Battle of Okinawa - WW2 Timeline (April 1st - June 22nd, 1945)

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.

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 stage was set for the end of the Japanese Empire.

There are a total of (27) Battle of Okinawa - WW2 Timeline (April 1st - June 22nd, 1945) events in the database. Entries are listed below by date-of-occurrence ascending (first-to-last). Other leading and trailing events may also be included for perspective.

Day-by-Day Timeline of Events

Saturday, March 24th, 1945

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

Saturday, March 24th, 1945

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

Thursday, March 29th, 1945

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

Saturday, March 31st, 1945

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

Sunday, April 1st, 1945

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.

Thursday, April 5th, 1945

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

Friday, April 6th, 1945

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.

Friday, April 6th, 1945

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.

Friday, April 6th, 1945

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.

Friday, April 6th, 1945

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.

Saturday, April 7th, 1945

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.

Saturday, April 7th, 1945

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

Saturday, April 7th, 1945

Task Force 38 launches some 380 aircraft against IJN Yamato.

Saturday, April 7th, 1945

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.

Tuesday, April 10th, 1945

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

Wednesday, April 11th, 1945

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

Friday, April 13th, 1945

US Marines reach Hedo Point in the north of Okinawa.

Monday, April 16th, 1945

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.

Thursday, April 19th, 1945

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.

Friday, April 20th, 1945

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

Saturday, April 21st, 1945

The offensive to take Ie Shima is completed.

Friday, May 4th, 1945

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.

Sunday, May 27th, 1945

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

Sunday, June 17th, 1945

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.

Friday, June 22nd, 1945

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.

Friday, June 22nd, 1945

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.

Friday, June 22nd, 1945

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.

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