Boldly Aiming at Okinawa

Farewell, dear Isle!—on thee may ne'er
The breath of civil discord blow!

Far from your shores be every fear,
And far—oh! far—the invading foe!

So wrote Mr. Gillard, an officer of His Britannic Majesty's Ship Alceste, when his ship set sail on 27 October 1816 from Okinawa. During a sojourn of more than a month on the island, officers and men of the Alceste and her sister ship the Lyra had been enchanted by the landscape, the low, pine-crowned hills, the valleys of cultivated fields and meandering rivers with pretty villages and villas on their banks surrounded by brilliant foliage, the picturesque houses of the capital city of Shuri rising row on row to the summit of a hill crowned by the king's palace embowered in lofty trees.

Most of all, they had been charmed by the people of Okinawa, so gentle and hospitable, who had come out in canoes to welcome them, bringing jars of fresh water and baskets of boiled sweet potatoes and fish. The Englishmen, who had recently been subjected to what they considered the "cold repulsive manners" of the Koreans and the "boorishness" of the Chinese mandarins, responded gratefully and during their stay established friendships most unusual in the annals of nineteenth century voyages. When the time came to say good-bye, the bearded noblemen of Okinawa in their long girdled robes and flat turbans were so choked with tears that they could not speak as they presented farewell gifts of pipes, fans, and knives to the "Engelees." Weighing anchor, the British sailors saw vast crowds assembled on the heights above the harbor. Their last glimpse of the island was of people standing on the sea wall beating gongs and waving umbrellas, handkerchiefs, and fans.1

Notwithstanding Mr. Gillard's fervent wish, the invading foe was never very far from the shores of his "dear Isle" after Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry by his visit to Okinawa in 1853 alerted Japan to the possibility of foreign aggression at her doorstep. Okinawa, the central island in the Ryukyu chain extending from Japan to Formosa, is only about 350 miles south of the southernmost Japanese province of Kyushu. The most likely aggressor was China, to which for centuries the government of the Ryukyu (known to the Chinese as Liu Ch'iu) Islands had paid tribute and to which its people had close ties, being by blood a mixture of Chinese, Malay, and Ainu strains. Alarmed by the claims of the Chinese to the islands in the 1870's, the Japanese announced their annexation of the Ryukyus and in 1879 deposed the king, sent in troops to occupy


Shuri castle, meeting only passive resistance, and made the Ryukyus a prefecture of Japan. The islands contributed little to the Japanese economy; the people were poor, looked down upon by the Japanese as backward rustics; the prime value of Okinawa (the great island or "Great Loochoo") was as a bastion to the defenses of the Japanese homeland.2

A Strongly Fortified Island

In the spring of 1944 the Japanese strongly fortified the island, pouring in troops, building airfields, and conscripting all able-bodied Okinawans for the army proper or a 20,000-man Okinawa Home Guards force. The preparations were accelerated in midsummer 1944 after the capture of the Marianas in the Central Pacific by the American forces. Concluding that the Americans were now "boldly aiming" at Okinawa, the Japanese constructed extensive fortifications in the caves on the southern part of the island, arming them with more and better artillery than they had ever before employed in the Pacific.3

The Americans were indeed aiming at Okinawa. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, in the directive dated 3 October 1944 ordering General MacArthur to seize and occupy Luzon, ordered Admiral Nimitz, Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas, to invade the Ryukyus. For this operation, called ICEBERG, Nimitz had ample resources. For the assault on Okinawa, an island only 60 miles long and from 2 to 18 miles wide, and the seizure of small offshore islands, he had more combat troops than MacArthur had for the Lingayen landings on Luzon. With supporting elements drawn from the Southwest Pacific, the South Pacific, and even from the European theater (made possible by the late landing date, finally fixed at 1 April 1945), ICEBERG was to bring together the greatest concentration of land, sea, and air forces ever used in the Pacific. Supply was plentiful, assured by the decision at the Washington Conference in May 1943, trident, that the Central Pacific would have priority over the Southwest Pacific in the advance on Japan.4

The Advance in the Central Pacific

Until Okinawa, the Central Pacific had been mainly a Navy theater, with the Marine Corps carrying most of the burden of the amphibious and ground fighting. In the first large-scale campaign, that against the Gilberts and Marshalls beginning 20 November 1943 and ending 2 February 1944, a regimental combat team of the 27th Infantry Division (which had been doing garrison duty in Hawaii since March 1942) was employed on Makin, Kwajalein, and Eniwetok; and the 7th Division (which had arrived in Hawaii from the Aleutians in mid-September 1943) was used at Kwajalein; but all Army units were attached to the Marine V


Amphibious Corps commanded by Lt. Gen. Holland M. Smith; and at Tarawa, the hardest battle of the campaign, there were no Army combat troops. The second campaign, fought in the Marianas between 15 June and 10 August 1944, was also largely a Marine Corps show, under V and III Amphibious Corps, with Marine generals commanding the landing forces on Saipan, Tinian, and Guam, and Lt. Gen. Holland M. Smith in over-all command. Here the Army combat elements were the 27th Division and the 77th Division—the first operation for the 77th, which had arrived in Hawaii from the United States during April and May 1944. Also used in the Marianas were artillery battalions of XXIV Corps, the only Army corps in the Central Pacific, organized in Hawaii in 1944. The corps was originally intended for the campaign in the Western Carolines (the Palaus and Ulithi Atoll), 15 September to 24 November 1944, but the plans were changed; the first operation for XXIV Corps was to be Leyte. An Army division, the 81st, participated in the Western Carolines, but it was under the Marine III Amphibious Corps.5

These campaigns to capture small islands (brief actions except in the Palaus) differed greatly, as may be imagined, from the long haul up the New Guinea coast in the Southwest Pacific. For such operations, the Ordnance support that could be provided by the divisions' own light maintenance companies was generally sufficient, with the assistance of small detachments of tank mechanics and ammunition men sent forward from Hawaii.6 After the Gilberts and Marshalls campaign, the 7th and 27th Divisions were returned to Hawaii for rest and for rehabilitation of their equipment. In the Marianas, heavy materiel such as guns, tanks, and LVT's was sent back for overhaul in the Ordnance shops on Oahu. Ammunition left over from these island operations and excess to the needs of the garrison forces was either moved forward to new operations or returned to Oahu for renovation.7

The Hawaiian Base

There had been an Ordnance organization in Hawaii since 1913, when a depot was sent out from Benicia Arsenal in California, to Fort Kamehameha on the southern coast of Oahu. During World War I, the Hawaiian Ordnance Depot was moved to Fort Shafter, near Honolulu, and a few years later it also had a maintenance company and a depot detachment at Schofield Barracks in the interior. After Pearl Harbor, all types of Ordnance service at both locations were considerably expanded. By the time the big push in the Central Pacific got under way in late 1943, two Ordnance centers were in operation, one at Schofield to serve the North Sector of Oahu, the other at Shafter to serve the South Sector. There was also, because of the changeover of motor transport from Quartermaster to


Ordnance in mid-1942, a sizable Ordnance Automotive Depot, divided between the two locations. The main ammunition storage area was at Aliamanu Crater (where maximum use was made of tunnels dug into the mountains), with subdepots at Diamond Head and Ulupau and another planned for Ewa.8

Not until July 1944 was there a communications zone organization in the Central Pacific. When Lt. Gen. Robert C. Richardson, Jr., assumed the top Army job in the area—that of Commanding General, United States Army Forces, Central Pacific Area (USAFICPA)—in June 1943, he appointed a board to study the communications zone problem and on its recommendation decided to stick to the conventional general and special staff, with a limited number of support functions assigned to an Army Port and Service Command. As his chief Ordnance officer he selected Col. Francis A. Englehart, chief of the Military Plans and Organization Branch, Field Service, Office of the Chief of Ordnance, who had been recommended by the Chief of Ordnance as "a very sincere, earnest and hard-working officer." A few months after Englehart's arrival in mid-January 1944, General Richardson reported that he was "taking hold of the Ordnance in his accustomed efficient manner with excellent results."9

At the time Richardson assumed command, the Hawaiian Islands had a defensive mission. Feeling that this role would have to be changed immediately to one of preparations for offensive operations, he instituted a vigorous training program, establishing a Unit Jungle Training Center in two Oahu valleys, and even (in anticipation of amphibious operations) a school to teach swimming. As the pace of the war in the Pacific accelerated beginning in 1944, the job of training increased, and also the task of seeing that the new divisions staging in Hawaii on their way to action were properly equipped. On 1 July 1944 General Richardson, whose command on 1 August was to be redesignated U.S. Army Forces Pacific Ocean Areas (USAFPOA), established the Central Pacific Base Command (CPBC), giving it responsibility not only for the defense of Hawaiian and adjacent islands but also for logistical support and planning for Army units stationed or staging in Hawaii and for the maintenance of supply levels at advance bases as directed. The Central Pacific Base Command did not include units and installations assigned to the forward areas, and in this respect differed sharply from United States Army Services of Supply in the Southwest Pacific. Also, because of the growing practice of direct shipment from the United States to forward areas without a stop in Hawaii, the most important front-line supply function of Central Pacific Base Com-


mand in the later campaigns was to act as an emergency supply point. After the Marianas campaign, plans were made for a Western Pacific Base Command at Saipan (about 3,500 miles west of Oahu) to provide faster emergency service, but it was not activated until 25 April 1945— almost a month after the Okinawa landings. On Okinawa, base development was to be the responsibility of Tenth Army.10

Tenth Army Plans and Preparations

Tenth Army, activated in the United States in June 1944, the only field army employed in Central Pacific operations, was in several respects different from armies in other theaters. Organized not only for combat but also for base operation and development, it was a joint force composed of Navy and Marine units as well as Army, and was employed under the operational direction of Admiral Nimitz. Its commanding general was commonly referred to as COMGENTEN, according to Navy usage. At the same time, Tenth Army was under the administrative direction of General Richardson for all Army units assigned to it.11 The command relationships (never satisfactory to General Richardson) were intricate and delicate. The success of this large joint undertaking depended in no small measure on the diplomacy of COMGENTEN—Lt. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr., a ruddy-faced, white-haired gentleman (son of the Confederate general of the same name) fresh from Alaska, where for four years he had commanded the Alaskan Department. In the Aleutians he was involved in a campaign that was a brief example of inter-service co-operation.12

Buckner brought some of his Tenth Army staff with him from Alaska; others came from the European Theater of Operations and from important jobs in Washington. As his Ordnance officer he was able to secure Col. Robert W. Daniels, chief Ordnance officer of Army Ground Forces, who, since the beginning of his duty in Washington in July 1941 as General McNair's Ordnance officer, had had a big-share in plans for reorganizing and modernizing Ordnance service in the field army.13 In this culminating planning effort in the Pacific, Daniels was faced with hard problems when he arrived on Oahu in September 1944, not the least of which concerned interservice coordination. The "Expeditionary Troops" for which Tenth Army was responsible consisted of Army units under XXIV Corps; Marine units under III Amphibious Corps; Army and Marine air units under the commanding general of Tenth Army's tactical air force;


certain naval construction and service units; and a composite of Army, Navy, and Marine units (mostly service units) under the Commanding General, Army Garrison Force. Because of the mixture of forces, Buckner's staff sections were augmented with Navy and Marine officers. Ordnance received a marine, Lt. Col. David S. McDougal. Daniels considered him "a grand chap," and characterized co-operation between Marine Corps and Army as "outstandingly fine."14

The initial preparation, movement, and supply of the various units of the Expeditionary Troops were the duty of various commanders: Commanding Generals, Pacific Ocean Areas and Central Pacific Base Command for Army troops; Fleet Marine Force Pacific and Fleet Marine Service Command for the Marine Corps; Commanding General, POA, through Commanding General, AAF POA, and the Central Pacific Base Command for Army air units; and ComAirPac through ComServPac for Navy and Marine Air units. It was Daniels' job to insure that the troops were ready for combat, that the equipment coming from these various sources made for a balanced force, and that all activities were properly coordinated.15

All Army Ordnance units in ICEBERG, except organic units of divisions and certain attached Ordnance units, were assigned to a new organization somewhat different from that used for logistical support in any other operation. This was the Island Command (ISCOM), established at Oahu on 13 December 1944 under the command of Maj. Gen. Fred C. Wallace of Army Garrison Force. In the early stages of the Okinawa operation, its responsibilities were to be similar to those of Army Service Command in the Southwest Pacific, but unlike ASCOM, which was attached to Sixth Army in the early phases and later reverted to USASOS, Island Command was assigned to Tenth Army and remained so, becoming the agent for executing Tenth Army's base development mission. As such it would command garrison forces on Okinawa, including Marine and Navy as well as Army, and would be responsible for defense of the island after it was secured. In this later period, in keeping with the heavy base responsibilities, Island Command was to receive several Ordnance group headquarters: one to administer general supply and ammunition depots; another to administer maintenance shops; and a third (a new type, a base depot group) to control base armament and base automotive battalions. The Ordnance officer for Island Command was Col. Ray O. Welch, who had had long experience on Hawaii, first at the Ordnance Automotive Depot and later as General Supply Officer of Central Pacific Base Command's Ordnance Service.16


Photo:  Colonel Daniels


Neither Colonel Welch nor any member of his section had ever taken part in an amphibious operation; therefore, in planning Ordnance support in the battle for Okinawa, they relied mainly on XXIV Corps experience at Leyte. An ammunition company was to go in with each of the three U.S. Army divisions, the 7th, 77th, and 96th; and in a few days the supply sections of the divisions' own light maintenance companies were to be bolstered by a detachment of the 196th Ordnance Depot Company, sent to Leyte from Oahu. For the period when corps took over, after the beachhead was secured, Welch attached to XXIV Corps the same heavy tank maintenance company that had served in the Leyte landings, the 284th (experienced on LVT's), plus a medium maintenance company, a depot company, and a detachment of an antiaircraft maintenance company. No battalion headquarters was included in the initial troop list. Later the 209th Ordnance Battalion headquarters was added at the request of the commander of the 1st Engineer Special Brigade. The headquarters of this brigade, a veteran unit that had participated in landings from Oran to Normandy, had been obtained from the European theater to handle the shore party work in the Army phase when Island Command took over, for ISCOM was inexperienced in shore operations. Attached to the brigade, the 209th Battalion headquarters was to take over the ammunition and depot companies from divisions and corps and use them to operate the shore dumps. Later, in the base operations period the 209th and battalions yet to arrive would be assigned to the 61st Ordnance Group.17

Re-equipping and Supplying the Combat Troops

Central Pacific Base Command went all out to re-equip the five infantry divisions planned for Okinawa, backed up by greater resources in the United States than were available for any other operation in the Pacific. When the cargo vessels laden with supplies for the three XXIV Corps divisions that had been fighting in the Philippines—the 7th, 77th, and 96th—were unloaded at Leyte, the veterans of the Southwest Pacific who did the unloading could hardly believe their eyes. Every-


thing was new—jeeps, trailers, machine guns, mortars, howitzers, tanks. As General Eichelberger observed, "We had never seen such wonderful gear!" And the same was true of the two divisions being staged in the South Pacific, the 27th at Espiritu Santo and the 81st at New Caledonia.18

The copious supply of Army vehicles on Okinawa was to be a source of constant astonishment to the marines, accustomed as they were to move by foot, to fight for quick decisions in small areas. In this operation they seldom had to walk, "Being as how we are working with the Army on this invasion," one Marine officer explained to a war correspondent, "and have the loan of some of their vehicles, of which they got more than there are in the city of Detroit."19

Plans for keeping these vehicles operating occupied a good deal of the time of the Ordnance Sections of AFPOA, CPBC, and Tenth Army. A 30-day supply of spare parts was provided in blocks (for immediate use before the depots were set up) and sets (to facilitate requisitioning from depot stocks). Vehicle spare parts were relatively plentiful. The crying need for better first and second echelon maintenance on trucks was met by setting up Tenth Army spot check teams to enforce maintenance discipline. Perhaps the greatest problem on vehicles in the planning stage was that of tire repair, increased by the responsibility for repairing Engineer earth-moving equipment. Experience had shown, especially at Saipan, that an enormous number of tire injuries would be inflicted on engineer equipment working around airfields by bomb fragments and shell fragments.20

Experience in previous Pacific campaigns was carefully studied in planning ammunition supply for Okinawa. As a result, extra artillery ammunition was provided. Twenty-two resupply AK's (auxiliary cargo ships) were requested, also six LST's to carry a cushion of artillery ammunition for quick discharge on the beach. The Navy could furnish only 19 AK's and 5 LST's for the invasion phase, but established an emergency operational reserve in the Marianas. Though tremendous quantities of ammunition were expended on Okinawa, the only really serious shortages were shell for the 81-mm. mortar, white phosphorous (WP) shell for all calibers, and illuminants.21

Taking into account known Japanese tactics, Tenth Army Ordnance Section planned minor modifications on some of the equipment issued to combat troops. These modifications mainly concerned tanks. The "backscratcher" was an arrangement of five M2A1 antipersonnel mines, mounted around the base of the tank turret, that could be fired electrically from within to protect the tank from suicide attacks by Japanese foot soldiers armed with "satchel charges" (crude wooden boxes filled with explosives), molo-


tov cocktails, grenades, or other devices. Thirty backscratcher kits were manufactured by the 393d Heavy Maintenance Company (Tank) on Oahu and flown to Leyte and Espiritu Santo. For protection against Japanese antitank magnetic mines, the Ordnance Section recommended that all tanks be painted on their vertical surfaces with enamel mixed with beach sand and this was done for one very important battalion being readied on Oahu, the 713th Armored Flame Thrower Battalion. Also, a flotation device similar to that used on the "swimming tanks" in the Normandy landings was installed on the Shermans of one Army tank company and half a Marine company.22

The Okinawa landings, however, were to be coral reef landings. The armored LVT—the LVT(A)—was a lightly armored amphibian tractor usually called the amphibian (and sometimes, confusingly, the "swimming") tank, or "amtank." It was not designed to operate as a tank but as a personnel carrier, and was mainly counted on to provide close fire support for the assault troops and to act as a land tank until tanks could be brought ashore. The LVT (A) was first used in this manner at Saipan, though not very successfully; for one reason, the amtanks were too thin-skinned to withstand enemy artillery attacks. In getting ready for the Okinawa invasion, machine shops on Oahu were busy adding more armor protection. Also, an ambitious program for modifying DUKW's was under way, of which a major part was devoted to installing guards to protect propellers from damage by coral heads.23

What of New Weapons?

For this last battle of the war no important new Ordnance materiel, in the sense of newly developed items such as the Ms6 (Pershing) tank, was available. At the time of the plans and preparations for ICEBERG, late 1944 and early 1945, the sights in the United States were set on Europe; and until the experience on Okinawa the Pacific was satisfied with the Sherman tank. But there had for some time been an awareness of the need for heavier artillery, specifically heavier howitzers than the 155-mm. A mission sent out by the War Department to study the effectiveness of U.S. and Japanese weapons in the Marshalls spent five months, from 31 January 1944 to 30 June 1944, in the Central and Southwest Pacific. The head of the mission, Col. Claudius H. M. Roberts of the Ordnance Department, reported on 31 July 1944 that both theaters had urgently requested 8-inch and 240-mm. howitzer


battalions, anticipating "larger land masses where much of the operations will be conducted beyond range of covering naval gunfire or in terrain defiladed against flat trajectory fire." The request came at a time when heavy artillery and heavy artillery ammunition were in short supply, and when Europe had the highest priority. Only one battalion of 8-inch howitzers was shipped to Oahu to go in with XXIV Corps artillery in the Okinawa operation, because there was not enough ammunition to support more than one battalion. The only 240-mm. howitzer battalion sent to the Pacific went to Luzon; furthermore, here also ammunition was scarce. On another recommendation pertinent to the Okinawa operation—the need for illuminating shell for all mortars and artillery from 75-mm. through 155-mm. because of Japanese tactics in night raiding and infiltration—the response was equally discouraging. The only illuminating shell reportedly available in any quantity was that for the 60-mm. mortar.24

Colonel Daniels thought good use could be made of Canal Defense Light tanks. The Japanese in their campaign in Malaya had successfully made end runs at night along the coast, landing tanks from boats, and could be expected to do the same thing along the coast of Okinawa. Against such attacks, the CDL's with their blinding searchlights might be used to very good effect. General Buckner had never heard of the CDL's but after having been furnished a description he gave Daniels permission for a flight to Washington to round up a company. When Daniels got to Washington, he found that all of these special tanks had gone to England for shipment to France, but that he might expect some in several months. Accordingly, he put in a request for about 18 or 20 CDL's, and an officer and men trained in operating them. They did not arrive until late June 1945, after the Okinawa campaign was over.25

Not only on tanks and artillery but on new items such as the 57-mm. and 75-mm. recoilless rifles and VT fuzes, Europe had priority. In March 1945 the Ordnance Department sent fifty of each caliber recoilless rifle to Europe, with ammunition and instructors, for special operational use. The best Tenth Army Ordnance could do was to obtain a promise that a demonstration team would be sent to Okinawa after the invasion. The team arrived with two recoilless rifles of each type on 19 May 1945. In late April a team arrived to demonstrate the use of VT fuzes in ground combat (first used in this manner in the Ardennes), one of several teams sent to the Pacific that spring. Neither the recoilless rifle nor the VT fuze had any real effect on the outcome of the Okinawa



The only significant new ground materiel on Okinawa was contributed by the Chemical Warfare Service. The effectiveness of flame against Japanese bunkers and other strong fortifications had been demonstrated in January 1943 at Guadalcanal, where the first portable flame thrower was employed. Army Ground Forces soon thereafter wanted to mount a flame gun in a tank but tanks were scarce; it was spring of 1945 before four obsolete light tanks rigged with flame guns were shipped to the Pacific from the United States and they went to Luzon—the only "main armament" flame throwers produced in the United States to see combat. In the meantime, Chemical Warfare Service officers in Hawaii went ahead on their own without waiting for action from the United States, just as Ordnance officers in various theaters had learned to do in similar situations. With the assistance of the marines, Chemical Warfare Service installed a Canadian flame thrower in an obsolescent M3A1 tank, the only tank that could be obtained from Ordnance. Called the Satan, it was so successful at Saipan and Tinian in assaulting dugouts, canefields, buildings, and caves that Tenth Army requested that large capacity flame throwers, with the flame gun enclosed in a 75-mm. tube, be installed on 54 Sherman tanks. With a strong assist from the Seabees, this was done, and the 713th Provisional Flame Thrower Tank Battalion landed with Shermans early in the Okinawa operation. According to General Richardson, the flame throwing Shermans were "of incalculable value. In fact, the Infantry and the Marines came to rely on this weapon of warfare as their greatest support."27

The Landings on Kerama Retto

No landing in the Pacific involved such important—and daring—preliminaries as the landing on the western coast of Okinawa on 1 April 1945, a day called L-day. Sacrificing the element of surprise to the need for an advance base for ship refueling and repair, the Navy decided to seize on 26 March, nearly a week before L-day, a small group of rocky islands fifteen or so miles west of southern Okinawa known as the Kerama Retto. For this purpose a Western Islands Attack Force was formed. As the 77th Infantry Division was to be the Army element, men of the division's own 777th Ordnance Light Maintenance Company plus the attached 693d Ammunition Company and 193d Ordnance Depot Company detachment had the interesting prospect of being the first Ordnance men ashore in ICEBERG.28


As the ships of the Western Islands Attack Force approached the Kerama islands in the early hours of 26 March 1945, the setting moon made a golden path on the East China Sea. Soon the sky lightened; streaks of light from the coming dawn appeared in the east and revealed the invasion fleet—the Navy carriers and destroyers and the ships carrying the 77th Infantry Division. In the slow tractor flotilla that had left Leyte on 20 March were 22 LST's, 14 LSM's and 40 LCI's. In the faster convoy leaving two days later, were 20 transport and cargo vessels. Briefings on shipboard had indicated that few if any Ordnance men, after all, would be landed in this invasion. The plan was for three regimental combat teams of the 77th to make successive landings on the eight small islands, clear them of Japanese, and return to their ships. On only one island, Zamami, would a small garrison force remain to protect radio intelligence, air warning, air weather, and small boat installations planned for the island. If all went well, very likely the Ordnance maintenance, depot, and ammunition men would simply remain aboard their transports in readiness for the next 77th Division operation. But an invasion is a tricky thing, and the Ordnance men were to be involved in the one serious mishap of this one.29

Plowing through the waves of the East China Sea, rolling with the swells and kicking up white foam as she moved toward Kerama Retto at dawn on 26 March, the cargo vessel carrying the 777th Ordnance Light Maintenance Company was suddenly attacked by a Japanese bomber. With a shrill whistle followed by an explosion, a bomb crashed through the forward deck into the cargo compartment, flooding the hold and submerging the Ordnance vehicles and equipment. The deck shook violently, the ship lurched, and only a quick shift of ballast kept her from sinking. She lay helpless for days waiting for a tug, while the combat troops were successfully securing all the Kerama islands. Her cargo was unloaded into landing craft, with the help of ninety men from the 693d Ordnance Ammunition Company put ashore on Aka Shima; most of it went to Zamami for reconditioning and salvage. There remained the problem of the 23 trucks and 17 trailers still lying under water in the hold. The dripping vehicles were hoisted over the side into landing craft and taken to the tiny little island of Aegenesluku nearby, where they were beached and towed inland by a bulldozer landed from another ship. Also put ashore was a 31-man detachment from the 777th Ordnance Light Maintenance Company, along with truck drivers and tools and spare parts. On the barren little island inhabited only by five inquisitive goats, the men spent eight days, provided daily with food, water, and other supplies by boat, completely reworking the vehicles and thus saving them to play their part later on le Shima and Okinawa.30

Nor was this the end of bad luck for the Ordnance men with the Western Islands Attack Force. After the successful inva-


sion of the Kerama Retto, the transports carrying the re-embarked 77th Division retired southward to wait for orders for the next operation, the capture of the island of Ie Shima far to the north off the Okinawan coast. At evening on 2 April this group came under severe attack by kamikazes. One of them crashed the attack transport Goodhue, carrying most of the 693d Ordnance Ammunition Company. The Ordnance men escaped injury, but 24 soldiers and sailors were killed and 119 were wounded.31

In the meantime, there had taken place the surprising landings on Okinawa.







Previous Chapter        Next Chapter

Return to the Table of Contents

Search CMH Online
Last updated 11 January 2007