Operation Iceberg, Love day, Easter, and April Fools!

2980562321_1_3_lLkoYYi6Happy Resurrection Day!!  That is the day we celebrate as I write this blog today March 27, 2016. This day is more commonly known as Easter.  71 years ago it was Easter April 1st, 1945. It was also “Love day” and April Fools day all at the same time. It was also the day to begin “OPERATION ICEBERG.” So what does an Iceberg have in common with Love, and Easter? Well certainly there was and is Love with the Resurrection,   but would it be the same in the operation of Fools? I mean – remember the Titanic and the iceberg? The ship was lost. Ships were also lost in this – Operation Iceberg.  Does April Fools day have a play here? I have an opinion that one group of men mentioned in this writing may have been deceived into thinking they were doing the right thing for their emperor, but maybe they had been fooled.  The one who was resurrected will be that judge. So what was the Operation Iceberg? The following will explain it.

OPERATION ICEBERG was about the battle for Okinawa.   “Love Day” was the name given to the 1st day of the landings. Those landings would commence at 0406 on April 1st, Love Day, which was also Easter Sunday and April Fools Day. It was that time on that special day that Admiral Turner announced “Land the Landing Force!”  Read the story in “Pain and Purpose in the Pacific.”  But first, here is a bit of the history.

In an Internet website called “The Battle of Okinawa, WWII History,” Kennedy Hickman tells us –

Having “island-hopped” across the Pacific, Allied forces sought to capture an island near Japan to serve as a base for air operations in support of the proposed invasion of the Home Islands. Assessing their options, the Allies decided to land on Okinawa in the Ryukyu Islands. Dubbed Operation Iceberg, planning began with Lieutenant General Simon B. Buckner’s Tenth Army tasked with taking the island. The operation was scheduled to move forward following the conclusion of fighting on Iwo Jima.

From “Pain and Purpose in the Pacific” the Operation is further explained.

Under Admiral Raymond Spruance, Commander of the Fifth Fleet, and assigned to the actual seizure of Okinawa and a number of other islands in the Ryukyus chain, was the Joint Expeditionary Force 51, which as on Iwo Jima was under the command of Admiral Kelly Turner, Task Force 51 was an Army, Navy,  Marine Corps organization that included the Expeditionary Troops, Task Force 56, and its supporting  air and sea units. After Iwo Jima, General “Howlin Mad” Smith lost his job as Commanding General Simon B. Buckner Jr. was giver command of the assault troops of Task Force 56. This would include the newly created Tenth Army.

Lieutenant General Buckner, as commander of Tenth Army (and the son of a confederate General that fought Ulysses S. Grant in American’s Civil War), would command the combined invasion forces of the 10th Amphibious Force, and ground operations on Okinawa. The Tenth Army was the 1st Army to arise under the command of Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief Pacific Fleet (CINPAC), and Commander in Chief Pacific Ocean Areas (CINCPOA). It consisted of 4 Army and 2 Marine Divisions. Marine Major General Roy Geiger would lead the invasion called “OPERATION ICEBERG.

The invading Marine Divisions were under the command of Marine Major General Roy S. Geiger, commander of the III Amphibious Corps (IIIAC). They were the 1st and 6th Divisions, with the 2nd Marine Division in floating reserve. The 2nd would stay on the ships, and then be sent back to Saipan until needed.

The Army Divisions were under the command of General John R. Hodge, commander of XXIV Corps. They were the 7th, 77th, 96th, 81st Divisions, with the 27th Army Division in floating reserve. Marine Major General Francis P. Mulcahy commanded the Tactical Air Force. Transportation to the landing beaches for the Marines and the Army Division selected was provided by more than 1,400 LVTs, 360 LVTAs, and nearly 700 DUKWs. The DUKWs of the 2nd Amphibious DUKW Company, where my uncle PFC Carl Johnson was assigned, would support mainly the 6th Marine Division, but also the 1st Division and Army units as needed.

Under the command of Admiral Ray Spruance, Commander of Fifth Fleet, and Admiral Kelly Turner commanding Task Force 51, were Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher heading up Task Force 58, and British Royal Navy’s Vice Admiral Sir Bernard Rawlings who was to lead the British Task Force 57. The British Task Force included 4 carriers, 2 battleships, 5 cruisers, and 15 destroyers. American historians recorded that in total there were 1,457 ships assembled with 182,821 assault troops, which surpassed by 75,000 those that were landed on D-Day at Normandy. But before Okinawa was secured, about 548,000 Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, assigned to the Navy, would help with sea rescue and coxswain duties as they had done throughout the Pacific campaigns.

In order to support this huge invasion force, the logistics plan for the Okinawa campaign had to be the most elaborate one of its kind developed during World War II. This called for the establishment of a 6,000 mile-long supply line to be stretched across the vast Pacific Ocean. The Allied ships were loaded with 746,850 measurement tons of cargo loaded into 434 assault transports and other landing ships. It was the largest naval operation ever mounted in the Pacific. Some of these many ships would be sunk by what was called by the Japanese “The Divine Wind.” The allies would know them as Kamikazes.

The men from Japan’s 205th Air Group – the kamikaze unit – inflicted serious losses on the American Pacific fleet, but especially so at Okinawa.  C. N. Trueman “Kamikazes and World War Two“ tells us in the historylearningsite.co.uk. The History Learning Site, 19 May 2015. 3 Mar 2016 = Kamikazes and the creed that went with the kamikazes in World War Two is usually associated with those Japanese pilots who flew into American warships in an effort to sink them. Why did they do that? It is generally thought that those men who volunteered to join the 205th Air Group were given a guarantee of a place in heaven for sacrificing their life for the emperor.  And in addition to the aircraft flying into the ships, there were other forms of kamikazes such as the human torpedoes that the Japanese used in the Pacific. This was the suicide bomber of their day – their last day. That would seem to be to be the operation of fools. But that is only my opinion and not that of the men that expected to go to heaven by pleasing their emperor. This could not be thought of as simply “foolish.” This was war.

Flying around 1,900 kamikaze missions, the Japanese sunk 36 Allied ships, mostly amphibious vessels and destroyers. An additional 368 were damaged. As a result of these attacks, 4,907 sailors were killed and 4,874 were wounded.

Historian Kennedy Hickman tells us as a result of one of the longest and costliest battles of the Pacific Theater, Okinawa saw American forces sustain 49,151 casualties (12,520 killed), while the Japanese incurred 117,472 (110,071 killed). In addition, 142,058 civilians became casualties. Though effectively reduced to a wasteland, Okinawa quickly became a key military asset for the Allies as it provided a key fleet anchorage and troop staging areas. In addition, it gave the Allies airfields that were only 350 miles from Japan.

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