1995 32¢ World War II: Okinawa, the Last Big Battle
US #2981c – from the WWII 1945: Victory at Last sheet

On April 1, 1945, the Battle of Okinawa began.

By the spring of 1945, the Allies’ successful island-hopping campaign had brought them to the Ryukyu Islands, about 350 miles from Japan. Air bases on the islands, including Okinawa, could be used in the planned attack on the mainland.

1995 32¢ Okinawa Mystic First Day Cover
US #2981c – Mystic First Day Cover

The landing on Okinawa began on Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945, and was the last and largest amphibious assault of the Pacific Campaign. Expecting immediate resistance, as at Iwo Jima, troops were surprised to find little enemy activity. Hours after troops had swarmed ashore, a vital airstrip was captured without a single shot being fired. For five days US troops waited to engage the enemy.

1985 50¢ Chester W. Nimitz
US #1869 – Nimitz commanded naval forces at Okinawa.

As it turned out, the Japanese had a plan. Instead of meeting the Americans on the shore, the Japanese built strong defenses in caves, pillboxes, and castles. Then on April 6th the Japanese struck – General Ushijima had pulled his forces back to the southern part of the island and was waiting to trap the Marines.

For two days, nearly 700 enemy aircraft, including 350 kamikazes, pounded the beachheads and the offshore forces. From that point on, Okinawa was won in a series of bloody battles. Japanese strongholds had to be conquered one cave or pillbox at a time. The Japanese also forced Okinawa’s residents to fight. By May, the Allies faced another enemy – the monsoon season.

2000 10¢ Distinguished Americans: General Joseph W. Stilwell
US #3420 – Stilwell commanded Army troops in the final days of the battle.

In spite of the many hardships, the Allies pushed forward, securing the island on June 21, 1945, though some Japanese defenders held out for another day. The casualty toll was more than 200,000, including many civilians.

America’s sea power, encroaching land force, and formidable air power now posed an immediate threat to the Japanese mainland. Some members of the Japanese government favored surrender, others wanted to fight on. With their bases in line, the Allies proceeded with their plans to force Japan into unconditional surrender.

Following the large number of casualties experienced during the battle for Okinawa, US military officials decided not to attack Japan. Instead, two atomic bombs would be dropped on targets on the mainland.

2015 World War II 70th Anniversary
Item #M12350 – WWII 70th anniversary sheet includes a stamp honoring the Battle of Okinawa.
1971 16¢ Ernest Taylor Pyle
US #1398 – from the Prominent Americans Series

Among the casualties at Okinawa was American journalist Ernest “Ernie” Pyle. He had been reporting on the war from Europe since 1940, and went with the Navy when they invaded Okinawa. On April 18, 1945, Ernie was on Iejima Island, northwest of Okinawa. He was traveling with four other men to observe the front line action when their jeep was fired upon by Japanese machine guns. Pyle was shot in the temple and died instantly. He was later awarded a Purple Heart, one of the few civilians to receive it. When the Navy secretary announced Pyle’s death, he said the war correspondent had “helped America understand the heroism and sacrifices of her fighting men.”

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One Comment

  1. This article took my breath away. Thank you to all the brave men and women
    who fought in this war for the freedom we have today.
    You will always be remembered.

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