It was 1 April 1945, Easter Sunday, there were 1200 ships in the East China Sea off the coast of Okinawa and 1500 planes flying overhead that day. Dad had attended church service and was getting ready for the invasion of Hagushi beach at dawn. He was on board an LST(Land Ship, Tank), the US Navy was bombing the island both from the ships and by air creating a smoky haze to provide cover for the men that were about to land on the beach. Ahead of the LST’s were Navy gunboats. The bombing lasted for 3 hours prior to the landing. The first waves of men landed at 830 and surprisingly there was no resistance from the Japanese. The 6th and 1st Marines landed to the North and the 7th and 96th Army Divisions landed to the South. They were in the middle of the island and the Marines were going to take the North part of the island and the Army the South. By invading the middle of the island, they were splitting the Japanese troops from each other.
Leading up to L day, there was extensive bombing of the island to soften the target. Holes were blasted into the seawall to make it easy to move troops and tanks through. Leaflets were dropped to the civilians. The sea was swept for mines. There were aerial photos taken to help plan the attack. Okinawa is 60 miles long and from 2 to 18 miles wide. It was estimated that there were 56,000 Japanese troops on the island.
The Japanese considered Okinawa their home territory. Tokyo Radio declared that the time for the decisive battle has finally come upon us. In his speech to the troops, General Bradley stated “You go into this operation as conquerers. You will land on the soil of Japan.”
By the end of the day, 60,000 men landed on the beach and had started to move inland. My dad, Private Harry Rice Jr was part of the 96th Division nicknamed the Deadeyes. He was in the 383rd Infantry Company K. According to his notes, “after they landed they had to use a ladder to get over a 12 foot sea wall and they progressed 1500 yards the first day without much opposition. The second day they followed the highway alongside the ridge and took a small town. They took several hundred civilians captive, found in the tombs, several had committed hari-kari. The third day was a tough one, taking a good size town, Chatan, and also tried to take the hill to the left and outside of town, but was driven off. The hill was stronger than we expected.” This is where his notes ended. To be continued.
The Deadeye Dispatch, April 1, 1945 Volume 4 No. 1.
Appleman, Roy E., et al. Okinawa: The Last Battle. United States Army in World War II. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1948.