Thursday, April 01, 2010

Okinawa Vision

It was Easter, and the American troops who landed on the beaches without any casualties considered it a miracle. It was also April Fools Day...

Sixty-five years ago today, less than three and one-half years after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the culminating battle of the War with Japan began with landings on the island of Okinawa, 340 miles south of the Japanese home islands. The fighting on Okinawa claimed one of the highest casualty totals of the entire Second World War and presaged what planned landings on the home islands themselves would cost. The savagery and carnage of smaller island fights from Guadalcanal to Iwo Jima was writ large on Okinawa.

At Okinawa, Japanese regular and irregular land forces numbered greater than 110,000. The American 10th Army, whose task it was to wrest Okinawa from the Japanese, consisted of over 180,000 soldiers and Marines in four Army and three Marine Divisions. Instead of contesting the landing beaches as had been the Japanese strategy theretofore, the Japanese commander on Okinawa massed his forces inland in rugged terrain and intended to bleed the attackers white in order to give them a foretaste of what it would mean to carry the fight to the Japanese home islands.

In that regard, he was very successful.

While the fighting ashore on Okinawa ground opposing forces in a horrific meat grinder, U.S. and British naval forces offshore endured their own maelstrom. Kamikaze attacks sank a dozen ships and killed over 5000 U.S. sailors--a total greater than that suffered by either the Army or the Marine Corps, separately, on land.
Japanese forces killed numbered over 100,000 and civilian deaths, by some estimates, matched or exceeded that total.

Harry Truman, who assumed the Presidency while the brutal battles on and around Okinawa raged, was faced with the prospect of a butcher's bill twenty times the cost of U.S. and Japanese lives on Okinawa, were landings on the Japanese home islands required to bring the War with Japan to a satisfactory conclusion. Waging atomic war was a no-brainer, and ultimately saved both Japanese and American lives.

Oh, and the Japanese have been our closest allies and most valuable trading partners ever since.

Were the strategists currently designing our facetious "Long War" campaigns against the Islamo-fascist threat to civilization in charge of our response to Japanese Imperial aggression, the Colonel wonders what the fight in the Pacific would have looked like.

Would we be timidly and selectively fighting Japanese tactics? Would we still be fighting, and losing, a "Long War" against Japanese militarism?

The Colonel has long maintained that our war against Islamo-fascism could have been satisfactorily concluded five years ago. "Long Wars" are unwinnable, particularly by democratic republics whose citizenry rapidly tire of protracted military campaigns, and whose politicians use the war and its costs as campaign fodder.

But, what does this old knuckle-dragger know?

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