65 years ago today, Okinawa, the largest of the Ryukyu Islands, was the site of one of the last major island landings of World War II and scene of some of its heaviest fighting.
Supporting operations leading up to Operation Iceberg, under the strategic command of Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, began with 5th Fleet air strikes against Kyushu on 18 March 1945. Executed with heavy naval gunfire and air support, the initial landings—the Joint Expeditionary Force under Vice Admiral Richmond K. Turner and the soldiers and marines under Lieutenant General Simon B. Buckner, USA—took place on 1 April.
Overwhelming Navy carrier-based air power crushed the Japanese attempt to disrupt the landings on 7 April; on this day 386 planes of Task Force 58 sunk the Japanese battleship Yamato, light cruiser Yahagi, and four destroyers, and damaged four other destroyers.
After 82 days of heavy fighting, the island was declared secure on 21 June. An armada of ships had 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.
Securing Okinawa blocked the Japanese supply lanes in the East China Sea, isolating all southern possessions still in Japanese hands; and cleared the last obstacle in the path to the Japanese Home Islands.