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
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
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
"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.
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.
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Division was withdrawn from battle for rest and replacements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.
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
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.
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.