Posts Tagged ‘Battle of Okinawa’

John T. Ryan US Navy

John T. Ryan US Navy

It is April 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 covered the Battle of Iwo Jima and other events in February and March 1945 leading up to the Battle of Okinawa.  This post will be the first for the Battle of Okinawa and cover April 1945.

General Background (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Okinawa)

ww2 asia map 47

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.

USS Hornet (CV-12) operating near Okinawa, 27 March 1945. The ship is painted in camouflage Measure 33, Design 3a. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives (photo # 80-G-K-14466).

USS Hornet (CV-12) operating near Okinawa, 27 March 1945. The ship is painted in camouflage Measure 33, Design 3a.
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives (photo # 80-G-K-14466).

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)

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

6/7 Apr 1945 – Okinawa Invasion. During the period more than 500 Japanese planes attacked task force. Of the 152 shot down, HORNET scoreboard tallied more than one third of the kills.

Sixteen F6F Hellcats from VF-17 running up their Pratt & Whitney R-2800's on April 6, 1945 to attack the Japanese battleship Yamato and her escorts.

Sixteen F6F Hellcats from VF-17 running up their Pratt & Whitney R-2800’s on April 6, 1945 to attack the Japanese battleship Yamato and her escorts.

07 Apr 1945 – HORNET pilots find and conducted initial attacks on the largest Japanese battleship YAMATO which is left sinking.

14-16 Apr 1945 – HORNET aircrews downed more than 60 Japanese planes along Kyushu.

From the war diary found on the website, Fold3:

East Sunday, 1 April 1945, was LOVE Day of the operations against Okinawa and the Task Group’s (58.1) mission was to furnish air support to forces of Task Force 51 which were making the initial landings.  These strikes continued with scattered enemy air assault.  Friday, 6 April 1945 was a “Field Day”.  The Hornet fliers shot down 53 enemy planes, and the ship’s personnel were at General Quarters most of the day, dodging the “Banzai Boys”.

Hornet under attack as seen from Bennington (CV-20), April 1945. Photo by Lowell Love.

Hornet under attack as seen from Bennington (CV-20), April 1945. Photo by Lowell Love.

USS Hornet (CV-12), along with USS Bennington (CV-20), shooting down a kamikaze off Okinawa, April 1945.

USS Hornet (CV-12), along with USS Bennington (CV-20), shooting down a kamikaze off Okinawa, April 1945.

Early on the morning of 7 April 1945, Navy search planes far to the north reported the incredible feet that an enemy task force, comprising the heaviest and fastest warships Japan still possessed, had left its bases in the Inland Sea, steamed stealthily along the coasts of Kyushu during the night and was now headed into the East China Sea.  The entire Task Force (TF 58) raced northward at top speed, and shortly after noon flight quarters sounded and the planes were launched.  The Yamato was mortally wounded by eight torpedo hits and eight 1000 lb. bombs, racked by a series of tremendous explosions and sank beneath the waters of the China Sea less than sixty miles from Kyushu, her guns blazing to the very end.  Two cruisers and three destroyers shared her fate, while the remaining six destroyers, heavily damaged, were left burning in the water.

"A Kamikaze just misses USS Hornet. This picture was taken on the USS Hornet (CV-12) off Okinawa during April 1945 by Photographer’s Mate 2/c Paul D. Guttman, and it was definitely not taken with a telephoto lens! The black specks visible in the midst of the blast aren't flaws in the film, they're bits of shrapnel from the exploding plane. Paul was knocked unconscious by the blast, and came to later, in sick bay. He wasn't even aware that he'd taken this picture until sometime later, after the film was developed!" "The other carrier visible in the background, wreathed in smoke from the firing of her own AA guns, is supposedly USS Intrepid (CV-11) [(?)]."

“A Kamikaze just misses USS Hornet. This picture was taken on the USS Hornet (CV-12) off Okinawa during April 1945 by Photographer’s Mate 2/c Paul D. Guttman, and it was definitely not taken with a telephoto lens! The black specks visible in the midst of the blast aren’t flaws in the film, they’re bits of shrapnel from the exploding plane. Paul was knocked unconscious by the blast, and came to later, in sick bay. He wasn’t even aware that he’d taken this picture until sometime later, after the film was developed!”
“The other carrier visible in the background, wreathed in smoke from the firing of her own AA guns, is supposedly USS Intrepid (CV-11) [(?)].”

Later that afternoon (7 April 1945), two twin-engined enemy Frances’ got through the Task Groups protecting patrol and pounced upon the formation.  They were detected and blasted out of the air within a few thousand yards of the Hornet due to the expert marksmanship of the Hornet’s gunners.

The next several days saw the Hornet’s Air Group ranging up and down the Ryukyu chain, striking at opportune targets. Kikai, Tanoga Shima, Amami O Shima, enemy ground forces on Okinawa, and even Kyushu itself felt the burning sting of our strafing, bombs, and rockets. On Saturday, 14 April 1945, two Bettys carrying rocket planes were shot down.  This rocket plane with rider is called “Baka”, the Japanese name for fool.  Also on 14 April 1945, one of the patrols shot down 18 planes which were trying to reach our force. In the afternoon two planes were splashed by ship’s gunfire.  Sunday and Monday, 15, 16 April 1945 were also days of accomplishment.  The ship was at General Quarters most of the time.  From late Sunday night to early Monday morning the ship was under constant attack in the light of flares almost as bright as day, and much credit goes to the night fighters for their skill in breaking up attacks before the enemy could get in on us.  Monday, 16 April 1945, was another “Field Day” for the Task Group.  Here is an itemization of the results:

  • Early in the morning one of the night fighters shot down a Betty, and ship’s gunfire bagged a low flying heavy enemy plane.
  • Sweeps to Kyushu shot down out of the air fourteen single-engined planes, burned ten on the ground and seriously damaged ten planes which did not burn.
  • The 16 April 1945 saw a total of seventy two airborne planes shot down by this Task Group.
  • No pilots were lost that day.

From the 18 – 27 April 1945 continuous strikes were made against the areas of Kikai-anami, Tokuno, Okinawa, Minami, Daito Jima, and Kita Daito Jima. Napalm was dropped on several of these strikes with generally good results.  The Task Group began retirement towards Ulithi on the 27th and anchored in the Ulithi Harbor on the 30 April, 1945.

Unique shot of a VF-17 Hellcat being lowered down Hornet's deck edge elevator showing her geometric tail and wingtip design, April 1945.

Unique shot of a VF-17 Hellcat being lowered down Hornet’s deck edge elevator showing her geometric tail and wingtip design, April 1945.

John T. Ryan US Navy

John T. Ryan US Navy

The world is still at war and my father, Seaman First Class, John Thomas Ryan is still serving on the USS Hornet (CV-12).

I recently accessed a war diary on the website Fold3.  This war diary provides a narrative of the Hornet’s activities during each month.  Most of my posts on this blog have been based on factual sources about the war in the pacific and where the Hornet was involved; however there wasn’t always something in those sources specifically about the Hornet.  I plan to go back to some of my previous posts and add some of these pieces of information.  Recently I added the January – March 1944 and the December 1944 information.

According to the ship’s log:

16 Feb 1945 – HORNET launches pre-dawn strikes on Tokyo to resume where HORNET (CV-8) had left off 34 months before.

Late Feb 1945 – Strikes in support of Iwo Jima invasion.

In part 1, I covered February 1945

19 Mar 1945 – Strikes conducted against Kobe and Kure while HORNET cruised 40 miles off Japanese coast.

Kobe, Japan after the 1945 Air Raids

Kobe, Japan after the 1945 Air Raids

 

Map showing the destroyed areas.

Map showing the destroyed areas.

Three Japanese aircraft carriers and an unidentified submarine in Kure Bay, during strikes by US Navy carrier planes, March 19, 1945. Carrier at the extreme right is IJN Kaiyo. Those in the center top (barely visible) and at the bottom are probably IJN Amagi and IJN Katsuragi. The submarine is underway in the upper left. Photographed by an Air Group 17 plane from USS Hornet (CV-12). Kaiyo, a 16,748-ton escort aircraft carrier, was built at Nagasaki, Japan, as a civilian passenger liner. Source: http://worldwar2database.com/gallery/wwii1251

Three Japanese aircraft carriers and an unidentified submarine in Kure Bay, during strikes by US Navy carrier planes, March 19, 1945. Carrier at the extreme right is IJN Kaiyo. Those in the center top (barely visible) and at the bottom are probably IJN Amagi and IJN Katsuragi. The submarine is underway in the upper left. Photographed by an Air Group 17 plane from USS Hornet (CV-12). Kaiyo, a 16,748-ton escort aircraft carrier, was built at Nagasaki, Japan, as a civilian passenger liner. Source: http://worldwar2database.com/gallery/wwii1251

From the war diary found on the website, Fold3:

March, 1945 – A month of Sever-Tolling Strikes.  The first few days in March 1945 were occupied in singeing the board of the Japanese Emperor. Up and down along the fringe of the important Ryukyu chain, or Nansei Shoto, the ships of the fast carrier task force ranged,lashing out with crippling strikes against Okinawa and other islands with our fighter, torpedo, and bombing planes. The Japanese themselves estimated the number at more than six hundred.

Location of the Ryukyu Islands.  In an attempt to include a picture of Nansei Shoto Island, I learned unless I am mistaken that they are one in the same.

Location of the Ryukyu Islands. In an attempt to include a picture of Nansei Shoto Island, I learned unless I am mistaken that they are one in the same.

Nansei Shoto (Ryukyu Islands - Loochoo Islands) Source: http://www.baxleystamps.com/litho/nansei_shoto.shtml A Pocket Guide

Nansei Shoto
(Ryukyu Islands – Loochoo Islands)
Source: http://www.baxleystamps.com/litho/nansei_shoto.shtml
A Pocket Guide

US Government: Nansei Shoto (Ryukyu Island - Loochoo Islands), A Pocket Guide, US Government, ca 1945 (pre-invasion - April 1, 1945), pamphlet, 2 maps, 9 illustrations (most cartoon type drawings), 4 1/4 x 5 1/4 in, paper wraps, staple bound, 39 pp (2 blank for "Notes"). Reproduced by 30th engineer Base Top BN. USAFCPBC. No. 5356. This is obviously a pocket guide prepared for troops about to engage in the Nansei Shoto (Okinawa) campaign of WWII. Loaded with basic information and guidance to include an "English into Japanese" section with such terms as "Cease fire!," "If you resist you will be shot!," and "Shut up!." A typical government undertaking. Everything the American GI would need to know for the pending invasion of Okinawa. Source: http://www.baxleystamps.com/litho/nansei_shoto.shtml

US Government:
Nansei Shoto (Ryukyu Island – Loochoo Islands), A Pocket Guide, US Government, ca 1945 (pre-invasion – April 1, 1945), pamphlet, 2 maps, 9 illustrations (most cartoon type drawings), 4 1/4 x 5 1/4 in, paper wraps, staple bound, 39 pp (2 blank for “Notes”). Reproduced by 30th engineer Base Top BN. USAFCPBC. No. 5356. This is obviously a pocket guide prepared for troops about to engage in the Nansei Shoto (Okinawa) campaign of WWII. Loaded with basic information and guidance to include an “English into Japanese” section with such terms as “Cease fire!,” “If you resist you will be shot!,” and “Shut up!.” A typical government undertaking. Everything the American GI would need to know for the pending invasion of Okinawa. Source: http://www.baxleystamps.com/litho/nansei_shoto.shtml

Our forces sank or damaged 55 of Japan’s ships, destroyed or damaged 91 planes; and smashed and burned their military installations such as radio stations, buildings, hangers and barracks.  From March 4th through 14th 1945, the Hornet was at anchor in Ulithi harbor.  The usual replenishment of supplies and recreational parties took place.

Hornet, showing heavy weathering and rust after more than a year of sustained combat and salt water, anchored at Ulithi on March 6, 1945 with Air Group 17 on deck. LCI(L)-1052 is in the foreground.

Hornet, showing heavy weathering and rust after more than a year of sustained combat and salt water, anchored at Ulithi on March 6, 1945 with Air Group 17 on deck. LCI(L)-1052 is in the foreground.

The ship weighed anchor on the 14 March 1945 and set her course for Kyushu.  The 18 March 1945 was occupied in heavy strikes against the southernmost part of the Japanese home islands: Kyushi, Shikoku, Honshu, and the Inland Sea.  The principal targets were airfields.  The planes of the Task Group (58.1) came in so fast that by noon 800 had been sent out and by 2 p.m. 1400 had been sent out.  The devastating blows of our airmen against Kure Bay in the Inland Sea where a large portion of the enemy fleet was hiding, marked a day of brilliant activity that will long be remembered in the history of Naval Air warfare.

One of VB-17's SB2C Helldivers taxiing out for launch, March 1945.

One of the USS Hornet’s VB-17’s SB2C Helldivers taxiing out for launch, March 1945.

The Task Group’s score:

  • Ships sunk:  Six freighters
  • Ships badly damaged: One or two battleships, two or three large aircraft carriers, two light aircraft carriers, two escort carriers, one heavy cruiser, one light cruiser, four destroyers, one submarine, one destroyer escort, seven freighters.
  • Aircraft: 281 planes shot down out of the air, 275 destroyed on the ground, more than 100 damaged in the first days attacks, and a large number damaged in the second day’s attacks.
  • Ground installations: Hangers, shops, arsenals, and storage facilities were destroyed.
Hornet recovering and Bennington (CV-20) launching aircraft off the coast of Japan, March 1945. (National Archives photo).

Hornet recovering and Bennington (CV-20) launching aircraft off the coast of Japan, March 1945. (National Archives photo).

This video is freely downloadable at the Internet Archive, where it was uploaded by WWIIPublicDomain. Naval Photographic Center film # 11149. National Archives description “This film shows Okinawa under a bombing attack and views of the USS Hornet (CV-12).” National Archives Identifier: 2462408 Invasion of Okinawa: The USS Hornet, 03/19, 1945 (full)

During this time, our fleet was under heavy air attack.  The afternoon of 21 March 1945 at least twenty “Bettys’ with escorting fighters were on their way to get the ships.  The Hornet’s CAP broke up the attack completely by shooting down 16 of the Bettys and 14 of the fighters.  Three fighters and one Betty were damaged.  The rest high-tailed for home.

planes

Beginning on 23 March 1945, preliminary neutralizing strikes were sent out against Korama Rotto, which was shortly thereafter successfully invaded.  The islands of Miyako, Mikusuki, Amami O Shima, Kikai and Minami Daito are generally in this area.  On 24 March 1945, Lt. (jg) W.B. Vail and Walter F. Miller made the 18,000th landing on the Hornet.

March 1945, with Air Group 17 on the flight deck. National Archives.

March 1945, with Air Group 17 on the flight deck. National Archives.

Another aerial view of USS Hornet (CV-12) during operations off Okinawa, in March 1945, with Air Group 17 aboard.

Another aerial view of USS Hornet (CV-12) during operations off Okinawa, in March 1945, with Air Group 17 aboard.

Another aerial view of USS Hornet (CV-12) underway, that might have been taken at the same time as the photos above

Another aerial view of USS Hornet (CV-12) underway, that might have been taken at the same time as the photos above

USS Hornet (CV-12) operating near Okinawa, 27 March 1945. The ship is painted in camouflage Measure 33, Design 3a. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives (photo # 80-G-K-14466).

USS Hornet (CV-12) operating near Okinawa, 27 March 1945. The ship is painted in camouflage Measure 33, Design 3a.
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives (photo # 80-G-K-14466).

In the last 13 days of March 1945 in attacks on the Ryukyus and Kyushu, the task force (58.1) planes destroyed 750 Japanese planes, damaged 217, sank 34 ships, probably sunk 14 more and damaged 33.  This is why there was so little initial enemy interference with the Okinawa invasion.

What else happened in the US Navy during March 1945 – USS Franklin (CV-13) bombed.

This is one of three videos about the USS Franklin’s attack in March 1945.  The other two cover her recovery.