April 17-30 1945 – Assault of Tanabaru and Maeda Escarpment
The period of April 17-30, was a distinct phase of the 96-ID’s Campaign on Okinawa. Initially the 96-ID had established its beachhead and then turned south, driving along the west coast of the island with the 7-ID on its left. Beginning April 15, the XXIV Corps committed the 27-ID on the Corps’ right flank and employed a three-division front in an attempt to break the strong enemy defenses which had halted our initial rapid advance to tho south. This shifted the 96-ID to a zone running generally north and south through the middle of the island, in the center of the line, with the 27-ID on its right and the 7-ID on its left. Within this new zone the 96-ID continued its drive to the south until relieved by the 77-ID on April 30. During this offensive two successive enemy lines of defense were encountered. These lines, composed of intricate cave and pillbox defenses, centered chiefly on two successive hill masses : the Tanabaru – Nishibaru Ridge, and the Hill 196 area or the Maeda Escarpment. The Division’s action during this the attack of this part of the inland, therefore, can be divided generally into two periods, each involving the attack on one of these defensive positions.
April 16-23 1945 – Breaking the Tanabaru-Nishibaru Defenses
From April 16 to April 18, the 96-ID concentrated on rearranging the front line and reserve units and completing preparations for the Corps attack of April 19. The 381-IR, after being relieved by the 27-ID in the Kakazu Ridge area, shifted to the left and relieved elements of the 382-IR in the Kaniku area. The 382-IR, in turn, with all three battalions in the line prior to this time, also shifted to the left to occupy a narrower zone for the coming attack. The 1/382 moved to an assembly area situated at 8378-Y (east of Ginowan) on April 17.
Conferences were held with the adjacent divisions to determine accurately the boundaries between the Divisions on the ground; reconnaissance patrols probed the enemy-hold territory; combat aviation, artillery, chemical mortars, and naval gunfire were employed extensively to soften up enemy positions to the 96-ID front. The Division Artillery, in addition to firing normal support missions, ‘shot in’ planned concentrations for the impending attack. Enemy activity during these two days was light, although enemy artillery harassed the battalions front line at night and some small arms and MG fire was received during the day.
April 18 – Attack Plans Completed
The general plan of the 96-ID for the attack was simple but complete (Field Order # 17, HQ 96th Infantry Division). The Division (less the 1/383 and the 2/383) was to attack with four battalions in the assault at 0640, April 19, except for the right flank battalion whose time of attack was 0730, with the line of departure designated as front line positions as of 0640. The 3/381, the right flank battalion, was to hold for the first 50 minutes of the attack due to its advanced position in comparison with the other assault battalions. The 381-IR zone of attack was on the Division right and the 382-IR zone on the left. The 3/383 was in Division Reserve located at 8478-L. The Division intermediate objective was the hill mass centered on the Hill 196 area. The Corps objective was the general area Naha – Shuri – Yonabaru. Location of the assault battalions, and boundaries between Divisions and Regiments are shown on the Map bellow.
Intensive artillery preparations were carefully coordinated with the infantry attack. The Division Artillery with the 1-MAB (Marine) of the 11-MAR attached and reinforced by the XXIV Corps Artillery, the Naval Gunfire, the 504-AAAB (Gun), and Baker 763-TB, was to fire a preparation beginning at 0600. At 0620, fires were to be lifted 500 yards to the rear and continued at a reduced rate. At this time the front line units were to simulate an attack but not advance. At 0630, time fire was to be brought down in front of our infantry in an attempt to catch the enemy in the open as they returned to their firing positions. The artillery preparation was then to continue till 0640, at which time the attack would begin and artillery fire would be lifted to per-arranged points. The artillery preparation was to continue at a reduced rate in front of the right flank battalion (381-IR) from 0640 to 0730.
The 1/383 and the 2/383 was placed in Corps Reserve, located generally in the vicinity of Koza 8786-T, and was responsible for tho defense of the Corps Service area.
April 19 1945 – Corps Launches Attack
After a comparatively quiet night, and following the intense previously-planned artillery preparation, the division attacked at 0640 according to schedule. Only slight resistance was encountered initially and all four assault battalions advanced rapidly until approximately 0730. From this time on throughout the day, enemy machine gun and rifle fire coming from the high ground to the division front and flanks slowed down the advance to creeping and crawling action.
In the 381-IR zone, the 1/381 on the Regimental left, reached Kaniku 8276-C by 0700 and passed rapidly through the town. Fifteen minutes later, the 1/381 came abreast of 3/381 and the latter battalion began their attack, rapidly advancing 300 yards until pinned down by heavy crossfire from enemy MGs. The 1/381, after an advance of approximately 700 yards during the morning, also encountered the same type of MG fire. This enemy fire was of an intense grazing nature, sweeping the entire area to the front of the Regiment and came from positions located on the Kakazu Ridge in the 27-ID zone which dominated the Division right flank, and from other positions to the Regimental front and left flank on the north slopes of the Tanabaru – Nishibaru Ridge. Medium tanks and the reserve companies of the two battalions were committed in the gap between the battalions, but were also pinned down by MG fire and were unable to assist in the advance. Further advances in the face of this withering crossfire were negligible for the rest of the day. Late in the afternoon, the 3/381, after suffering heavy casualties, withdrew its advance elements from their exposed position and consolidated its line for the night in approximately the same action as on the previous night. The 2/381 moved to an assembly positions located at 8277-IJ, north of Kaniku.
In the 382-IR zone, the same determined type of enemy resistance was encountered after rapid initial gains. Following closely behind artillery concentrations, the 1/382 and the 2/382 had both advanced 500 yards by 0730. From this time on throughout the day, the advance was extremely slow being restricted mainly to individual rushes and small-unit advances of a few yards at a time. Deadly MG and rifle fire coming from the northern tip of the Tombstone Ridge continued to sweep over the lines of both battalions. These enemy positions were expertly camouflaged, mutually supporting, and so well emplaced that they were able to continue firing even during the artillery concentrations.
Although inconspicuous from a distance, and not even shown on the official 1/25,000 operations map, this ridge harbored one of the best enemy defensive positions encountered during the Campaign. By 1125, the 1/382, on the Regimental right, had finally succeeded in gaining a foothold on the northern tip of the ridge, and by the combined use of infantry and direct fire of the Tanks, M-7s and 37-MM AT guns, was able to push ahead slowly destroying the enemy positions encountered and finally securing the northern tip of the ridge. The 2/382, continued to advance slowly, keeping generally abreast of the 1/382 on its right and a battalion of the 7-ID on its left. The 3/382 moved up through the center of the Regimental zone and covered the gap between the two assault battalions.
As a result of the day’s attack, therefore, the 381-IR advanced some 700 yards on its left and front lines were located just north of the Tanabaru – Nishibaru Ridge. The 382-IR advanced about 800 to 1000 yards and secured the northern tip of Tombstone Ridge, with final front lines some 400 yards behind the 381-IR.
April 20 1945 – Japs Defend Bitterly
On April 20, the attack was renewed at 0730 following an half hour of artillery preparation. The same determined enemy resistance was encountered. The 381-IR initially supported by fire the advance of 3/382 which had passed through the interval between the 1/382 and the 2/382 to attack south astride the Tombstone Ridge. When the right flank of the 3/382 came abreast of the 1/381, this Battalion launched its main attack and by 1130 had pushed two companies to the top of the Tanabaru – Nishibaru Ridge. The 3/381 supported this advance by fire but was unable to move forward due to continuous heavy enemy fire from the Kakazu Ridge, which had been by-passed by the 27-ID. At 1320, the 2/381 was committed on the right flank of the 1/381, and in spite of heavy enemy machine gun, mortar and rifle fire from their right flank was able to push two companies to the top of the Tanabaru – Nisabaru Ridge abreast of the 1/381. This Tanabaru – Nishibaru Ridge was called Nishibaru Ridge in the 381-IR zone. Hill 165, 8275-N, a part of the same ridge in the 382-IR zone, was often called the Tanabary Tabletop or the Escarpment. The Gate, so called because of two rocks jutting upward resembling gateposts, was also located on this ridge.
In the zone of the 382-IR, the 3/382 was committed on the Regimental right as described above. The 1/382, from its positions on the north tip of the Tombstone Ridge, supported the attack of both, the 3/382 and the 2/382. The 3/382, by the end of the day, had succeeded in eliminating all enemy resistance on Tombstone Ridge. The left flank of the 2/382 was unable to make any appreciable grains due to intense machine gun and rifle fire coming from a rocky crag on its left flank in the 7-ID zone. However, the right flank of this battalion advanced approximately 300 yards. Although the flanks of the Division were unable to make any substantial advances during the day the 382-IR completed the seizure of Tombstone Ridge, and two battalions of the 381-IR were entrenched on the top of the Tombstone Ridge.
April 21 1945 – Advances Were Slow
On April 21, the Division continued its attack to the south. The 381-IR jumped off at 0630 with the 1/381 and 2/381 abreast, advancing over the Tanabaru – Nishibaru Ridge. Stiff resistance was immediately encountered, particularly on the left flank from a large number of enemy entrenchments within the town of Nishibaru located at 8176-QRST. The two infantry battalions were forced to operate without tanks or other direct fire weapons as the steep slopes of the ridge prevented any tanks or vehicles from reaching its top and it was also impossible to circle around the west edge of the ridge because of heavy fire from the Kakazu Ridge. It is to be noted that this enemy pocket on the Kakazu Ridge which was by-passed initially by the 27-ID, was still hindering the advances of the 96-ID right flank.
Approaches on other parts of the ridge were also covered by fire. The 2/381, on the right flank, managed to advance slowly approximately 200 yards to a small finger of high ground jutting out just southwest of tho town. Deadly enemy machine gun crossfire coming from the south slopes of the Tanabaru – Nishibaru Ridge and from the Kakazu Ridge thoroughly covered the 2/381 in its advanced position. The 1/381, also encountered heavy machine gun fire from the same enemy positions and was unable to advance appreciably. At 1300, a heavy mortar barrage in addition to the above mentioned machine gun fire, forced the 2/381 to withdraw back to the Tanabaru – Nishibaru Ridge abreast of the 1/:81, where front lines of both battalions were consolidated for the night.
In the 382-IR zone the 1/382 moved forward to the position of the south and of the Tombstone Ridge that the 3/382 had occupied the previous day. The 3/382 then withdrew and moved through the 381-IR zone in order to assault from the west this portion of the Tanabaru – Nishibaru Ridge in the 382-IR zone. The battalion attacked at 0815, supported by fire from the 1/382 and the 2/382, and progressed slowly against strong machine gun fire coming from enemy positions along the ridge. By 1100, the battalion advanced up the escarpment and secured a foothold on the ridge to the left of the 1/381. Between 1300 and 1515 the enemy launched three counter attacks against this battalion in a vain effort to retake the ridge. Approximately 150 Japs were killed during one of these counter attacks. The 3/383, previously in Division Reserve, was attached to the 382-IR and committed in the center of the 382-IR’s zone to attack the Tanabaru – Nishibaru Ridge on the left of the 3/382. The 3/383 jumped off at 1300 from the southeast slopes of the Tombstone Ridge. The attack proceeded fairly well for the first 150 yards, but from that point on, enemy machine guns expertly emplaced in the steep sides of the ridge to their front held advances to a minimum. The battalion was forced to dig in for the night on the left of the 3/382 approximately 200 yards north of tho ridge. The 382-IR killed a total of 332 Japs during the day, an indication of the fierce fighting engaged in and the strength of the enemy counterattacks.
April 22 1945 – Jap Defenses Weaken
On April 22, action along the 96-ID front, except on the right flank of the 383-IR, was less intense than during the previous days although a total of 200 Japs were killed and by the end of the period three battalions occupied strong positions on the Tanabaru – Nishibaru Ridge. The 381-IR attempt to advance their front lines during the day. The plan for this regiment was to hold up the advance of the two leading battalions until the Kakazu Ridge had been cleaned up and elements of the 27-ID had gained contact with the 3/381 on the Division right flank. The 3/381, however, assisted the 27-ID in its attack on the ridge by direct fire from tanks, M-7’s and AT guns into the enemy positions.
On the Division left, the 383-IR (plus the 2/382 attached) relieved the 382-IR in their zone of action beginning at 0600. By 1000, the 2/383 had completed the relief of the 3/382 on the right. (The 2/382, had received during the night continuous mortar and small arms fire and occasional attacks by small groups of Japs). At the completion of the relief, the battalions front line in the 383-IR were, from right to left, the 2/383, the 3/383, and the 2/382. The 1/383, in Regimental Reserve, moved to positions on the north tip of then Tombstone Ridge at 8276-J. At 1100, the Regiment jumped off in a coordinated attack on the Tanabaru – Nishibaru Ridge. The advance was extremely slow due to continuous machine gun fire coming from concealed emplacements all along the high ground to the front and left flank. By 1600, after a bitter fighting, the 2/383, on the Regimental right, had advanced to the southeast approximately 200 yards to secure definitely that portion of the ridge in the battalion zone. The 3/383, advanced approximately 150 yards during the day and consolidated positions with its left flank within 200 yards of the escarpment at the Tanabaru Tabletop (Hill 165). The final front lines are shown on the map below, with the 2/381, the 1/381 and the 2/383, from right to left, dug in on the Tanabaru – Nishibaru Ridge.
The 382-IR (less the 2/382 and with 96-Recon attached), after its relief, moved to new positions in the Corps Service area to replace the 383-IR as Corps Reserve.
April 23 1945 – Defensive Line Broken
Again, on April 23, advances in yards in the Division zone were slight. By the end of the day, however, four battalions were in position on the Tanabaru – Nishibaru Ridge, occupying the entire ridge except for the extreme eastern tip. The 381-IR continued to strengthen and improve their positions, and placed direct fire of all supporting weapons on the Kakazu Ridge. The 383-IR, continued its pressure against the Tanabaru – Nishibaru Ridge. By 1600, the 3/383, supported by the armor of Baker 763-TB, and one platoon of Flamethrower Tank, had come up – on the left of the 2/383 – and captured a saddle in the ridge approximately in the center of the Regimental zone.
The 2/383, on the Regimental right, continued to mop up the high ground secured the day before and pushed elements to within 400 yards of Hill 143. The 2/382, on the Regimental left, advanced up to 200 yards, but failed to take the remaining enemy-hold portion of the ridge just north of Tanabaru on the Division left flank. This remaining portion was composed of the Escarpment and the Tanabaru Tabletop, Hill 165.
By the evening of April 23, the strong enemy defensive line in the Tombstone Ridge – Tanabaru – Nishibaru Ridge area had been broken. As a result, the whole enemy defense line across the Corps front centered generally on the Kakazu Ridge in the 27-ID zone, the Tombstone Ridge and the Tanabaru – Nishibaru Ridge in the 96-ID zone, and Hill 178 (a dominating hill mass in the 7-ID zone at 8374-B on line with the Tanabaru – Nishibaru Ridge) became untenable for the enemy. During the night of April 23-24, the enemy withdrew from his remaining positions on this ridge line. On April 24, a Task Force composed of elements of the 27-ID, the 96-ID, and the 7-ID, encountered little enemy opposition in mopping up the Kakazu area; the 7-ID secured Hill 178 early in the morning; and the remaining portion of the Tanabaru – Nishibaru Ridge in enemy hands was occupied by the 2/382 without opposition.
During this period, April 17-23, enemy artillery showed a general decrease in intensity. However, front lines, infantry areas, and artillery positions received intermittent artillery fire each night. Enemy mortar fire also and harassed front line positions each night. Infiltration attempts were negligible during the period. The weather was generally clear to cloudy, with light rains on only one day, April 19. Aviation continued to supply deep air support and observation missions. The following figures give an indication of the heavy fighting which took place :
Our casualties :
– 381-IR : 25-KIA, 281-WIA, 4-MIA
– 382-IR : 52-KIA, 416-WIA, 11-MIA
– 383-IR : 22-KIA, 130-WIA, 1-MIA
– Total casualties : 778
(Japs killed : 1346)
(Above and Bellow) The Tanabaru – Nishibaru Ridge. This ridge composed the terrain feature on which the enemy established his defense perimeter.
(Above and Bellow) 6. (below) The Maeda Escarpment. This hill mass was often referred to as Hill 196 area. The enemy second line of defense encountered was centered on this hill.
Our tank losses (from AT and artillery fire, satchel charges and mines) : 12
Damage to the enemy :
– 1346 KIA
– 2 POWs
– 68 Machine Guns
– 13 Field Pieces
– 2 Spigot 320-MM Mortars
– 30 Mortars
– 76 Pillboxes
– 87 Caves
April 24-30 1945
With the breaking of the enemy’s Tombstone Ridge and the Tanabaru – Nishibaru Ridge defensive line, theo96-ID immediately bumped into the second enemy defensive line centered generally on the Hill 196 area which included the Maeda Escarpment and the Needlerock. Although this hill mass was referred to in Field Order : as Hill 196 and Hill 187, it was actually a ridge composed of three hills, the 155 located at 8075-L, the 150 located at 8075-S, and the 152 at 8074-E running across the Division zone, and the high ground extending south from the east and of this ridge, merging eventually into the high ground of the Shuri area. Hill 155 was named the Maeda or the Big Escarpment. The action against this next defensive line comprises the second period of the 96th infantry Division’s operations.
April 24 1945 – The Enemy Had Withdrawn
On April 24, rapid advances of approximately 1100 yards were made by the Division against almost negligible resistance. The 3/381, on the Division right flank, under the command of Gen Bradford, attacked at 0830, and by 0845 had advanced against very light resistance to positions almost abreast of the other two battalions the 381-IR, and by 0950 had advanced approximately 500 yards beyond them, reaching the Task Force objective line. As it became evident that the Kakazu Pocket would shortly be entirely cleaned up, the 381-IR and the 383-IR were ordered to attack at 1030 to seize Hill 143 (shown as Hill 137, 8175-N on the 3d revision, 1/25,000 map) and the high ground running west from Hill 143 immediately north of the Hill 196 area. The 2/381 and the 1/381 came abreast of the 3/381 and all three battalions advanced rapidly against light or no enemy opposition, and by 1200 had reached the day’s objective. The 381-IR consolidated its lines at that position. During the balance of the day patrols operated towards the base of the Maeda Escarpment.
The 383-IR resumed its advance at 0800. By 1000, 2/382 on the Regimental left, had secured the Escarpment and the Tanabaru Tabletop (Hill 165) without opposition. The 3/383, at 0800, advanced unopposed and occupied a small hill just south of the ridge line. At 1030, the Regiment began its attack with the 2/383 and the 3/383 in the assault. By 1200, the 2/383, on the Regimental right, had secured Hill 143 without enemy opposition. The battalion continued to advance down the south slopes of the hill and came abreast of the 1/381 where they were ordered to consolidate defensive positions for the night. The 3/383, on the Regimental left, moved rapidly through Tanabaru, took the Tanabaru Hill 8275-QV, and had advanced some 400 yards south of the town by 1400. During the remainder of the day, strong combat patrols reconnoitered enemy defensive positions on the high ground to the Regiment’s front.
The 1/383 relieved the 2/382 and took up reserve positions in the vicinity of the Hill 165. The 2/382 moved to an assembly areas north of Tanabaru at 8276-Y. The 96-Recon was released from the Corps Reserve and attachment to the 38-IR, and moved to defensive positions at 8277-A just south of Ginowan. As a result of the day’s advances, Hill 143, Hill 165, and the Tanabaru Hill had been taken by the 383-IR, and the 381-IR was within approximately 600 yards of the base of the Maeda Escarpment. Flank units were in physical contact with front line units of both, the 7th Infantry Division and the 27th Infantry Division.
April 25 1945 – Attack Plans Prepared
On April 25, no advances were attempted by the Division. Front lines did not change materially although both Regiments made minor readjustments. The 381-IR and the 383-IR perfected plans for a Corps attack ordered for the following day. Direct fire from all supporting weapons, including precision artillery adjustment was placed on definitely located enemy positions on the high ground to the Division front. In the 381-IR zone, at least 20 occupied enemy emplacements were destroyed. The 383-IR pushed aggressive patrols 400 to 500 yards in front of their positions without encountering any strong enemy opposition or fortified positions. At 1500, an air strike against the hill mass was vary successful. 24 500 lb bombs and 24 100 lb bombs were dropped. The 2/382 was relieved from attachment to the 383-IR and placed in Division Reserve in positions located at 8277-L just north of Kaniku.
96th Infantry Division Field Order # 18, April 25 1945, prescribed the details for the attack of April 26. This attack was to be made along the entire XXIV Corps front by the 27-ID, the 96-ID and the 7-ID. Tho 96-ID was to attack the hill mass immediately to its front, with the Division objective designated as the Shuri area. Boundaries between the divisions and the regiments (shown on the map bellow). Once again extensive artillery preparations were to be fired preceding the attack. The Division Artillery was ordered to fire a false preparation at maximum rate on the Hill 196 area from 0535 to 0600. An air strike employing Napalm bombs was then to be delivered on the same general area, following which the Division Artillery would fire another 20-minute preparation. The time for the attack was set tentatively at 0700, immediately following the artillery preparation.
April 26 1945 – The Attack
On April 26, the Division Artillery fired the false preparation according to schedule and then the actual preparation from 0650 to 0710. The scheduled Napalm strike was cancelled due to poor visibility. The 3/381, the 2/381, the 2/383 and the 3/383, from right to left (Map 8), jumped off in the attack at 0710 supported by two companies of medium tanks.
Initially, resistance was light along the entire division front. By 0800 the 381-IR had roached the escarpment with front lines generally on the north slopes of Hill 155 just short of the crest. In the 2/381 sector one enemy strong point continued to hold out. An attempt to flank this position to the left was unsuccessful due to intense fire from the south slopes of the ridge and the left flank. Although the north slopes of the escarpment had been gained against light opposition, except for the one enemy strong point in the 2/381 zone, further advances by the regiment were slight due to the intense mortar and machine gun fire sweeping the top and south slopes of the ridge. It should be noted that the terrain in the 381-IR zone was extremely difficult. The Maeda Escarpment to the west of the Needle Rock was a sheer cliff, making the use of tanks impossible. The Needle Rock was an oblong-shaped rock formation jutting into the air at the east tip of Hill 155. It was eventually necessary to cut the roads with tank dozers in order to support the advance of the Regimental left flank.
In the 383-IR zone, initial resistance was also light. By 0845 the regiment had reached the high ground, with the 2/383 extending from Hill 150 through the cast edge of Maeda 8075-PQWX, and the 3/383 on the high ground along the Division left boundary. The regiment was unable to advance further during the day due to heavy machine gun and rifle fire sweeping the forward slopes of the hills. The balance of the day was spent in locating and destroying enemy artillery pieces, AT Gun, and machine gun emplacements in the zone of both Regiments.
The 1/383 closed into an assembly area on Hill 143. The 96-Recon moved forward and established a defensive position on the Tanabaru Hill to cover the gap which had developed on the 96-ID left flank with the 7-ID. During the night of April 26-27, there was a decided increase in enemy activity along the Division front. Heavy concentrations of artillery, scattered 50-MM and 81-MM mortar fire, and harassing machine gun fire covered the entire front. Numerous infiltration attempts were made by the Japs on all the battalions front line, with the heaviest attacks in the zone of the 381-IR. This Regiment killed 64 Japs during the night.
After a 20-minute artillery preparation, the 96-ID jumped off at 0730 on April 27, spearheaded by medium tanks and flamethrower tanks, and advanced approximately 400 yards during the day except on the extreme right flank. Enemy opposition during the period was strong. In the 381-IR zone, the right flank of the Regiment immediately encountered intense mortar, machine gun, and small arms fire as they attempted to cross the ridge. The top of the escarpment was untenable due to this enemy fire. During the day, the 3/381 on the Regimental right, was unable to make any advances in the front lines. However, demolition patrols searched out and destroyed numerous enemy caves, pillboxes and machine gun emplacements along the steep south slopes of Hill 155. The 2/381 continued to mop up caves and pillboxes in the center of their zone, aided, by one platoon of flamethrower tanks. The 1/381, committed on the Regimental left advanced its left flank some 200 yards against extremely intense machine gun and small arms fire. Although the Regiment made but slight advances during the day they engaged in the most bitter close-in fighting encountered for some time.
In the 383-IR zone, the 2/383, on the right, advanced 200 yards during the morning through the east portion of Maeda and over Hill 152. At 1400 this Battalion encountered an extremely well-prepared enemy position to the right of their front which limited further advances during the day to a few yards. Throughout the afternoon the right flank of this Battalion, on the high ground just south of Maeda, received heavy machine gun and mortar fire coming generally from their right front. The 3/383, on the left, advanced against moderate resistance and gained some 400 yards. The 1/383 moved up to the vicinity of Hill 150 to close the gap between the 1/381 and the 2/383. During the night of April 27-28, heavy enemy artillery continued to fall on all the front line, and numerous enemy infiltration attempts by Platoon groups were repulsed. It should be noted that the weather from April 24 through April 27 had been rainy, with the resultant road and supply difficulties. For the balance of the period the weather was clear.
April 28 1945 – Japs Fight Desperately
On April 28, strong enemy resistance again prevented any gains on the Division right flank. The 383-IR on the left, however, was able to gain up to 300 yards. Following an intense artillery preparation, mainly in the 381-IR zone, the two Regiments resumed the attack. In the 381-IR zone, enemy resistance in front of the 3/381 had become centralized in an extremely well-prepared strong point to the Bn right flank. This strong point was centered on a group of Jap barracks located at 7975-O, just south of the ridge and immediately to the northwest of Maeda. Fire from this position and from the south slopes of Hill 155 was so intense that, no more than minor advances were possible. King Co attempted to make a flanking attack through the town of Awacha 7975 on the Jap barracks but was driven back after 30 minutes of hand-to-hand fighting.
Personnel of King and Item Cos were eventually combined into one company due to heavy casualties. In the 2/381 zone enemy resistance had become centered in a concrete pillbox defense just over the crest of the escarpment. The battalion continued the reduction of this strong point during the day. Cans of gasoline and napalm were used extensively in the assault. In the 383-IR zone, the 2/383 and the 3/383 continued to push forward slowly along the high ground running generally southwest from the east edge of the Maeda Escarpment. These two battalions made advances up to 300 yards during the day in the face of heavy enemy fire from their exposed right flank. They destroyed many enemy positions during this advance, employing direct fire of tanks and close-in support by flamethrower tanks. A very Successful air strike on an enemy pocket directly to the front of the 2/383, which had held up the battalion the previous day, materially assisted this advance. The 96-Recon moved forward into the valley just north of Kochi 8174-W to cover the still existing gap between the 96-ID and the 7-ID. It is interesting to note that any vehicular movement in this valley brought down accurate enemy artillery fire.
In accordance with Field Order # 19, 96th Infantry Division, which specified details concerning the relief of the 96-ID Div by tho 77-ID, the 307-IR (77-ID) moved to forward assembly areas in the vicinity of Kaniku 8277 and prepared to relieve the 381-IR on the following day. During the night of April 28-29, enemy artillery was lighter but ground activity was greatly increased. In addition to numerous infiltration attempts, the Japs launched two counter attacks of estimated company size during the early morning, one hitting the 2/383 and the other occurring in the 381-IR zone. The two Regiments killed approximately 280 Japs in repulsing those counter attacks and infiltration attempts.
April 29 1945 – 307-IR (77-ID) Relieves 381-IR (96-ID)
On April 29, the 96-ID again advanced on the left flank, with gains of some 600 yards by the 3/383. The 381-IR continued mopping up operations until relieved by 307-IR (77-ID) at 1020. The 381-IR, after its relief, moved to an assembly area in the vicinity of Yogi 8983. The 307-IR was unable to make any additional gains during the day. The 2/383, after repulsing the counterattack during the previous night, destroyed by close-in fighting the remainder of the enemy attack force which had dug in on the south slopes of the hill. After 1000, the battalion attempted no further advances due to intense mortar, machine gun and small arms fire from enemy positions on its exposed right flank. During the remainder of the day, this battalion cleaned out large numbers of enemy to their front with flamethrower and tanks.
The 3/383 advanced rapidly forward during the morning against moderate enemy opposition and consolidated their final front lines on Hill 138 8073-I. One Platoon of Baker 763-TB, supporting the 383-IR, reached positions near the tip of Hill 138 and delivered direct fire on enemy positions in the town of Shuri (7971). Enemy activity during the night of April 29-30 was, once again, extremely heavy, particularly in the zone of the 383-ID. Two heavy artillery barrages fell in the area of the 1/383 during the night, plus intermittent mortar fire throughout the Regimental zone. Nine 320-MM Spigot mortar rounds also fell in the vicinity of the 2/383 positions. All the front line Battalions repulsed numerous Jap infiltration attempts. The 383-IR repulsed two enemy counter attacks of 100-150 men size. Approximately 265 Japs were killed during these counter attacks.
April 30 1945 – 77-ID Takes Over
On April 30, the 383-IR maintained steady pressure against the enemy until relieved by tho 306-IR (77-ID). A close-in air strike at 1015 for the 3/383 against enemy positions to their immediate front produced excellent results. The 383-IR moved to an assembly area located in the vicinity of Kishaba 8682, upon relief. The 96-Recon withdrew and closed into a new area in the vicinity of Futema 8481. Command of the 96-ID zone passed to CG of the 77-ID at 1200.
At the time of the relief of the 96-ID, enemy resistance still remained strong enough to prevent any advances on the right flank in the area of the Maeda Escarpment west of tho Needle Rock. On the left flank, however, the 383-IR had pushed a considerable distance to the south against less intense enemy opposition. The Division had climbed its second escarpment with the following box score :
Our own casualties :
– 381-IR : 32 KIA, 194 WIA
– 382-IR : 9 KIA, 21 WIA, 1 MIA
– 383-IR : 45 KIA, 231 WIA, 3 MIA
– Total : 536
Japs killed : 2507
Our tank losses due to mines, artillery, and AT fire : 8
Damage to the enemy :
Japs’ killed : 2507
320-MM Spigot Mortar : 1
Machine Guns : 48
Pillboxes : 5
Mortars : 20
Caves : 75
Field pieces : 15
Trucks : 11
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Gunter ‘Doc Snafu’ Gillot
rue des Thiers 8
Email : gunter [at] eucmh.be
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(NB : Published for Good – March 2019)