Thursday, April 2, 2015

Operation Iceberg


Operation Iceberg was the code name for the Battle of Okinawa. Seventy years ago this week, the last major land battle of World War II unfolded. It would eventually lead to atomic bombs being used against Japan and the country’s surrender in August.

Okinawa's strategic importance was its proximity to Japan. The U.S. intended to capture the island so that it could be used as an airbase and a staging area for the planned invasion of Japan, code named Operation Downfall. The Battle of Okinawa was the bloodiest fighting in the Pacific Theater. Some 12,000 Americans lost their lives in the fighting; deaths for Japanese soldiers and civilians are estimated at 110,000.

Some of the fiercest fighting on the island included the island of Ie Shima, where war correspondent Ernie Pyle lost his life, Bloody Ridge, Sugar Loaf Hill and the assault of Shuri Castle. The Japanese dispatched the world's largest battleship, the Yamato, with the intention of beaching it on Okinawa for use as a gun emplacement. The Yamato was destroyed on her way to Okinawa when one of her magazines detonated during an attack from U.S. fighters and bombers. The ship's explosion could be seen over 160 miles away.

Kamikaze attacks peaked during the Battle of Okinawa. For the first time, kamikaze tactics became a primary fixture of the defense. Nearly 8,000 pilots committed suicide at Okinawa attempting kamikaze attacks.

The Okinawa Campaign lasted from April 1 to June 22, 1945. It was the largest amphibious landing in the Pacific Theater.

More than 280,000 soldiers battled 130,000 Japanese soldiers. In addition,the island had 430,000 civilians living within its towns and villages.

As the battle continued, news came that the German military had been shattered by Allied forces. Adolf Hitler was dead. The German surrender came on May 7, but it didn’t become official until May 8.

Although America celebrated V-E Day — Victory in Europe — the celebration was short-lived. There was still a war on with Japan, and U.S. military forces were gearing up to invade.

It wasn’t until Aug. 14, 1945, that fighting ceased with Japan and World War II was finally over.