all japanese are proper military targets".
The reaction to this in the Japanese public and media was of course furious and
resulted in that " the consideration of any form of surrender to America became
Battle of Okinawa
Some 1,300 ships
including 40 carriers, 1,500 aircraft
183,000 troops landing the first day,
later reaching a total of 550,000 men
75,000 plus 35,000 Okinawan combatants
72,000 casualties of which
33,000 non combat losses
due to nervous breakdown
or combat stress.
79 ships sunk or scraped
150 vessels damadged
770 aircraft destroyed
66,000 combatants and about 150,000 civilians killed,
10,000 women raped, a common practice by US troops resulting in mass suicides.
21 ships and Battleship Yamato sunk
3100 aircraft destroyed
At 1200 sq. km Okinawa is smaller than Kauai in Hawaii, and had a population of perhaps 500,000, no industry and no surplus food production or any other capability or activity to support the Japanese war effort except for a small production of commercial sugarcane-alcohol for torpedos and engines.
In late March 1945, the USA assembled a giant armada around Okinawa consisting of 1,300 ships, including more than 40 aircraft carriers, 18 battleships, 200 destroyers hundreds of various support ships, among others 365 amphibious vessels.
The capital, Naha had already been totally destroyed on October 10, 1944 by Admiral Halsey's planes with 200 bombers devastating Okinawa's main population center.
In seven days leading up to L-Day a massive amount of ordnance was fired including 37,000 rounds 5" shells, 33,000 rounds of 4,5" shells, 22,000 4" rockets from 117 rocket gunboats as well as 3,100 air strikes were conducted on beach and in shore targets in what generally became known as " tetsu no bofu " or , typhoon of steel.
Not many sq. meters of Okinawa ground escaped shelling, bombing, napalming, finally turning every village and the the lush tropical vegetation into mud, decay, human remains, animal cadavers, maggots and lead, with possible escape and survival only in caves or deep underground shelters.
The first American attacking force, commanded by General S.B. Buckner consisted of 183,000 troops, supported by tremendous Navy and Airforce fire, while the defence was undertaken by the Japanese 32nd Army, with 66,000 men supported by 20,000 Okinawa Boeitai (homeguard) with supreme command on the island in the hands of General Mitsuru Ushijima.
The Americans landed unopposed, since the japanese had decided on defence in depth and the main defence being the strongly fortified Naha-Shuri-Yonabaru line; the Americans moved inland quickly capturing Kadena and Yomitan airfields and cutting the island and the Japanese forces in half, two days later.
By April 7, US marines reached the Nago-Taira line coming up against Col. Udo's 44th infantry, entrenched on top of Yae-Dake, the highest point of Motobu Peninsula. On April 14, the US marines launched an all out assault on Yae-Dake with devastating Naval and Air support fire, finally capturing it on April 18, in bitter, bloody combat, leaving 2,500 Japanese dead and 46 captured as well as 236 US marines killed and 1,061 wounded. The next objective was to capture Ie Jima with its large airfield west of Motobu, defended by the Ikawa Unit (under the command of Major Tadashi Ikawa) , entrenched in a well organised, heavily fortified web of tunnels, gun-nests, pillboxes and caves, centred around Ie town, Bloody Ridge and Iegusugu hill. The Japanese resisted for six days with " the last three days of the fighting the bitterest ever witnessed" by Maj. Gen. A Bruce, and Ie Jima falling on April 21 with 4,700 Japanese soldiers and 1,500 Okinawan civilians killed and 172 US troops dead and 900 wounded.
April 6, 400 Japanese attack planes left Chiran on Kyushu, launching Tokkotai attacks on the US invasion armada inflicting heavy losses, while the remnants of the once invincible Japanese Navy steamed out of Kyushu to meet the US flotilla, but was intercepted on April 7 by American planes sinking the Battleship Yamato, the Cruiser Yahagi and three destroyers.
The Shuri line was the main Japanese defence, with well camouflaged caves, tunnels, blockhouses, connected strongpoints, fortifications and pillboxes, artillery- and mortar positions well integrated into the hills and terrain.
Between April 6-9 the US infantry took Mashiki, Minami-Uebaru, and Ouki only after fierce Japanese resistance, but encountering the strong Kakazu defence they were repulsed by excellent camouflaged artillery and mortar firing positions for four days.
The next two weeks turned into a ruthless hand to hand fighting even more brutal and intense than the combat on Tarawa, Pelelui and Iwo Jima. Only after a map with all the defence positions was found on a dead Japanese artillery officer, translated and distributed to the US forces, who then could pinpoint and destroy the hidden Japanese positions with artillery and napalm, could the US forces advance.
Japanese counterattacks on April 13 and 14 were stopped with almost total losses of lives and on April 19 three US divisions attacked the Machinato-Mura line after bombarding the entrenched defenders with 19,000 shells, but in vain since the Americans were stopped in their drive towards Shuri suffering 720 casualties.
In several other bloody battles the Japanese, yelding no ground and fighting to the death, inflicted heavy losses on the attackers, and place-names like Twin Pinnacles and Urasoe-Mura went down in history as some of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific conflict.
During the night of April 24 the Japanese withdrew from the outer Shuri line under cover of fog, and took up the defence of Shuri and Naha.
On May 6 the Americans attacked the Asa-Dakeshi-Gaja line with tanks and infantry meeting fierce resistance every meter, hill by hill, cave by cave, only able to advance after directing flame-throwers, napalm-gasoline fire, demolition charges into caves and pillboxes.
Gen. Buckner ordered an all out assault on May 11, but the next 18 days fighting was bitter and costly with slow progress against key defence positions, such as Conical Hill, Sugar Loaf Hill, Chocolate Drop Hill, Dakeshi Ridge, Wana Ridge and finally Ishimmi Ridge falling by May 21.
From May 22 The Japanese Airforce lunched its greatest offensive sending almost 900 raids of Tokkotai against the US Navy inflicting great damage in spite of an overwhelming concentration of American anti aircraft fire.
The Tokkotai or Kamikaze strategy conceived by Vice Admiral Takashiro Ohnishi,
commander of the First Air Fleet in the Philippines, was the most effective way to
inflict damage upon American warships. It was decided then that pilots would
purposely crash their planes - with 500 Kg of explosives - into American
warships. The call for volunteer Tokkotai pilots drew a staggering response.
Three times as many applied as the number of planes available. Experienced
pilots were turned down. They were needed to train the young Tokkotai who died
at a very young age.
Over 90% of the Navy's kamikaze pilots were between 18 and 24 years of age.
Almost all Army Tokkotai pilots during the Okinawan campaign were between 17
and 22, many former students from Japan's elite universities. In October 1943,
military draft deferment ended for students in liberal arts and law, although the
deferment continued for students in such fields as engineering and natural
sciences. Many of these former students entered Navy or Army pilot training
programs, and they later joined special attack force units to carry out Tokkotai
attacks. An estimated one thousand student soldiers died as kamikaze pilots.
The Tokkotai motto was:
"Choosing the couse, place and time of death is a rare privilege bestoewed
on exeptional men".
April 6th, 1945, proved to be most efficient use of Tokkotai in the battle for
Okinawa. More than 350 aircraft at a time dove at the Allied fleet driving some
American sailors literally insane.
From October 25, 1944, to January 25, 1945, Kamikazes managed to sink two
escort carriers and three destroyers. They also damaged 23 carriers, five
battleships, nine cruisers, 23 destroyers and 27 other ships. American casualties
amounted to 738 killed and another 1.300 wounded as the result of those
The psychological effect of the Tokkotai on the US Navy was such, that Chief of
Naval Operations went to Washington and demanded an immediate end to the
conflict, which the Supreme Commander in the White House declined.
By May 29 US forces captured Naha and Yonabaru surrounding Shuri, where General Ushijima decided to withdraw , instead of making a final stand, thus rather prolonging the battle inflicting further losses on the Americans.
The Japanese HQ in Shuri was abandoned secretly, leaving small rear guard units, that kept the Americans at bay until the fall of Shuri on May 31.
The US troops found it completely levelled and in ruins after 200,000 rounds of Naval and artillery gunfire and aerial bombings, the Japanese defence decimated with over 70,000 killed in action and only 9 POW's all wounded or unconscious.
There was only one kind of Japanese casualty……..the dead.
Unofficially, even american officers admitted that the defenders displayed heroism and bravery of epic proportions, including the 222 15-18 years old Himeyuri schoolgirls nursing the wounded and dying, even performing surgery, amputations and other gruesome duties enduring terrible circumstances in caves and overcrowded underground shelters, described later more like morgues filled with living corpses; until June 18, 1945 only 19 of them had been killed, but the next morning the US attack on the Ibara surgery centre killed 80% of them, whereupon many of the surviving committed suicide, throwing themselves off cliffs or with hand grenades to avoid systematic rape by US soldiers; only a handful of the high school girls survived to tell the three month long Himeyuri ordeal.
On June 4, US marines landed on Oroku taking Naha Airfield wiping out the defending troops led by Admiral Minoru Ota, who then committed seppuku, letting the marines further advance towards Itoman.
In the final stand General Ushijima, as he was running out of supplies and equipment and suffering mounting casualties, ordered his troops to hold their positions to the death, resulting in the US attackers facing murderous Japanese fire, suffering heavy losses, pinned down for days until supporting flame-thrower-tanks, air, naval and ground artillery destroyed Japanese defence positions one by one.
Among numerous other defence strongholds, Yuza and Kunishi was only defeated after 5 days of the bloodiest remorseless fighting, inflicting the highest US casualties in the Okinawa campaign. The Japanese were bombarded ceaselessly by naval guns and surrender leaflets as well as General Buckner sent a message to General Ushijima:
" The forces under your command have fought bravely and well. Your infantry tactics have merited the respect of your opponents in the battle of Okinawa. You know no reinforcements can reach you…………….destruction of all Japanese resistance on the island is merely a matter of days."
It is said that Gen. Ushijima just smiled discarding any consideration of surrender; by June 17, the Japanese were down to their last ammunition and supplies, but they faithfully followed Ushijima's last order:
" The battlefield is now in such chaos that all communications have ceased. It is impossible for me to command you. Every man in these fortifications will follow his superior officer's order and fight to the end for the sake of the motherland. This is my final order. Farewell."
Thousands of Japanese kept on defending Makabe area from caves, forcing the US marines to fight on, until June 21, when the last resistance was wiped out. On June 23 General Mitsuru Ushijima and his staff committed seppuku after reporting the end of the battle to Tokyo HQ, oddly enough surviving his American adversary with a few days; Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner was killed on June 18 by a Japanese shell, making him the highest ranking American killed by enemy fire.
Gen. Ushijima's chief off staff, Colonell Hiromichi Yahara, one of the best strategists, was ordered to survive the battle, although he asked for permission to commit seppuku, which Ushijima denied because as he said: " If you die there will be no one left who knows the truth about the battle of Okinawa. Bear the temporary shame but endure it. This is an order from your army commander."
Later, Colonel Yahara wrote a book, " Okinawa Kessen" , published in 1973, confirming that people who have been millimetres, milligrams, minutes from certain death…. tend to tell the truth, and that in the battle of Okinawa, Japanese bravery and heroism was more contagious than cowardice .
Having fulfilled Ushijima's command Colonel Yahara died in 1981.
Aftermath of Okinawa.
Some historians believe that the US casualties (kept secret to the US public) in the battle of Okinawa led to the Nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to "save American lives".
Nothing can be further from the truth.
The decision to Nuke Japan, "getting a bang for the buck" (the Manhattan Project having cost 22 billion in todays dollars) was made long before the Okinawa bloodbath took place, and the testing of the new "wunderwaffe" on non-christian civilian cities would have taken place no matter what.
The US top brass could not let such an opportunity pass by, since by then, any consideration of civilian japanese lives, bombing limitations and restrains to military targets was totally irrelevant to Japan-bombing target selections in Washington. The US-CIA manipulation of the fate of the Nagasaki "Bombed Madonna" reveals what hypocritical emotions and motives were in process "rearranging" the location of the Madonna away from the Nagasaki Peace Memorial.
The postwar Nagasaki sister city since 1955, St Paul, Minnesota, somehow arranged that the mayor of Nagasaki "forgot" the existence of the scorched-black Madonna, thus "saving USA's Christian face" spiriting the "atomic madonna" away for decades only to be rediscovered recently but still not a part of the Nagasaki Peace Memorial, but discreetly "exhibited" inside the rebuild Urakami cathedral.
My book "Zen in War. The Pacific 80 Years War" will be published in 2011.
Being born a Hungarian, raised a Ronin-Refugee in Denmark since 1956, I found a home in Japan, 1971 resulting in these writings of 2010 with the purpose of..........
Honoring the dead and cautioning the living.
It is a handbook for high school- and university students in Japan, China, Korea and Vietnam as well as the USA and other Pacific countries, written with the conviction that they all deserve to know as much sincere perspective about their resent history as humanly possible.
I hope that many, much better and more accomplished historical works will follow.
I believe in the eventual success of the search for historical truth, irrespective of commonly accepted shallow national, political and bigot religious and racial interests, and I am sure that the youth of modern, progressive, pragmatic Asia/Pacific Rim of today desire to become aware of the aspects, facts and reality of the bloody Pacific 20th century.
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Zen in War by Gábor Fabricius