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Battle of Okinawa Timeline

Authored By Dan Alex | Last Updated: 5/12/2014

Okinawa became the site of the final Japanese stand of World War 2 - and the staging point for the planned Allied invasion of the Japanese mainland.

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The island of Okinawa represented a grand strategic map marker for both the Allies and the Japanese. She was the last stop before the Japanese mainland and all sides were prepared for the slugfest to follow. In all their suicidal and fanatical glory, the Japanese valiantly defended the island against the countless American assaults and casualties mounted on both sides. In the end, overwhelming material, substantial firepower and true grit triumphed as the island fell into the ultimate control of the Allies.


The Allies drew up what was, to date, the largest amphibious assault, this encompassing both elements of the US Marines and US Army along with US Navy support by both sea and air. Some 550,000 people are involved and of these, 180,000 were soldiers - many experienced from the island-hopping campaigns prior. The landings were softened to an extent by previous artillery shelling and coordinated air strikes across the island so the initial landings were greeted without much issue - this was, however, more due to the 85,000 Japanese defenders having concentrated their positions inland. On one side was American Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner and on the other, Japanese Lieutenant General Mitsuru Ushjima.


The grand battleship, IJN Yamato - the largest and most powerful battleship ever built, was sent to the battle in what would turn out to be nothing more than a suicidal gesture. She sailed with a small contingent of warships and no air cover whatsoever - Japanese air power having been substantially reduced by this point in the war. The vessel was first spotted by American submarines operating in the area and further pinpointed by US Navy reconnaissance aircraft on April 7th. Some 380 US Navy warplanes are sent aloft to stop her.


With no air support of her own, the Japanese sailors put up a net of anti-aircraft fire that only serves a limited purpose. US Navy airmen find pickings to be relatively easy once the AA guns are managed. The Yamato is repeatedly hit where she sits until her magazine stores catch fire and explode. Her internal flooding forces her to roll over in all her smoking glory until she is officially lost to the sea with most of her crew. Her grave is marked some 200 miles off the Okinawa shore, well short of her mission target zone.


The Kamikaze - suicidal Japanese airmen on a one way trip - are launched against US Navy vessels off Okinawa, netting some 34 total ships by the time the damage is counted. While a tremendous psychological tool, the actions proved fruitless overall and cost the lives of both valuable pilots and machines. Many were shot down by the umbrella of American AA fire supporting each naval vessel and plunged harmlessly into the sea.


Ferocious fighting continued inland on Okinawa as the Japanese fought for every square inch of rock. Casualties mounted for both sides though the Americans maintained the "healthier" advantage for lack of a better term. The weather across the island worsened for a time and offensives were stalled. During this lull, the Japanese forces had retreated further while still repelling the American assaults. A final defensive position was erected at the southern tip of the island, each Japanese soldier knowing he will be killed or captured from this moment on.


By June 17th, the Japanese defenders had been divided into three major assault groups by the American progress. This yielded singularity in actions by each remaining defensive force and no coordinated actions could take place. Lieutenant General Buckner signaled for a final surrender of Lieutenant General Ushjima and his men before he is unexpectedly killed by a Japanese shell while inspecting his 8th Marine. However, honor prevails over surrender and Ushjima and his staff commit ritual suicide after relaying the results of the battle to Tokyo headquarters. Though bested by his American counterpart, Ushjima ironically survives him by a full week.


The Battle of Okinawa is officially over. With it came the victory that the Allies would need in the final conquest of Japan proper - a staging area within striking distance of the Japanese mainland. The cost is high but the victory is permanent and the beginning of the end for the Japanese war machine is now.


The final stage was set for the end of the Empire of Japan.


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There are a total of 27 the Battle of Okinawa Timeline Events. Entries are listed below by date of occurrence.

1945
Saturday
March 24th

In preparation for the amphibious assault landings on the island of Okinawa, US Naval elements begin bombardment of shoreline positions.

1945
Saturday
March 24th

The US 77th Infantry Division lands at the Kerama Islands to secure a staging post for the eventual invasion of Okinawa.

1945
Saturday
March 31st

The US Navy lobs some 30,000 explosive shells on the Okinawa coastline by this time, ending a week of bombardment.

1945
Thursday
March 29th

Further landings of US forces on the Kerama Islands, complete its capture for the Allies.

1945
Sunday
April 1st

Two US Army and USMC divisions land along the southwest coast of Okinawa near Hagushi, meeting little resistance. The US 10th Army is commanded by Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner. Some 550,000 personnel and 180,000 soldiers take part in the fray.

1945
Thursday
April 5th

Allied forces find and locate the Japanese defenders along the southern portion of Okinawa. Heavy defenses are noted.

1945
Friday
April 6th

As American forces move further inland, the battle for Okinawa intensifies. Pockets of dug-in Japanese defenders become evermore concentrated the more inland the Allied forces go.

1945
Friday
April 6th

American forces are now amassed as two separate assault fronts. To the north are the 1st and 6th Marine divisions. To the mountainous south are the 7th and 96th Infantry divisions.

1945
Friday
April 6th

The deadly kamikaze air attack is unleashed on American Naval vessels in the Pacific. These aircraft appear as coordinated airstrikes and prove equally deadly to both sides. USN vessels off the coast of Okinawa itself are targeted. Some 34 US Navy ships fall victim.

1945
Saturday
April 7th

The IJN Yamato, having already been spotted by an American submarine, makes its way to the fighting at Okinawa. The crew understand that this is a suicide mission at this point in the war.

1945
Friday
April 6th

The IJN Yamato, Japan's pride and joy and the largest battleship ever built, sails from the Inland Sea on a suicide mission at Okinawa. She is escorted by the light cruiser Yahagi and some eight destroyers on her final voyage.

1945
Saturday
April 7th

In the early morning hours, US Navy reconnaissance aircraft spot the IJN Yamato and relay her position.

1945
Tuesday
April 10th

The American 27th Infantry Division lands at Tsugen. The island is just to the east of Okinawa proper.

1945
Saturday
April 7th

Task Force 38 launches some 380 aircraft against IJN Yamato.

1945
Wednesday
April 11th

The conquest of Tsugen is completed by the 27th Infantry Division.

1945
Saturday
April 7th

With no air cover, the IJN Yamato is blasted to pieces by the American Navy warplanes. Her magazine stores explode in a fantastic display as she goes up in smoke. Most of her crew is lost with the ship in the afternoon hours.

1945
Friday
April 13th

US Marines reach Hedo Point in the north of Okinawa.

1945
Monday
April 16th

A five-day offensive is undertaken involving the American 77th Infantry Division and the island of Ie Shima. Ie Shima represents the tip of the Motobu Peninsula. Motobu is a defensive Japanese stronghold located to the west of Okinawa proper.

1945
Thursday
April 19th

Japanese defenders are pushed back towards Naha by American forces. The Japanese defensive lines are reset as territory is lost. The Americans report 1,000 casualties in their assaults.

1945
Friday
April 20th

Motobu Peninsula falls to the Americans as the Japanese defenders are either killed or captured.

1945
Friday
May 4th

The Japanese enact a major offensive in the south of Okinawa. A coast-to-coast defensive front is established from Naha to Yonabaru. Regardless, the line is targeted by prolonged American firepower and infantry.

1945
Saturday
April 21st

The offensive to take Ie Shima is completed.

1945
Sunday
May 27th

Naha is officially captured by American forces. The Orouku Peninsula to the south is now within reach.

1945
Sunday
June 17th

By this time, the Japanese defenders have been seperated into three major fighting groups. The more raw recruits find it somewhat easy to surrender than fight to the death.

1945
Friday
June 22nd

The fighting on Okinawa comes to a close as American forces overwhelm the islands determined Japanese defenders. Those that are not taken prisoner or die in the fighting, subject themselves to ritual suicides.

1945
Friday
June 22nd

Understanding that defeat is iminent, Japanese Lieutenant General Mitsuru Ushjima commits ritual suicide with his staff after reporting the loss of Okinawa to his superiors.

1945
Friday
June 22nd

The Battle of Okinawa officially draws to a close and now represents the all-important staging area for the Allied invasion of the Japanese mainland.