96th Infantry Division Deadeyes Asssociation

    On April 1, 1945 the 96th Infantry Division struck near the heart of the Japanese Empire by landing on the island of Okinawa, Japan.  Thus began the largest battle of the War in the Pacific, code named Operation Iceberg, on a day designated as Love Day.

   The 96th infantry Division, in company with the 7th Infantry Division and the 1st and 6th Marine Divisions, met much lighter than expected opposition during the landing.  This was part of the Japanese plan for an extended battle of attrition which would delay for as long as possible the expected invasion of the main islands of Japan.

   The 96th Infantry Division, part of the Army XXIV Corps, also was part of the U.S. TENTH Army under Lt. General Simon Buckner. The operation was code named
"Operation Iceberg" and the landing day, April 1, 1945 was designated "Love Day"..The overall commander was Admiral Chester Nimitz, in command of the Central Pacific Command. Okinawa is part of the Ryukyu Islands and is a Prefecture of Japan.

   The Japanese 32nd Army was waiting for the Americans in their chosen underground and fortified positions on the high ground of a series of successive ridges traversing a narrow portion of southern Okinawa.  These positions made up their Shuri line defending their underground headquarters below the grounds of the ancient Shuri Castle.

   What we encountered in the Shuri line was by far the largest concentration of Japanese firepower, artillery, mortars, anti-tank guns and mines confronting American forces during the Pacific War.

   96th Infantry Division troops reached the main Japanese defenses on April 7th, 1945 and on April 9th and 10th battled the Japanese for control of Kakazu and Kakazu West Ridges, with heavy losses on both sides.  An all-out offensive was launched on April 19th, and the 96th Division, in heavy fighting on Tombstone, Nishbaru and Hacksaw Ridges, broke the Northernmost Shuri line.  We continued a further advance until the entire Division was withdrawn from battle for rest and replacements on April 30th.

   For the 96th Infantry Division it was back into combat on May 10th, where we fought for days to break the southernmost Shuri line in places such as Dick Hill, Charlie Hill and key Conical Hill.  In a spectacular example of unit aggressiveness, the crest of Conical Hill was seized on May 13.  After days of fighting to completely clear Conical Hill of Japanese, and the taking of Sugar Hill to the south, the right flank of the Japanese Shuri defenses were broken.  This caused the Japanese retreat to the south end of Okinawa, which started on May 25th under cover of constant rain.

   The 96th Division continued their pursuit of the Japanese to where they made their last stand on Yaeju Dake (Big Apple) and Yuza Dake escarpments, and their resistance was crushed on June 23, 1945.  Our mop-up operations against Japanese troops continued until June 30th, ending 81 days of combat for the Deadeyes on Okinawa.

   We had completely crushed fanatical Japanese resistance on Okinawa, but at the heavy cost of 1,625 Killed in Action and Died of Wounds, over 7,500 Wounded and 833 Combat Fatigue casualties. 
In 2007, 32 men from the 96th Infantry Division were still listed  as Missing in Action from the Battle of Okinawa,. Quoting from the 96th Infantry Division plaque on the Army Okinawa Battle Monument, it can be truly said "Deadeyes, Hereabouts the 96th Infantry Division suffered over 10,000 casualties.  Their Sacrifices Testify to an Unsurpassed Measure of Devotion, Pride and Courage."

   During the Battle of Okinawa the 96th Infantry Division had the second highest number of Battle Casualties of the seven divisions involved, exceeded only by the 6th Marine Division.  However, a Marine Division was larger than an Army Division.  A Marine Rifle Company had 54 more men than an Army Rifle Company.  Thus, on a comparative strength basis, the 96th Division had the highest percentage of casualties.

   For its heroic effort in the Battle of Okinawa, the 96th Infantry Division was awareded the Army Presidential Unit Citation. The 96th Infantry Division was one of four entire Army Divisions to be awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. In addition, two 96th Division units were individually awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. They were Company L, 383rd Infantry Regiment on Kakazu Ridge and Company E, 382nd Infantry Regiment on Oboe Hill.

Don Dencker