During World War II, the U.S. 10th Army overcomes the last major pockets of Japanese resistance on Okinawa Island, ending one of the bloodiest battles of World War II. The same day, Japanese Lieutenant General Mitsuru Ushijima, the commander of Okinawa’s defense, committed suicide with a number of Japanese officers and troops rather than surrender.
READ MORE: Remembering the Battle of Okinawa
On April 1, 1945, the 10th Army, under Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner, launched the invasion of Okinawa, a strategic Pacific island located midway between Japan and Formosa. Possession of Okinawa would give the United States a base large enough for an invasion of the Japanese home islands. There were more than 100,000 Japanese defenders on the island, but most were deeply entrenched in the island’s densely forested interior. By the evening of April 1, 60,000 U.S. troops had come safely ashore. However, on April 4, Japanese land resistance stiffened, and at sea kamikaze pilots escalated their deadly suicide attacks on U.S. vessels.
During the next month, the battle raged on land and sea, with the Japanese troops and fliers making the Americans pay dearly for every strategic area of land and water won. On June 18, with U.S. victory imminent, General Buckner was killed by Japanese artillery. Three days later, his 10th Army reached the southern coast of the island, and on June 22 Japanese resistance effectively came to an end.
The Japanese lost 120,000 troops in the defense of Okinawa, while the Americans suffered 12,500 dead and 35,000 wounded. Of the 36 Allied ships lost, most were destroyed by the 2,000 or so Japanese pilots who gave up their lives in kamikaze missions. With the capture of Okinawa, the Allies prepared for the invasion of Japan, a military operation predicted to be far bloodier than the 1944 Allied invasion of Western Europe. The plan called for invading the southern island of Kyushu in November 1945, and the main Japanese island of Honshu in March 1946. In July, however, the United States successfully tested an atomic bomb and after dropping two of these devastating weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August, Japan surrendered.
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