Monthly Archives: March 2016

Battle of Okinawa

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Battleship Firing on Okinawa

 March 23, 1945

“Launched strikes this morning against Okinawa but had to call them off this afternoon because of bad weather. All the battleships will bombard tomorrow. We expect to bombard from 10 o’clock in the morning until 4 o’clock in the afternoon cruising at 20 knots. The battleships will leave the carriers at midnight tonight.”

Jack Lee Westphal, Seaman 1/c

March 24, 1945

“Pulled into Okinawa Jima around 08:00 and started our bombardments. WISCONSIN, MISSOURI, NEW JERSEY, INDIANA, MASSACHUSETTS, SOUTH DAKOTA, WASHINGTON AND NORTH CAROLINA all bombarded until around 16:00. We got all our targets. No shore batteries or antiaircraft fire was observed from the island. The Marines are landing tomorrow and the 10th Army around the 1st of April. I can’t understand the Japanese not fighting.”

Private George Kietzman, USMC

“Today we bombarded Okinawa Jima. Our 16-inch started at 0900 and kept it up until 1600. The noise was terrific. Only one plane came out. Can’t figure it out. Our troops are going to land the 1st.

John Lipke, USMC

Bombardment

“The new international grid system was used for the first time by this ship and found to be a definite improvement…. The aerial photographs of the target area were reproduced and distributed…however none were available of the coastline in this ship’s firing area and topside personnel had little information as to the appearance of the island prior to the approach and bombardment.”

Action Report

Turret 1 firing

“During the bombardment “a slow rate of fire with single turret salvos was employed to insure the maximum use of information received from the spotting planes.” The ship expended a total of 158 rounds for the day with firing ranges varying from 14,770 to 21,830 yards.

Shuri Castle

“Since no damage could be observed by spotting planes, after the third single turret salvo, fire was shifted to what is believed by the air spotter [LT Al Oliver] to be an antique fort.” (Action Report) Commander Oliver recalled, “I asked that we take on that complex under fire. I feared that it was being used as a hospital or was some kind of religious site. I was no higher than 1,500 feet and was able to identify what appeared to be several women and children run from the area when the first salvo hit the building.” It turned out to be Shuri Castle, the main command center for the Japanese ground forces on Okinawa.

Map of the Island

Learn more details in “Okinawa: The Last Battle,” The War in the Pacific, by Roby E. Appleman, James M. Burns, Russell A. Gugeler, and John Stevens. Historical Division, Department of the Army, 1948.

Iwo Jima Part II

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Air Spotting During the Bombardment of Iwo Jima

Air Spotting During the Bombardment of Iwo Jima

“When spotting, the pilot directed all firing orders to the ship via voice radio. Our orders went directly to CIC and Plot. I flew maybe 35-40 hours over Iwo and we were very well prepared beforehand. We had aerial pictures and an excellent chart of the island…this was extremely useful to identify assigned targets and record where shells actually hit.

We flew at or below 1000 feet. There were frantic calls for assistance to locate the actual area of the fire [on the beach.] During this time [2/21/45] I flew down to about 300 feet to try and locate the guns. [I went very low and I think I see the gun position now, Oliver reported back to the Ship.] It was later learned that the heavy fire came from mortars in caves….

When a salvo is fired we are alerted then on splash down we are told “splash,” therefore we know when a salvo is fired and when it is due to land, thus enabling us to maneuver to be in position to observe the splashdown and [radio back] corrections.

We launched at pre-dawn and finished up for recovery about dusk. This meant for a long day and since we didn’t return to the ship for refueling, we didn’t have an opportunity to change pilots.

Commander Al Oliver, USN (Ret.)

“We had a map with the target on it and it was in quadrants and you would radio back to the Ship, up 50 or left 50 and you try to locate the gunfire onto the target just by voice communication.

Lieutenant Paul Wogan, USN (Ret.)

Lieutenant Paul Wogan, USN (Ret.)

Lieutenant Paul Wogan, USN (Ret.)

“The new booklets of sectional gridded maps with equivalent photographs opposite were of great assistance to air spotters during the pre-firing preparations and later during the actual bombardment. The accuracy and value of the relief map, reported the pilots, looked like much more like the island than the actual photographs.”

Action Report, U.S.S. NORTH CAROLINA

Flight Log

Flight Log

“[On February 19, 1945] I got too close to a target and I got hit by anti-aircraft fire on the wing. I ran into a burst of flack. I was unable to observe that shot,” he radioed back to the Ship.

LT Paul Wogan