THE INITIAL INVASION OF OKINAWA SHIMA AS SEEN FROM ABOARD A NAVY TRANSPORT
Written by: Gary B. Adams, Y3/c(T), USNR, Gilmer, Texas
April First! April Fool’s Day! And Easter! Easter is a beautiful day; yes, beautiful, even though it is very early in the morning. Beautiful because it is still so early that the moon and stars that illuminate the heavens are still shining very brightly and the pale, yellow light from them reflects from the water and makes this China Sea seem to be coated with gold. But no one is asleep at this hour, because now, sleep is impossible. Impossible because everyone is tense; tense with that same feeling that prevails just before the kick-off of that crucial football game; tense with the same feeling of a man who is just entering his death chamber; tense because no one knows what is going to happen in the next few hours.
The great moment is fast approaching. This movement, that only a week ago seemed nothing more than some fantastic dream, is almost at hand. Although discussed and talked about by every man aboard this ship, no one could speak truthfully now, and say he knew a week ago how he would feel at this moment. There is something about an invasion that touches the most sensitive chords of a man’s emotions and gives him a feeling of unexplainable uneasiness. And now “L-Day” is upon us and “H-Hour” is but a few miles across this beautiful, moon-lit water.
All around can be seen the outlines of other ships as they hold a tight formation just behind this, the Division Flagship. Moving slowly forward now, in accordance with the plan that has been rehearsed again and again in the preceding weeks, the Captain of each transport making every effort to see that his ship is in the correct position in the formation in order to avoid any possible slip-up when this great convoy enters the transport area.
Now, up ahead can be heard the dull booming of the guns of the big warships as they pour round after round of big shells into enemy installations on the island. Occasionally there can be seen gun flashes on the horizon grow steadily nearer now, indicative of the fact that the transport area is near at hand, and even though, officially, the invasion has not yet begun, the Japs are already taking a terrific beating from units of the most powerful navy afloat.
As the first gray streaks of dawn begin to light up the Eastern sky, the signal that has long been expected and awaited, arrives. Enemy planes are here! This convoy has the order to shoot down all aircraft not identified as friendly. From the open bridge of this transport, and simultaneously with the order to destroy all enemy aircraft, there can be seen from the screen of destroyers ahead of us, anti-aircraft fire reaching up into the sky like long, red fingers of fire. It is still too dark to see what they are firing at, but suddenly about a mile off the port bow and several thousand feet in the air, there is a great burst of flame. As the ball of fire spins crazily to land in the water close by a destroyer, there is no doubt but that one more Jap has given his life for his Emperor.
The sun is just rising over the island of OKINAWA and making an Easter Sunday even more beautiful, when this great invasion force enters the transport area just off the island. It is during this entrance that the next aircraft alert is received. From the control bridge and with powerful binoculars can be seen the Japanese planes as they circle high in the sky and then start their bombing runs on the ships in the formation next to this one. They come down in steep dives at the rate of more than three or four miles per minute and everyone holds his breath for fear that he is about to see a ship blasted out of the water. But the planes never had a chance! The fire from the transports was deadly and the nips never came out of their dives, but crashed into the water in flames and their buddies were willing to call it quits. The yellow men left for the day.
And now came “H-Hour” with the order to “Land the Landing Force.” The invasion was underway! Just before the first wave hit the beach, the carrier planes came in. Under the terrible pounding by the bombers and the bombardment of the guns of the warships, the nips left the beaches and took to the caves which dotted the barren hills. Thus, the troops went ashore almost unmolested. During the day reports came in so favorable that this ship was ordered in only a short distance from the beach. From here could be seen the boats landing the troops and supplies. Wave after wave of boats made their landings and then returned to their respective ships for more supplies or troops. And now, this division was ordered to retire from the area to cruise in the safety of open water for the night.
The night proved uneventful except for a few aircraft alerts, and the next morning found the division back in the transport area. Again this morning with the coming of dawn came the enemy planes. Every man was “on his toes,” eager, almost craving, a chance for a shot at an enemy. But they were not granted that chance! The Japs didn’t get a plane through the screen of destroyers that formed a ring around the transports, and remarks of disappointment were heard from members of the gun crews because of the inactivity.
The clear, cool morning with the sun shining so brightly hinted nothing of a “Blue Monday.” All hands not on watch were busily unloading cargo, and debarking troops. The ease with which our troops made their initial landing and secured their beachhead was demonstrated by a sight which could be observed through binoculars from the control bridge. On the outskirts of a small village near the initial landing place, two marines could be seen trying to teach a small Japanese boy to ride a bicycle. Apparently they were enjoying the lesson no less than the young “Son of Heaven.”
Retiring again Monday night to cruise in open water, the division was bothered by nothing more than a beautiful moon, and the watch standers were bothered by nothing more than thoughts of those that they love back home.
This is the morning of APRIL THIRD! Oh, what a morning! May it be underlined on the pages of time and remembered as one of the most historical days in the history of the world! This morning was the occasion of the greatest thrill of the invasion of OKINAWA! This was the thrill to be talked about by every man for months to come. Every man - except the gun crews. They were to hang their heads in shame and turn their backs to the remarks of ridicule and the jeers voiced by all their shipmates. It was while the ships of this division were busily engaged in unloading cargo, when, without warning, came the signal! Enemy planes are here again! But was this another joke? Was every one to standby again and watch on while the little destroyers shot down the planes? And while everyone was busy with these thoughts a Jap came into sight! By some miracle he had broken through the outer defense and now was flying fast right past this division and going parallel with each ship. Every ship in the division opened up on him with everything they had. But he flew nonchalantly on. Each gun crew watched him; hoping, praying, that he would get this far. And he did! After informing them that this was “their chance” the Gunnery Officer gave them the word, “commence firing.” They did fire! And with the full intention of bringing down the “lone nip” and claiming a victory all to themselves. There was never seen so much ack-ack in the air at one time! There was so much firing that there seemed to be one huge sheet of flame reaching upward towards the Jap plane. But, in despair, the gun crews watched their prize fly on, apparently just out of range of the hungry guns of all these ships. Not until he was almost over the island was he finally hit lightly by the burst of a five-inch shell. After being hit, he circled once, and then started his dive in a long, looping spiral that carried him partially out of the line of fire from the ships below. It isn’t nice to watch a man deliberately commit suicide. Even though he is a Japanese, and even though you can’t actually see the man you still know he is there in the plane that comes spinning down. The sole intention of the Jap was to crash dive his plane into a heavy cruiser that was anchored close to the beach. Had not the cruiser’s anti-aircraft fire been so accurate, he may have succeeded in his mission. Instead, he was hit many times, and being deflected by the fire, the suicide pilot crashed his plane into the water, a beaten and a dead man!
Just as that pilot was beaten, Nippon, so you will be beaten. Just as this great invasion fleet is in your back yard, so will it soon be in your front yard, and even on your front doorsteps. So will you be pounded again and again until the roar of war is forever in your ears. So will your forces be crumbled and dissolved until you can no longer fight. Then, because God has again triumphed over evil, there will again be ‘PEACE ON EARTH AND GOOD WILL TOWARDS MEN!”
This Article has been released by the Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Area.