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Posts Tagged ‘Kerama Retto’

In the spring of 1945, the U.S. Navy was preparing for what it thought would be the second-to-last (and second-worst) battle of the Pacific War.  Over the last 30 months, the pushing back of the Imperial Japanese Navy and its armies had been successful, but it had been accomplished at tremendous cost.  Places like Tarawa, Saipan, Peleliu, and Iwo Jima had all been purchased with Marine and Army blood…lots of it.

And now, Okinawa loomed large on the horizon.  Situated less than 500 miles from the Japanese mainland, it was set to be a massive staging area for the last (and worst) battle of the Pacific War…the invasion of Japan.  Two Marine divisions and two Army divisions had been tasked with making the initial landings on Okinawa, the largest island in the Ryukyus and home to more than 100,000 enemy soldiers and several hundred thousand civilians.  The invasion date (called “Love Day”) was set for April 1st, which boasted the unusual confluence of both April Fool’s Day and Easter.

But Okinawa wasn’t the only target.  Other, smaller islands in the vicinity were also marked for occupation, as enemy soliders and guns had a nasty way of showing up on them.  One such island was Kerama Retto.

Located a dozen miles to the southwest of Okinawa, Kerama Retto was occupied on March 26, 1945, by elements of the U.S. Army’s 77th Infantry Division.  As they fanned out across the island, they discovered a series of caves with hundreds of boats.  Upon further inspection, they realized that this seemingly worthless mission had taken on tremendous importance.

The boats were actually floating bombs.  Loaded with explosives, they would have been used in suicide attacks against Navy vessels approaching Okinawa.  Their small size and relatively high manueverability would have made them difficult to hit.  And hundreds of them launched at once had the potential to cause tremendous carnage, not only to the ships, but especially to the lightly-armored and lightly-defended landing craft.

The boats, subsequently destroyed by the Army, put paid to a potentially devastating tool of destruction in the Japanese arsenal.  Unfortunately, the enemy still had others available.

Recommended Reading: Retribution – Max Hastings is one of the finest historical writers around.  Many of his published works are in my library…they should be in yours, too.

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