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 the Okinawa 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. To read Cmdr. Becton’s interview click here. All the photos below are courtesy of NHHC’s Photo Archives, the Navy Art Collection and the National Archives.
D-Day Plus One, Green Beach, Okinawa. Artwork Mitchell Jamieson. Courtesy of the Navy Combat Art Collection. KN 21276 (Color).
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.
Okinawa Operation. USS Idaho (BB 42) bombarding, circa April 1, 1945. Destroyer at left is probably USS Franks (DD 554). Courtesy of Robert O. Baumrucker, 1978. (Photo Courtesy of NHHC Photo Archives, NH 89368)
Okinawa Ryukyus Islands, April 1, 1945. Landing craft heading towards the beach. (Photo Courtesy of the National Archives) 80-G-313055
Vice Adm. Richmond K. Turner, Commanding Task Force 51, confers with Army and Marine Commanders on board his flagship, USS Eldorado (AGC 11), circa late March or early April 1945. They are working with a relief model of the South-Central part of Okinawa, with the main invasion beaches at right. Turner is in the center, with Army Lt. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner on left and Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Oliver P. Smith, , on right. 80-G-48820.
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.
USS Idaho (BB-42). Bombarding Okinawa with her 14″/50 main battery guns, April 1, 1945. Photographed from USS West Virginia (BB-48). (80-G-K-3829 (Color).
USS Indiana (BB-58). Chaplain serves Holy Communion while holding Mass on the quarterdeck, during the Okinawa operation, April 1, 1945. 80-G-325209.
Okinawa Operation, 1945. Marines climb down a debarkation ladder from a Coast-Guard manned assault transport to board an LCVP to take part in the initial attack on Okinawa, April 1,1945. Courtesy of Robert O. Baumrucker, 1978. NH 89369.
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.
USS West Virginia (BB-48). Crewmen on watch on a 40mm Quad. Gun Mount, while their ship was supporting the Invasion of Okinawa, April 1, 1945. 80-G-K-4707 (Color).
USS Tennessee bombards Okinawa on April 1, 1945, while LVTs head for the beach.
Okinawa Invasion, April 1945. LVTs and other landing craft head for the Okinawa landing beaches on 1 April 1945. USS LCI(G)-809 is partially visible at left, helping to cover the assault, with another LCI beyond her. Photographed from USS West Virginia (BB-48). 80-G-K-3848 (Color).
Okinawa Invasion, 1945. USS LSM 85, off Okinawa, during the landings there circa 1 April 1945. 80-G-K-4922 (Color).
USS Hutchins (DD 476) operating off Okinawa during the landings there, circa April 1, 1945. Other destroyers are in the background. 80-G-K-4919 (Color).
Almost 8,000 enemy aircraft were destroyed in the air or on the ground.
Okinawa Operations, 1945. Six USS Hancock (CV 19) TBM bombers fly near Okinawa, while supporting the invasion forces, 4 April 1945. 80-G-319244.
Okinawa Landings, April 1945. View of one of the beaches taken by CPhoM E.W. Peck off USS Tulagi (CVE 72), April 3, 1945. Several LSTs and LSMs are on the beach with other shipping offshore. Note LVTs in fields in the foreground. 80-G-339237.
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.