By Joshua L. Wick, Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division
Editor’s Note: The following photos tell just a brief story of the U.S. Navy’s involvement during theOkinawa Invasion and Battle of Okinawa. One of the unique items NHHC has in its archives is an oral history of Cmdr. Frederick J. Becton, commanding officer of destroyer USS Laffey (DD-724), which saw action during the Okinawa operations. All the photos below are courtesy of NHHC’s Photo Archives, the Navy Art Collection and the National Archives.
On April 1, 1945, under heavy naval gunfire and aircraft support, U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps troops began the invasion of Okinawa, the last major amphibious assault of World War II. For Japan, the island was the barrier to a direct invasion of its homeland, while to the Allies, once the island was in their control, it would clear the path for the final invasion of Japan. When the island was finally declared secure on June 21, after 82 days of battle, the campaign ended up being the largest and one of the most costly battles in the Pacific.
The invasion and ultimate seizure of Okinawa was not an easy operation, in fact it was a significantly costly operation. From April – June 1945, U.S. Navy merchant ships went to this island in great numbers with the intent of bringing much needed supplies — bombs, gasoline, and more, to consolidate the operational needs of this outpost on the direct road to Tokyo.
The operation, under the strategic command of Adm. Raymond A. Spruance, began with 5th Fleet air strikes against Kyushu on March 18, 1945, and initial landings on Okinawa itself on Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945. An enormous assemblage of ships participated in the operation, during which 36 of them of destroyer size or smaller were lost, most to the heaviest concentration of kamikaze attacks of the war.
Almost 8,000 enemy aircraft were destroyed in the air or on the ground.
As April 7 rolled around, the last remnants of the Japanese Navy were met by overwhelming Navy airpower. Japanese battleship Yamato, a cruiser, and four destroyers were sunk in the one-day battle. Once U.S. Joint Forces secured Okinawa, the supply lanes of the East China Sea were blocked, isolating all southern possessions which were still in Japanese hands … the last obstacle in the path to the Japanese Home Islands was finally cleared.
To learn more about the Navy’s participation at Okinawa, click here. You can also read more about the U.S. Army’s involvement by clicking here.