The names of Kakazu Ridge, Tombstone Ridge, Tabletop, Gate, Needle Rock, Hill 153, Big Escarpment had now become a legend as the battle-weary dough boys came out of the lines for a much needed and deserved rest. For 30 days these men had fought and defeated a stubborn and smart enemy in some of the bloodiest fighting yet encountered in Pacific warfare. Battle casualties had been high. During the month of April, the division had suffered 565 KIA, 2771 WIA and now the infantry regiments were only 52% combat efficient based on the T/O strength.
During the first nine days of May, the 96-ID entered into a reorganization and training period. By May 8, over 4000 infantry replacements had joined the division and began intensive training in scouting and patrolling, marksmanship and known distance firing. As part of this training program, the replacements patrolled by passed pockets of enemy resistance within the rear areas. As these patrols combed the area, numerous Japs were killed and US and enemy equipment recovered. The maintenance of vehicles, guns, personal arms and equipment was stressed and Ordnance inspections were held by all units of the Division.
Much time was devoted to rest and recreation for the troops as they came out of the line. Red Cross and Special Service Officers initiated the preparation of recreation camps for all types of sports such as baseball, football and volley ball. The 96-ID Band provided musical entertainment and extensive use was made of PA (Public Addressing) systems bringing radio and transcribed programs to the troops. The Red Cross made available tons of supplies such as magazines, books, games, writing materials and toilet articles. The 99-ID Special Service Office provided many late movies. The movie ‘Wilson’ was shown for the first time on the island to the men of the 383-IR. Approximately nine enemy air-raid alerts took place during the showing of the picture and each time the men would head for their holes and when the all clear was sounded they would return. It took most of the night to complete the movie but every man stayed to the end.
The 383-IR was in paper reserve for the 77-ID during this reorganization and training period, but were not committed. However, the 96-ID Artillery remained in position and continued to reinforce the fires of the 77-ID Artillery under the XXIV Corps Artillery control.
May 9 – 10 1945 – Back in the Line
On May 6, Field Order # 20, (HQ96th Infantry Division), was issued ordering all units to make plans for the relief of the 7-ID in the line, by echelon. The 382/96-ID was directed to move to an assembly areas in the rear of the 17/7-ID on May 8 and to relieve them on May 9 under control of the 7-ID. The 383/96 was directed to move to an assembly area in the rear of the 184/7 on May 9 and to relieve them on May 10. The 381/96 was directed to make a reconnaissance and to move to a reserve positions on May 10 in relief of the 32/7. On May 8, the 382/96 moved 2 battalions forward to an assembly areas and on May 9, began the relief of the 17/7 at 1300. By 1700, the relief was completed. The 96-ID CP moved from Futema to a new location situated at 8577-A at 1330, on May 8. From positions previously occupied by the 17/7, the 382-IR jumped off in the attack south at 1000 on May 10 under the control of the 7-ID until 1420, when the Commanding General, 96-ID, assumed command of the new zone of action. During this attack, with 1/382 on the right and the 3/382 on the left, the Regiment advanced initially against light resistance on the right flank then extremely heavy resistance in the center and left flank. As the 1/382 approached the Zebra Hill 8173-Q, they encountered heavy mortar, machine gun and rifle fire coming from the draw between the Zebra and the How Hills at 8173-MN. At 1500, a coordinated assault using tanks, flamethrowers and pole charges, began on the draw. This strong point was finally reduced after numerous casualties had been received. Finally, the Zebra and the Item Hills were both secured.
On May 9, the 383-IR moved to a new forward assembly area in the preparation for the relief of the 184/7-ID. On May 10, the 2/383 completed the relief of the 3/184 at 0930 and at 1200, the 1/383 completed the relief of the 1/184. By 1300, the assault elements of 383-IR were in position and had assumed all responsibilities of the 184-IR zone. After this relief 1/383 sent out 4 strong Recon patrols to the front in the vicinity of the Easy Hill, 8172-03, and by 1700, had advanced elements forward to occupy this hill. The 381-IR (Division Reserve) closed into the forward assembly positions by 1300 and assumed all responsibilities of the 32-IR zone. The 96-Recon relieved the 7-Recon at 1300 and occupied positions 100 yards north east of the Yonabaru Airfield. As a result of these activities, the 96-ID completed the relief of the 7-ID and continued to attack south in new zone of action securing four important hills in the preparation for the 10-A coordinated attack southward planned for May 11 at 0700, operation whose objective was to envelope and reduce the Shuri position.
May 10 1945 – The 96-ID Prepares for Offensive
On May 9, Field Order # 50 (HQ XXIV Corps) ordered the 96-ID (Reinforced) to attack with its main effort initially on the right; seize the high ground east of Shuri within its zone of action; then move from the northwest and west to capture the Conical Hill northwest of Yonabaru and continue the attack to capture that portion of the Corps objective within its zone of action. On May 10, Field Order # 21 (HQ 96-ID) was issued ordering the 382-IR from positions held on May 10-11, to attack in its assigned zone making the main effort on the right, to seize the hill mass at 8072-RW and Queen Hill, 8171-P, and continue the attack to the Corps objective. The 383-IR, from positions held on May 10-11, was ordered to attack in its assigned zone, making the main effort from the northwest, right, to seize the Conical Hill, 8271-KLM, and continue the attack to the Corps objective. The 381-IR, (Division Reserve) was ordered to be prepared to support the advance of either regiments and patrol from the rear of the reserve battalions to a line between 8777-Q and 8578-G, within the division zone of action.
May 11 1945 – Drive for the Conical Hill
On May 11, after a 30-minute artillery preparation by all the battalions of the Division Artillery, the 96-ID began the attack at 0700 toward the Corps objective and immediately met stubborn resistance across the entire front. The 1/3B2 on the Division right was engaged in a fire fight with the enemy beginning at daylight. This fire fight was a continuation of a counter attack which had taken place at 2200, May 10, as an estimated Company of Japs assaulted the crest of the Zebra Hill. The attack was repulsed after heavy close-in fighting. At 0730, 1/382 was still engaged in the fire fight with the Japs who were defending the south slopes of the hill making it impossible for the battalion to advance over the crest. Artillery was placed on the south slopes of the hill and by 0930, elements of the battalion reinforced by tanks were advancing slowly around the right flank. By 1050, these elements had advanced 400 yards to reach the saddle at 8073-Y1-2. At 1200, the remainder of the battalion made a coordinated attack down the exposed south slopes of the hill and by 1600 leading elements had pushed forward as far as the base of the Dick Hill, 8072-D, against murderous machine gun cross fire coming from the front and both flanks of their position. At 1630, these elements were still tenaciously hanging on, but the Japs kept continuous intense mortar fire on their position making further advances up the hill impossible. The position slowly became untenable as supply of ammunition and evacuation of wounded became critical. It was necessary to put the seriously wounded in tanks to evacuate them across the valley floor as these elements were forced to withdraw and consolidate back in the battalion lines for the night on the south slopes of the hill, at 8173-U5-V5.
The 3/382 on Regimental left flank, advanced slowly forward against heavy fire from their front and both flanks. Numerous caves and pillboxes were encountered on the south and west slopes of the Item Hill necessitating reduction one by one. Tanks were brought up, but were unable to operate effectively because of swampy ground and numerous mine fields. Throughout the day enemy fire was received from the west slopes of Easy Hill and William Hill, 8172-E4. At the close of the period the 3/382 had made only slight gains and occupied positions on the south slopes of the Item Hill at 8173-R3 to 8173-X2, and were in physical contact with 1/382. The 383-IR began their attack with the 1/383 on the right and the 2/383 on the left. The advance of 1/383 was opposed by extremely stubborn resistance throughout the day. Little progress was made during the morning hut at 1200, this battalion renewed their attack on Charlie Hill at 8172-X2 and Fox Hill at 8172-R4, and by 1715 had succeeded in reaching these two hills where positions were consolidated for the night. Meeting only moderate resistance, advance elements of 2/383 moved into the town of Yonagusuku, 8272-X, at 0800. From this point on heavy enemy mortar and machine gun fire from the front along the north slopes of the Conical Hill, the eastern slopes of the Charlie Hill, and the south edge of the town of Kibara, 8272-PQR, limited further advances. The 2/383 then side-slipped to the right to occupy the east slopes of the King Hill, 8171-E, at 1800. As a result of these activities, the 382-IR gained 200 yards on the Division right flank while in the center of the Division zone, the 383-IR pushed forward over 600 yards and occupied two key hills (Fox and Charlie) and the east slopes of King.
(Above) Marine M-114 155-MM HOW of III Amphibious Corps fires in support of 10-A advance. On May 9 1945, US Army Lt Gen Simon Bolivar Buckner ordered a coordinated 10-A attack for May 11. The plan of attack called for the 10-A to renew the assault on the Shuri defenses with its two corps abreast, III Amphibious Corps on the right, XXIV Corps on the left. The initial scheme of maneuver was an envelopment of Shuri by the Marine divisions on the west and the Army divisions on the east, while a strong holding attack was maintained in the center. The 10-A staff believed that the Japanese positions were weaker on the right and that the fresh Marine divisions had a chance for a quick break-through on that flank. Moreover, the terrain was more favorable along the western coast. The wide flanking maneuver around Shuri that later developed was not projected in the original plans. Gen Buckner explained on May 10 that there would be nothing spectacular. He added : It will be a continuation of the type of attack we have been employing to date. Where we cannot take strong points we will pinch them off and leave them for the reserves to reduce. We have ample firepower and we also have enough fresh troops so that we can always have one division resting. The initial order for the attack provided for a 30-minute general preparation by the artillery just before the ground attack. This provision was revoked two days later in favor of pinpointing of targets. The new order stated that the maximum practicable number of known enemy guns and strong points will be destroyed or neutralized prior to the infantry assault. The attack launched on schedule, although coordinated initially along the entire front, soon broke down into a series of intense battles for particular landmarks. For ten days of continuous fighting, from Sugar Loaf on the west coast to Conical Hill on the east, the Japanese, except for local and relatively minor retreats, held tenaciously to their long-prepared positions. Finally, on May 21, after some of the fiercest action of the battle of Okinawa, the American forces were to seize the eastern slope of Conical Hill, close to the east coast, and thereby to make an opening in the enemy lines which permitted an attempt at envelopment.
(Bellow) M-4A3 Sherman of the 706-TB attached to the US 77-ID (10-A), stuck crossing a 5-foot stream. Other Shermans are behind it. Both the Americans and the Japanese could not maneuver in a constant torrential downpour known locally as the Plum Rains. The tank commander looks on as the driver bales the tank out. Note ‘Pop’ written on the driver’s helmet. The tank would have to wait until a tractor could be available to pull it out. The 706-TB fought at Guam, Leyte, Ie Shima, Okinawa, and was back at Luzon in the Philippines at the end of the war. (Images Source : WW-2 Database)
May 12 1945 – Japs Repulse our Dick Hill Attack
On May 12, at 0800, the Division continued the attack. The 382-IR made its main effort in the center of the Regimental zone in order to outflank enemy positions deeply entrenched along the south slopes of Item Hill. During the morning, the 1/382, right flank, employed tank-infantry teams to mop up the enemy pillboxes on the northwest slopes of the Zebra Hill while the 3/382, moved one company around the right and into 1/382 zone, advancing down the southeast slopes of the Zebra Hill closely supported by tanks and by fire from 1/382. By 1200, this company had succeeded in advancing to the draw at 8173-W3 and was in physical contact with the 1/382 and the remainder of the battalion. The 3/382 had cleaned out the enemy positions and pillboxes in the draw and the south slopes of the Item Hill by 1230 and had advanced their front lines for about 400 yards to 8173-V5 – 8172-C2. At 1330 the regiment reorganized and launched a second coordinated attack against the Dick Hill with the main effort by the 1/382. This battalion fought bitterly throughout the afternoon struggling forward through intense rifle and machine gun fire, employing smoke, and managed to advance to the lower slopes of the Dick Hill. However, by 1800, the fighting became so fierce that it was evident that the hill could not be taken before dark and the battalion consolidated in positions previously occupied.
While the 1/382 was battling the stubborn resistance to their front, one company of the 3/382 advanced and secured the Baker Hill, 8172-G2, and at the close of the period the 3/382 consolidated their lines on the north slopes of the Baker Hill with their right flank tied in with the 1/382 on the south slopes of the Zebra Hill. The 383-IR, in its attack toward the Conical Hill concentrated the main effort on the Regimental left flank making only small gains. The 1/383 on the Regimental right flank, spent the day in mopping up by-passed enemy positions on the Fox and Charlie Hills, making slight advances to the west and up to the northwest slopes of the Conical Hill. Tanks were moved forward in the vicinity of the Gaja Hill and by 1130 had cleaned out many enemy positions on the north edge of the town of Yonagusuku (also called Gaga), 8272-Y, but despite this tank support, Fox Co fought bitterly throughout the day on the north edge of the town and by 1800 were still unable to overcome the resistance to their front. The remainder of the 2/383 moved forward very slowly up the north slopes of the Conical Hill.
As a result of these activities, the 382-IR on the Division right advanced elements of the 1/3822 against extremely heavy enemy opposition to the northern slope of the Dick Hill, but were forced to withdraw against this bitter enemy mortar fire and machine gun cross fire to the south slopes of the Zebra Hill. An advance of 400 yards made by the 3/382 succeeded in seizing the Baker Hill, while the 383-IR, having cleaned out the enemy positions along the Fox and Charlie Hills, reorganized and consolidated their lines in preparation for the continued attack on the Conical Hill.
(Above) Approaches to the Conical Hill : Easy, Fox, and Charlie Hills were taken by the 1st Battalion 383d Infantry Regiment during their advance on the Conical Hill. Light resistance was met initially, but steadily increased as the enemy fought bitterly to hold the Fox and the Charlie Hills. (Bellow) West Slopes of the Conical Hill : The enemy strongly defended this terrain making the advances down these slopes impossible until thoroughly pounded by Air Strikes, Naval Gun Fire and Artillery Fire.
(Above) South Slopes of the Charlie Hill : A successful air-strike on these slopes on May 28, ended the 9 day battle of the 1/383 in the tacking of the Charlie Hill. (Bellow) The Shuri Defense Area : This terrain that the enemy had chosen to defend, not only gave him observation, but also provided a series of natural defenses on the top and slopes of each hill. It took 20 days of bitter fighting before the elements of the 96th Infantry Division reduced this area.
(Above) The Famous Conical Hill : Rising to a height of 145 meters stands the Conical Hill-, the Key to the East flank of the Shuri defense. (Bellow) Approaches to the Love Hill : An estimated 50 enemy Machine Guns opened up on these slopes as the 1st Platoon of Charlie 383 attempted to advance up the hill.
1945 – Maj Gen Lemuel Shepherd (left) commanding the 6th Marine Division and (right) Lt Gen Simon Bolivar Buckner, 10th Army, watch troops battle on Okinawa. Gen Buckner was killed 10 days after this picture was made.
May 13 1945 – The North Slopes of the Conical Hill Secured
The attack south jumped off at 0800 on May 13, and immediately strong resistance was met on the Division right flank. The 1/382 initially supported the advance of the 3/382 by neutralizing and softening up heavily fortified enemy positions on the Dick Hill with AT guns, medium tanks and artillery. Many direct hits on enemy positions were observed by elements of 1/382 while destroying numerous occupied caves and pillboxes on the valley floor at 8172-A1 and A2. After spending the morning softening up the enemy positions to their front, the 1/382 moved forward at 1230 taking the Emily Hill, 8073-X1 and X2, and at 1400 jumped off in a coordinated attack with the 2/306 on the right and the 3/382 on the left. By 1630, the 1/382 had advanced 400 to 500 yards against heavy resistance, fighting all the way with the enemy looking down on their positions. Numerous caves and pillboxes encountered were completely destroyed, and the 1/382 consolidated and dug in for the night on the base of the Dick Hill, at 8273-S3, XL, 3, 4-YL and 2. During the morning, the 3/382 had pushed strong patrols 200 yards south of the Baker Hill while the remainder of the battalion was moving forward to occupy the ridge at 8172-F. At 1400, the battalion jumped off in a coordinated attack with the 1/382 and the 2/306, and by 1630 this battalion had advanced 600 yards to the base of the Oboe Hill, 8072-R, at 8072-N2-03 over difficult terrain against heavy resistance. Most of the fighting was done at close range and the battalion engaged in hand-to-hand combat all the way. It is estimated that these two battalions killed 500 to 550 Japs as a result of this action.
During the day, the 1/383 made slow progress against determined enemy resistance coming from the King and Love Hills, 8171-M1. Against this resistance, the battalion had, at the close of the period, advanced 100 yards along the southeast spur of the Charlie Hill and the left flank was extended to the cut between the Charlie and King Hills. The 2/383 began the attack on the Conical Hill with elements on both sides of Razorback Ridge, running north and south from the base of the hill to the peak at 8271-BG. The right flank immediately pushed forward 200 yards to a point forward of the base of the ridge, but the left flank, Fox Company, was held up by machine gun fire coming from the vicinity of Yonagusuku. By 1100, Fox 383 supported by tanks, had cleaned out the resistance in this area and the remainder of the battalion moved rapidly up to the crest of the ridge running northeast from the peak of the Conical Hill.
At 1330, Love 383 was committed on the right flank of the 2/383 with the mission of securing the west slopes of the King Hill. At 1420, Love Company, was pushing slowly up the east slopes of the King Hill but was unable to reach the high ground between the King and the Conical Hills prior to darkness. At 1525 an estimated enemy company launched a counter attack against the advance positions of the 2/383 on the Conical Hill but prompt artillery barrages and 4.2 Chemical Mortar fire directed by an observer in a liaison plane stopped this attack. At 1600, the left flank of this battalion was on the skyline just 50 yards east of the highest peak on the Conical Hill and the front lines, at the close of the period, extended along the high ridge running east and west.
At 1100, the 2/381 was attached to the 383-IR for operational control. This battalion moved to new positions on the Gaja Ridge during the afternoon to protect the Division left flank, and to send strong patrols to the vicinity of the town located at 8372-X. As a result of these activities the Division advanced for approximately 800 yards on the left and about 600 yards on the right. The 382-IR fought bitterly over extremely contested ground in the face of heavy enemy opposition, while the 383-IR overcame all resistance in Yonagusuku and advanced to within 50 yards of the highest point of the Conical Hill and to a point half way up the northeast slopes of the King Hill. The 2/381 moved to new positions on the Division left flank abreast of the 383 on the Conical Hill.
May 14 1945 – The Japs Reinforce Dick Hill
There was a considerable increase in enemy activity during the night of May 13-14 with numerous attempts of infiltration being repulsed by all front line battalions. It was believed that the enemy reinforced the Dick Hill during the night as, beginning at dawn, on May 14, and lasting throughout the day, the 1/382 received intense machine gun and rifle fire from the vicinity of the Hill. All available supporting weapons were used to neutralize and destroy these enemy positions, and tanks were employed to supply ammunition to our front lines. At 1400, the 1/382 and the 3/382 jumped off in a coordinated attack and fought bitterly throughout the period in an all out effort to secure the enemy strong point on the Hill. Elements of the 1/383 advanced as far as the draw between the Dick Hill and the Flat-Top Hill, 8073-W5 and 8073-W4, but the enemy fire became so strong that it was impossible to maintain this position. At the close of the period the front lines of the 1/382 were the same as the previous night. The 3/383, during the coordinated attack had succeeded in advancing one company 400 yards to seize the Mary Hill, 8072-IL, southeast of the Dick Hill. Although advances of this Regiment were generally small, the fighting in their zone was the heaviest encountered for sometime.
In the 383-IR’s zone the 1/383 engaged in a heavy fire fight throughout the day against enemy positions located on Love and Mike Hills, 8171-M2. Elements of 1/383 on the Regimental right advanced 200 yards to secure the high ground southwest of the Charlie Hill, approximately 200 yards north of the Love Hill. The left flank elements of this Battalion were advanced 200 yards and succeeded in knocking out the enemy resistance on the northeast slopes of the King Hill which had been holding up advances in the center of the Regimental zone. The 1/383 in the center of the Regimental zone advanced 200 yards and by 1800 had secured the high ground just west of the Conical Peak, 8271-K, and was abreast of the 2/383. Elements of the 763-TB rendered excellent fire support during this advance of this Battalion.
The 2/383, during the day, received heavy enemy machine gun and mortar fire coming from the southeast slopes of Conical Hill. This Battalion, supported by tanks, concentrated on knocking out enemy pillboxes and softening up enemy strong points to the front and flanks. At the close of the period, the 2/383 had maintained its right flank just east of the highest peak on the Conical Hill, and had advanced its left flank 200 yards to 8271-N. During the period, the 2/381 moved to new dispositions with George Co abreast of and protecting the left flank of the 2/383. As a result of these activities the 382-IR captured the high ground southeast of the Dick Hill, while the 383-IR captured the southwest slopes of the Charlie Hill and high ground, 200 yards northwest of the Conical Peak.
May 15 1945 – Dick Hill Finally Reached
Continued enemy infiltration attempts, were prominent all along the front during the night of May 14-15. Heavy rains during the night which lasted until noon of May 15, resulted in little progress initially in the attack by the Division due to poor footing. However, at 0900, the 382-IR attacked in conjunction with 3/307 (77-ID) to capture the Dick Hill and supported the 3/307 (77-ID) in the capture of the Chocolate Drop Hill on the boundary between the 77-IR and the 96-ID. At 1430, the 3/382 began to advance up the steep slopes of the Dick Hill by infiltration. In order to conceal this advance, fires from the Division Artillery were placed on the enemy position by numerous heavy artillery concentrations before the all-out assault was made. By 1600, one company had reached the skyline on the Dick Hill and by 1700 the remaining elements of the 3/382 and one company of the 1/382 were on top of the hill. As these four companies attempted to cross the skyline, intense machine gun and rifle fire opened up raking the ridge line from end to end, making further advance impossible. At 1300 these four companies were digging in on the north slopes of the hill just short of the skyline within 50 yards of the Japs dug in on the south slopes.
The 383-IR with the 2/381 attached, on the Diivision left, made little advances during the day. Extremely heavy enemy fire from Love and Mike Hills prevented any advance of the 1/383 on the right flank. This battalion, however, employed all supporting weapons, knocked out considerable enemy emplacements and definitely killed 105 Japs. The 2/383 advanced George Co approximately 200 yards to the top of the Conical Hill and adjusted their position to tie in with Love 383 on their right. During the day, strong feeler patrols were sent 200 yards forward of the front lines to probe enemy positions while the 2/381 continued to patrol the Yonagusuku and the Gaya areas with negative results.
In spite of the day’s rain, the 382-IR advanced four reinforced rifle companies just short of the skyline on the Dick Hill against strong enemy resistance and poor footing while the 383-IR continued to knock out strong enemy positions and to consolidate and reinforce their position on the Conical Hill. Contact was maintained with the enemy during the night of May 15-16, as troops were engaged in hand grenade duels with the Japs dug in on the south slopes of the Dick and the Conical Hills. The Regimental CO of the 382-IR stated that the reason the troops had taken the Dick Hill and had held it was due to the fact that they were able to get a larger supply of grenades up the hill than the Japs before dark.
May 16 1945 – Rain Delays Advance
On the morning of May 16, the 2/382 passed through and relieved the 1/382 and at 0930, the 2/382 and the 3/382 attacked the peak of the Dick Hill. The enemy met this attack with heavy knee-mortar fire, hand grenades, satchel charges, making the ground untenable. Heavy fire was placed on these positions on the south slope of the hill, and by 1100 one company of each battalion had succeeded in getting advance elements over the skyline. By 1200, one company of the 2/382 had crossed the peak of the hill and was working down the southwest slopes, engaged in bitter hand-to-hand fighting with bayonets and grenades. By 1400, the 2/382 had been successful in gaining slightly more than 100 yards down the south slope of the hill. At 1430 the remainder of the 3/382 renewed their attack and attempted to cross the skyline southeast of the hill but made little progress. Heavy machine gun and rifle fire from the enemy positions on the Oboe Hill completely covered the exposed terrain just forward of the crest of the Dick Hill making any further advance during the day impossible. The 1/382 after being relieved, supported by fire the assault of the 307-IR (77-ID) on the Flat-Top Hill.
During the day extremely heavy fighting throughout the Regimental zone resulted in only slight advances for the 383-IR. The 1/383 continued mopping up during the morning and attempted to bring up tanks to support their advance. The roads were impassable due to previous rainy conditions, but at 1430 this battalion resumed their attack against the King and the Love Hills without the aid of tanks. The right flank of this attack was stopped almost immediately by the intense machine gun fire from the Love Hill, and from the vicinity of the Victor Hill, 8071-D2. However, Charlie Company on the battalion left flank succeeded in bypassing the King Hill and by 1700 had pushed one platoon up the northeast slope of the Love Hill. At this time an estimated 50 enemy machine guns opened up from the enemy fortified position on the Love Hill to their front, from the vicinity of the Victor Hill on their right, from the southeast slopes of the Conical Hill on their left and from the south slopes of the King Hill to their rear. Extremely heavy casualties were inflicted on our own forces as no elements of this platoon which had reached the Love Hill were able to return to our front lines.
Only slight gains were made by the 2/383 during the day as they attempted to advance down the southeast slopes of the Conical Hill against heavy machine gun and small arms fire. However, one platoon of Baker 763-TB, had pushed forward to reach the northwest corner of Yonabaru and immediately began bombarding the town with 75-MM and machine gun fire. The heavy enemy fire covering the south slopes of the Conical Hill prevented the infantry from exploiting the tanks rapid advance and at the close of the period, after exhausting their ammunition supply, the tanks withdrew to positions held previously. As a result of these activities, the 2/382 on the Division right flank gained slightly more than 100 yards down the south slopes of the Dick Hill. On the Division left, the 2/333 made only slight gains along the southeast slopes of the Conical Hill, as medium tanks penetrated the enemy right flank 1000 yards in a reconnaissance in force along the coastal road to the outskirts of Yonabaru.
May 17 1945 – The 381-IR is Committed
Field Order # 22, HQ 96th Infantry Division, issued on May 16, ordered the 381-IR (less the 1st Battalion) into the line on the left flank of the Division. New Regimental boundaries were established. The 381-IR was ordered to relieve elements of the 383-IR in its zone of action on May 17 and to attack with the main effort on its right. The 382-IR was to continue the attack in its assigned zone and seize the the Oboe, Peter and Victor Hill mass; the 383-IR, was to continue the attack in its assigned zone making the main effort in its left.
The attack jumped off at 0630 on May 17, as the tank-infantry teams and demolition teams from the 382-IR covered the west, southwest and south slopes of the Dick Hill cleaning out a number of enemy fortified positions along these slopes. A net advance of 200 yards was made by 2/382 on the Division right flank as this battalion worked slowly down the southwest slope destroying numerous caves and pillboxes with pole charges and flamethrowers. Extremely heavy fire coming from the high ground to their front made further progress slow. The 3/332 spent the day sending out mop-up patrols to work along the high ground at 8072-CL cleaning out the numerous enemy positions and fortifications between the right flank of the 3/382 and the 2/382.
(Above left) Looking forward to the Dick Hill : Contact was maintained throughout the night of May 15-16 as troops were engaged in hand grenade duels with the enemy entrenched only 50 yards across the top of the hill. (Above right) Looking back on Dick Hill : As the troops advanced down these slopes they were constantly engaged in bitter hand-to-hand fighting with bayonets and hand grenades. Pole Charges and flame-throwers were used to reduce numerous fortified positions encountered on this hill. (Bellow) The last Shuri Defense Line : The enemy thrust, a strong counter attack against the 1/382 during the night of May 23-24, inflicting heavy casualties. The battalion was then re-organized into one company of 198 men which succeeded in holding the hill.
Two strong tank-infantry teams were employed by 1/383 on the Regimental right flank along the south slopes of the Charlie Hill and the west slopes of the King Hill. One tank-infantry team patrolled out as far as 8171-B to the foot of the Love Hill, while the other tank-infantry team, operating under direct enemy machine gun fire throughout the day, managed to clean out the west slopes of the King Hill as far forward as 8173-D3.
The 2/383, after being relieved by the 3/381 at 0945, maintained strong pressure against the enemy positions throwing hand grenades, satchel charges and mortar shells over the Conical Hill Spur to their front. Several termite patrols were sent to operate along the King – Conical Ridge to destroy numerous enemy positions which had fired on Charlie 383 from the rear the day before. The 3/381 after relieving the 2/383 spent the remainder of the day in bringing forward all available supporting weapons, registering in of artillery, chemical mortars and Regimental and Battalion weapons on key points in preparation for the attack the following day. During the afternoon, a small patrol from the 2/381 advanced south along the coastal road to the north edge of Yonabaru and returned without receiving any enemy fire. As a result of these activities the 3/381 relieved the 2/383 and prepared for the future attack while the 382-IR advanced approximately 100 yards on its right down the southwest slopes of the Dick Hill.
During the night of May 17-18, enemy activity along the Division front was generally light with the usual intermittent artillery and mortar fire and infiltration attempts, except in the zone of the 2/382. Throughout the night, this battalion received extremely heavy artillery and mortar fire and engaged in numerous hand grenade duels killing an estimated 52 Japs.
May 18 1945 – Patrols Reach Yonabaru
On May 18, the 382-IR was engaged in mopping up and eliminating close in enemy positions without any change in previous front lines. An enemy mine field at 8072-C5 was cleared during the day using Bangalore torpedoes and tanks were then able to advance into the valley behind the Dick Hill. The 3/382 received heavy machine gun and mortar fire throughout the day from both, the Oboe and the Flat-Top Hills which prevented any advance down the south slopes of the ridge southeast of the Dick Hill. Strong patrols were sent forward by the 1/382 to scout the area between the Baker and the Victor Hills. These patrols received only light sniper fire and machine gun fire and some enemy artillery from positions in the vicinity of the Victor Hill. In the 383-IR zone there was no change in the front lines as termite patrols and tank-infantry teams from both 1/383 and 2/383 operated along the south slopes of the Charlie Hill and the west slopes of the King Hill destroying enemy positions in this area. During the afternoon these patrols received heavy fire from the vicinity of the Love Hill. Our tanks returned the fire and it is believed that several guns were destroyed.
The only substantial gain made by the Division was on the left flank in the zone of the 381-IR. The 3/381 advanced approximately 400 yards across the fingers extending toward the sea from the high ridge extending south from the Conical Hill. Medium tanks operating between the Conical Hill and the coastal road rendered excellent direct fire support against machine gun positions in the 8271-UPQ area. Despite this support, advances were very slow against the heavy machine gun and mortar fire opposing this battalion. Patrols from the 3/381 advanced as far as 8270-B2 without receiving fire from Sugar Hill at 8270-F2, but enemy machine gun fire from the Hogback Ridge, 8271-P2-P-4, prevented further advance and it was necessary for this patrol to return under the cover of a smoke screen.
May 19 1945 – The Rains Came
Heavy rain set in during the night of May 18-19 resulting in very little enemy activity along the Division front. However, the 2/382 on the right flank engaged in hand grenade battles throughout the night killing an estimated 60 Japs. Little progress was made by the Division on May 19, except on the left flank. In the 382-IR zone heavy enemy fire from both, the Oboe and the Peter (8072-W1) Hills prevented any material advance during the day. The Regiment employed medium tanks, flamethrower tanks, assault guns and infantry demolition teams throughout the day in mopping up enemy emplacements to their front. Despite heavy AT fire, the tanks destroyed at least fifteen caves and other emplacements. The 383-IR also continued its mop-up activities throughout the day in the King and Charlie Hills area employing tanks and infantry demolition teams. Many machine gun emplacements were destroyed and numerous caves sealed. Due to this intensive mopping-up within their zone and the heavy enemy fire coming from their front, there was no change in the front lines of this Regiment.
After heavy neutralization fire by two platoons of medium tanks, six platoons of Amphibious Tanks, fires of the artillery and infantry support weapons, the 381-IR resumed their attack against the Sugar Hill at noon with the 3/381 in the assault. Strong assault demolition teams were pushed forward to destroy enemy machine guns previously located in the vicinity of their advance. Numerous enemy positions were destroyed although front lines were practically unchanged. Several strong hand grenade battles ensued across the top of the Hogback Ridge during the day’s battle. During the night May 19-20, numerous hand grenade battles characterized the action along the Division front, despite intermittent showers throughout the period.
May 20 1945 – Japs Resist Bitterly
The attack on May 20 jumped off at 0730. Twice during the day, the 3/382 attempted to advance toward the Oboe Hill. In both attempts, elements succeeded in advancing one hundred yards, but in both cases enemy mortar fire and grazing machine gun fire made this ground untenable and they were forced to withdraw. The Regiment spent the remainder of the day in reducing the newly located enemy positions.
The 383-IR began their advance at 1045 after moving their front lines slightly back to permit a close-in air strike on south slope of the Charlie Hill. This air strike was very successful and the 1/383 attacked down the south slope of the hill and by 1400 this battalion had cleaned out an enemy positions within their zone and had advanced their lines two hundred yards. The battalion spent the rest of the day consolidating their positions, and supporting the attack of the 2/383 against the King Hill. The 2/383, using medium tanks worked their way to the top of the hill against extremely heavy mortar fire and by 1800 were able to consolidate their front lines along the top of the King – Conical Hill Ridge.
The 3/381 resumed the attack in the direction of the Sugar Hill and advanced slowly along the east slope of the Hogback Hill, and by 1200, left elements of this battalion, had advanced two hundred yards and were engaged in bitter grenade battles along the ridge. One unit in this advance threw two hundred seventy five hand grenades in a two-hour period. During the afternoon the hand grenade battles continued incessantly with the enemy fighting desperately to hold every inch of ground. However, by 1800, this battalion had advanced 300 yards and were still fighting for the last ground short of the Sugar Hill. As a result of these activities, the 381-IR, 96-ID left flank, advanced 300 yards south along the Conical – Sugar Hill Ridge. The 382-IR, reduced all enemy resistance on the south and cast slopes of the Dick Hill, while the 383-IR advanced 200 yards on their right down the south slope of the Charlie Hill. On the left, this Regiment pushed forward and consolidated their lines along the top of the King – Conical Hill Ridge.
Field Order # 51, HQ XXIV Corps, dated May 20, ordered the 96th Infantry Division to continue the attack to capture the high ground east of Shuri in its zone of action, making the main effort initially on the left. The Division boundary was changed with the 7-ID coming in on the left flank. Upon receiving this order, Field Order # 23, HQ 96-ID, was issued ordering a Division attack at 0730 on May 21, with all three Regiments abreast. The 382-IR was ordered to attack within a new zone of action to seize the Oboe, Peter and Victor Hills. The 383-IR was ordered to attack within its new zone to clear out all enemy resistance from west slopes of the Conical Peak and to seize the Love, Mike and the Queen Hills. The 381-IR, within its new zone, was ordered to attack and seize the Sugar and the Roger (8170-GL) Hills.
After a heavy artillery preparation, the 96-ID jumped off at 0730 on May 21, amid intermittent showers. The 382-IR, on the Division, right advanced steadily throughout the morning and by 0925, the 2/382 had advanced its right flank 200 yards to 8072-G3 against moderate machine gun and mortar fire coming from the vicinity of the Harry Hill, 8072-U2. The 1/382 after passing through left elements of the 3/382 pushed their forward elements 700 yards to 8072-X2, X-4. This battalion received small arms fire from the top of the Oboe Hill, and machine gun fire from the south slopes of the Love and the Mike Hills. At 1050, the 2/382 had two companies on the high ground at 8072-L and were receiving heavy machine gun and mortar fire from the Harry Hill, and the high ground to their front. At 1130 elements of the enemy began pulling out from the area in front of the battalion, and the 1/332 then advanced to reach the top of the Oboe Hill where they fired on these retreating Japs. However, isolated groups of Japs made numerous counter attacks, supported by extremely heavy machine gun and mortar fire, all along the regiment front lines preventing any further advance during the day.
The 383-IR with the 1/383 and the 2/383 in the assault made the main effort on the regiment left, and by 0900, the 2/383 had secured the west slopes of the Hogback Ridge. The 1/383 advanced forward 100 yards and immediately ran into heavy MGs fire from the vicinity of the Love Hill. However, with tanks to provide close fire support, the regiment renewed the attack at 1200 and by 1415 elements of the 1/383 were at the foot of the Love Hill. The enemy laid heavy artillery concentrations all along the regimental front lines, and the fire became so intense that at 1630 all elements in the center of the zone were forced to withdraw to the north slopes of the King Hill.
The 381-IR making the main effort along the left flank of the division zone of action advanced 400 yards during the morning, and by 1150, elements of the 3/381 were assaulting the top of the Sugar Hill. During the afternoon, the regiment advanced an additional 400 yards securing Sugar Hill, and by 1600, had elements about 200 yards north of the Yonabaru – Shuri – Naha highway. The enemy strong position on the Cutaway Hill, 8271-U, continued to pour heavy machine gun and rifle fire on all assault troops of both the 381-IR and the 383-IR, and it was not until after the Sugar Hill had been taken that this strong point was reduced. Heavy enemy fire from the positions in the vicinity of the Roger Hill halted any further advance by this Regiment during the day. During this action the 381-IR was engaged in some of the most fierce hand-to-hand combat they had yet experienced on Okinawa.
As a result of the day’s attack, the 381-IR on the Division left flank advanced 800 yards, securing the Sugar Hill and breaking the right flank of the enemy Shuri defenses by advances to within 200 yards of the Yonabaru – Shuri – Naha road. The 382-IR advanced 800 yards and secured the Oboe Hill. The 383-IR moved forward 100 yards but were unable to make further advances due to the heavy enemy fire from the Love Hill, the west slopes of Conical Hill, and the east slopes of the Victor Hill.
May 22 – 29 1945 – Heavy Rains Halt Advances
During the period of May 22-29, extremely heavy rains prevented the division from making any progress other than local gains. Supply and evacuation became critical, and front line elements had to hand carry all re-supply of ammunition, food and water up the steep slippery slopes. Roads became impracticable and in many instances front line troops had to be supplied by air. However, during the period the enemy continued his bitter fight to hold his ground. Numerous attempts of infiltration and counter attacks were repulsed, and the enemy continually harassed our front lines with intermittent artillery and mortar fire.
During the night of May 23-24, the enemy thrust a strong counter attack against 1/382 on the Oboe Hill. These attacks were repulsed but some of the enemy had succeeded in penetrating through our lines inflicting heavy casualties upon our troops. On May 24, the 1/382 reorganized into a single company of 198 men, and despite heavy enemy opposition, succeeded in holding the Oboe Hill.
During the entire rainy period all three Regiments sent strong patrols to their front to keep contact with the enemy, and all front line battalions continued to mop up enemy positions within their zone. Visibility was extremely poor during this eight day period and the majority of artillery fire consisted of harassing missions on known enemy targets. In one instance, a forward observer from the 361-FAB burrowed through the slopes of the Sugar Hill in order to establish observation on the Roger Hill. All flat trajectory and supporting weapons and ammunition were brought forward as conditions permitted. In numerous cases tunnels were dug through the tops of hills and these guns were placed to fire directly into enemy emplacements and pillboxes.
May 30 1945 – Shuri Defenses Broken
A Division attack was launched at 0800 on May 30 in an all out effort to destroy the enemy’s excellent Shuri defenses. During the morning the 382-IR supported the advance of the 383-IR by fire and sent strong patrols to probe to their front. At 1230, with the 1/382 and the 2/382 in the assault, the Regiment began their attack in conjunction with the 307-IR attack on their right. Both of these battalions were temporarily held up at 1245 by a strong enemy force along the south slopes of the Hen Hill, 8272-R1. Heavy fires were placed down on this force and at 1400 the group opposing the 2/382 attempted to withdraw across the front of the 1/382. It is estimated that approximately 50 to 60 of these retreating Japs were killed by the 1/382. Immediately, the 2/382 renewed their attack down the south slopes of the Hen Hill, and by 1715 had reached the top of the Peter Hill and were engaged in mopping up and destroying Japs still in this area. Forward elements of this battalion continued the advance and by 1800 had secured the top of the Bart Hill, 8071-C3, and were engaged in a hot fire fight with the enemy still entrenched on the hill.
The 383-IR began their attack at 0800 with the main effort on the left, and by 1030 the 2/383 had cleared out the enemy pockets along the west slopes of the Hogback Ridge and had secured the the Conical and Love Hill Ridge, 8171-M2-O2. The attack of the 1/383, delayed until the enemy resistance at 8171-I was overcome, began at 1100 to secure both hills, the Love and Mike. By 1200, one company had taken the Love Hill, while the 2/383 continued their advance to the Queen Hill against moderate resistance. Advances continued during the afternoon, meeting very little resistance on the left and heavy resistance on the right. At 1300, the 3/383 jumped off in the attack to seize the Victor Hill and by 1400 elements were reported on top of this hill where they immediately encountered heavy resistance from an estimated platoon, and at 11300 they were still engaged in close-in fighting between the Victor and the Bart Hills. Left elements of this battalion continued their advance to join up with the 2/382 at 8071-M. After securing the Queen Hill, the 2/383 continued their advance to the south and by 1400 one company had reached the Little Queen Hill, 8171-U4, with no enemy opposition. These hills were all secured by 1600, and the 2/383 moved on to the high ground at 8071-X, where they dug in for the night.
The 381-IR, with the 1/381 and the 2/381 in the assault, advanced quite rapidly during the morning against moderate enemy resistance in the form of machine gun and rifle fire. By 1100, the 2/381, after considerable hand-to-hand combat in the town of Miyagusuku, secured the Roger Hill. The 1/381 secured the enemy strong point on the Cutaway Hill. Reserve elements were committed to contain and mop up this area while the balance of the battalion pushed rapidly on to capture the Don, 8170-D2, and the Sparrow, 8170-C5, Hills meeting relatively light resistance. By 1200 this Regiment secured the Roger and Sparrow Hill mass, and during the afternoon concentrated on mopping up enemy caves and installations which had previously been by-passed.
With the new change in the Corps boundary between 96-ID, the 77-ID and the 7-ID, effective 1200, TT May 30 HQ XXIV Corps, one company of the 1/381 moved froward to occupy the Zeb Hill, 8070-H2, and at 1800 this same company was in defensive positions and tied in with 2/382 on the right and Fox Co 32-IR the left. As a result of these activities, the Div advanced approximately 1200 yards during the day to clean out all enemy resistance north of the Yonabaru – Shuri – Naha road within the division zone, except in the Pearl and Pauline Hills area, 8071-KLPQ. Enemy resistance encountered was surprisingly light throughout the day except on the extreme right of the division zone, where the 382-IR fought against a fairly strong enemy position until late in the afternoon when this enemy began to withdraw.
May 31 1945 – Jap Resistance Vanishes
On May 31, advances of 600 yards on the division left and up to 1800 yards on the division right were made against light enemy resistance, except on the extreme left of the division zone of action. By 1200 all objectives within the 96-ID zone were reached and the front lines were up against the Corps boundary, except on the left flank southwest of the John Hill, 7970-01, 02, 03. The 382-IR began their advance at 0900 with 2/382 in the assault, and by 0940 had secured the Tom Hill, 8071-A4, in conjunction with elements of 3/383. This was the final objective for the 382-IR in its assigned zone, and the balance of the day was spent in sealing caves and cleaning up scattered enemy remnants in the Oboe – Peter Hills area. The 383-IR resumed their advance at 0900 and by 0940 the 3/383 in conjunction with the 2/382 had secured the Tom Hill and one company had reached the Pearl Hill, 8071-L3. By 1245, the 2/383 and elements of the 3/383 had taken the Joe Hill, 7971-WX.
In a coordinated attack with elements of the 1-MD (Marine) at 1200, the 383-IR pushed across the Corps boundary and secured the Claire Hill, 7971-IG. By 1800 all enemy groups were chased off of Claire Hill, and the 3/333 had established physical contact with the left flank of the 5-MR (Marine) at 7871-D. The 381-IR resumed their advance at 0830 with the 1/381 in the assault. By 0930, elements of this battalion secured the top of the John Hill and were engaged in a stiff fire fight with the enemy along the south slopes of this hill and on the Raccoon Hill, 7970-W1, throughout the rest of the day. By 1100, one company of 1/381 secured the Louise Hill, 7970-D4, encountering but little enemy resistance. The regiment spent the remainder of the day mopping up and sealing caves in the Sugar and Roger Hill area. As a result of these activities the 96-ID secured all of its objectives and reduced all organized enemy resistance in its assigned zone of action. Elements of the division right flank advanced 1800 yards to gain physical contact with the 5-MR south of Shuri.
During the month of May the 96th Infantry Division continued to grind through the series of well-prepared and defended enemy positions in its zone of action. Much of the fighting had been close-in and the infantry had engaged in hand-to-hand combat using bayonets, knives and hand grenades to annihilate the Japs as they continued to bitterly contest every inch of ground. Heavy rains during the period made the problem of supply and evacuation critical as the division continued to move forward seizing one hill after another over the most difficult terrain yet encountered.
At the close of this phase in the battle for southern Okinawa the following message was received by the Commanding General of the 96th Infantry Division from
the Commanding General of the 10-A, Lt Gen Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr :
I wish to congratulate you and all the members of your command for your part in driving the enemy from his Shuri line and forcing him to the present area for final destruction. While all divisions in the line have contributed toward this end, I regard the capture of the Conical Hill by the 96-ID as the most important single factor in the collapse of the Shuri position since it opened the way for an envelopment of the hostile right and forced the enemy’s immediate withdrawal. My confidence and best wishes accompany you in the final assault.
The following figures show our losses as compared to those of the enemy for the period May 1-31 :
381-IR, 29-KIA, 236-WIA
382-IR, 103-KIA, 929-WIA, 74-MIA
383-IR, 113-KIA, 526-WIA, 64-MIA
Total : 2074
Japs killed : 8483
Tank losses : 10 to Mines, 2 to Artillery, 5 to AT fire, 2 Burned, 2 Stuck
Damage to the enemy :
KIA : 8483
POW : 13
Field Pieces : 36
Machine Gin : 170
Mortar : 71
320-MM Spigot Mortar : 3
Tanks : 4
Pillboxes : 39
Caves : 1210
End of this Archive
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European Center of Military History
Gunter ‘Doc Snafu’ Gillot
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(NB : Published for Good – March 2019)