USS Hornet (CV-12) – A Father’s Untold War Story – Battle of Okinawa (April – June 1945)(Part 2)

Posted: July 28, 2017 in History, World War II
Tags: , , , , ,
John T. Ryan US Navy

John T. Ryan US Navy

It is May 1945, the world is still at war and my father, Seaman First Class, John Thomas Ryan is still serving on the USS Hornet (CV-12).  In my last posts, I began the Battle of Okinawa and covered April 1945.  In this post, the battle continues with May 1945.

Note:  Much of the story of the Battle of Okinawa is a story of the land battle and the US Army and Marines.  Since my writing is about the USS Hornet, I only cover the story as it  relates to the carrier.  The rest is too much to write about.  The full story is available from many other sources.

General Background (Source:

I shared this background information previously.  The Battle of Okinawa, codenamed Operation Iceberg, was fought on the Ryukyu Islands of Okinawa and was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific War of World War II. The 82-day-long battle lasted from early April until mid-June 1945. After a long campaign of island hopping, the Allies were approaching Japan, and planned to use Okinawa, a large island only 340 mi (550 km) away from mainland Japan, as a base for air operations on the planned invasion of Japanese mainland (coded Operation Downfall). Four divisions of the U.S. 10th Army (the 7th, 27th, 77th, and 96th) and two Marine Divisions (the 1st and 6th) fought on the island. Their invasion was supported by naval, amphibious, and tactical air forces.

The battle has been referred to as the “typhoon of steel” in English, and tetsu no ame (“rain of steel”) or tetsu no bōfū (“violent wind of steel”) in Japanese. The nicknames refer to the ferocity of the fighting, the intensity of kamikaze attacks from the Japanese defenders, and to the sheer numbers of Allied ships and armored vehicles that assaulted the island. The battle resulted in the highest number of casualties in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Based on Okinawan government sources, mainland Japan lost 77,166 soldiers, who were either killed or committed suicide, and the Allies suffered 14,009 deaths (with an estimated total of more than 65,000 casualties of all kinds). Simultaneously, 42,000–150,000 local civilians were killed or committed suicide, a significant proportion of the local population. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki together with the Soviet invasion of Manchuria caused Japan to surrender less than two months after the end of the fighting on Okinawa.

Nimitz reveals to the world the news of U.S. invasion of Okinawa, 325 miles from Tokyo. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy)

Nimitz reveals to the world the news of U.S. invasion of Okinawa, 325 miles from Tokyo. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy)

And now, the USS Hornet (CV-12) in May 1945.

According to the USS Hornet (CV-12) ship’s log:

1 May 1945 – The first day of a period of replenishment and recreation

9 May 1945 – Underway from Ulithi.

12 May 1945 – Strikes launched against ground targets on Okinawa.

13 May 1945 – HORNET air wing attacked the giant Kumatomo aircraft plant in Southern Kyushu.

13-14 May 1945 – Strikes made on airfields at Kyushu and on shipping in that area.

17-19 May 1945 – Repeated attacks against Okinawa.

20-22 May 1945 – Photo missions and strikes were made on teh Wan Airfield area of Kikni Shima.

24 May 1945 – A sweep of 24 fighters was launched to attack Miyazaki Airfield in in southeastern Kyushu.

25-31 May 1945 – Strikes were made on Okinawa when whether permitted.

From the war diary found on the website, Fold3:

The Hornet weighed anchor on 9 May 1945 and set sail for Kyushu.  The second week in May the ship’s work began again in earnest.  The Air Group set out to attack airfields, installations, aircraft assembly plants, and factories on the Japanese home islands of Kyushu and Shikoku, and diversified and supporting strikes against the Amami Gunto and Okinawa.  Over this later target, especially, the pilots laid down some of their most blistering attacks, supporting our ground forces, dropping bombs at the mouths of caves, and maintaining absolute mastery of the skies over the island.

Mother’s Day, 13 May 1945, was a day of heavy activity.  The ship was at general quarters most of the day.  Many sorties (an attack made by troops coming out from a position of defense) were carried out that day against Kanoya and Izumi on Kyushu, and against the field and seaplane base at Saeki.  Shops, hangers, A/A positions, and planes were strafed and bombed.  A schooner and another small crafter were sunk, and 5 small cargo ships were damaged. Twenty-eight twin-engined bombers and eight fighters were destroyed on the ground, and forty six were probably destroyed or damaged.

80-G-331621: Japanese plane being shot down by gunfire on 14 May

The next day, 14 May 1945, was also a busy and eventful day.  The ship was at general quarters twice between midnight and sunrise.  One of the bogies came in close and was fire upon by other ships in the group.  Later one explosed within the screen, and an apparent Kamikaze suicide plane, headed for the Hornet, was splashed by the ship’s gunfire. Our planes hit the great Kumamoto aircraft assembly plant (photo above) in southern Kyushu and found this a prime target, as it was one of the few important places remaining.  Also on the 14 May 1945 strikes were made on Tachairai Field, Matsuyama West Field on Shikoku, and also Kochi and Kushira.  Seven single-engined fighters wer shot down by the air group on this day.  For the next ten days targets were scarce.  Combat air patrols and effective supporting strikes at Okinawa, and strikes at Amami Kikae, and Tokuno were the principal operations carried out.

Blasting Miyazaki Airfield and Shops, Kyushi Japan 1945 (US AF Photo)

24 May 1945 was a good day for ten planes were burned on the ground and many others damaged at Miyazaki, Kyushu.  In eighteen days of operations during May, there were 771 sorties over enemy areas, 317 defensive patrols, and 246 miscellaneous hops, making a total of 1,334.

Don’t know what month in 1945 this photo is from. A row of 20 mm Oerlikon guns aboard the Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Hornet 1945 (CV-12) [2465 2617]

On 27 May 1945, Task Group 58.1 passed from operational control of Commander Fifth Fleet to Commander Third Fleet.

To further explain this pass of operational control.  The protracted length of the campaign under stressful conditions forced Admiral Chester W. Nimitz to take the unprecedented step of relieving the principal naval commanders to rest and recuperate. Following the practice of changing the fleet designation with the change of commanders, US naval forces began the campaign as the US 5th Fleet under Adm. Raymond Spruance, but ended it as the 3rd Fleet under Adm. William Halsey.

Meanwhile this same month in the World War

Sir Winston Churchill VE Day

VE Day Celebration

  1. I remember VE day very clearly, my brother and I were amongst that massive throng that stood and cheered outside Buckingham Palace when the King and Queen and Winston Churchill waved from the balcony.

    • That must have been something. Did you live in London during the Blitz?

      • Not all of it, my brother and I got packed off to Somerset for a while. I can remember quite clearly watching the German Bombers, dropping their loads, and fighter escorts Me109s engaging with the RAF Spitfires & Hurricanes, Even in Somerset I recall watching Jerry’s bombers flying west, obviously heading for Ireland, which was a neutral state, and freedom from the war, once they’d ditched their aircraft. This is not discussed of course. I have recalled some experiences on my blog,

  2. oldpoet56 says:

    Excellent article, I am going to reblog this article for you.

  3. geezer94 says:

    Inspirational …as a carrier sailor I can well invision what happened. What a grand read! g

  4. Jennie says:

    Outstanding post!

  5. jfwknifton says:

    Arthur Harris, the man in charge of Bomber Command famously remarked “I do not personally regard the whole of the remaining cities of Germany as worth the bones of one British Grenadier.” God only knows what he would have made of the Japanese and what one highly respected historian, SIr Max Hastings, has called their “demented code of Bushido”.
    Excellent article and great photographs!

  6. Excellent. Thanks, GP and Maryann.

  7. lobotero says:

    excellent post…kudos….chuq

  8. GP Cox says:

    Reblogged this on Pacific Paratrooper and commented:
    Looking from the Naval point of view for May 1945.

  9. Reblogged this on IF I ONLY HAD A TIME MACHINE and commented:

    From my other site. Hope you like it.

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