Invasion of Okinawa |
Coincident with the air offensive of Task Force 58 against
Mainland Japan, other American forces were closing in for the invasion of Okinawa, where
the initial landings occurred on 1 April. Three Marine Divisions (1st, 2nd, and 6th), plus
four Army Divisions (7th, 96th, 77th, and 27th) were employed in this operation, the last
of the major island assaults of the Pacific war. Okinawa was needed because it was best
located to support the planned invasion of the Home Islands of Japan, and because it
offered airfields and anchorages required for that purpose. Task Force 58 covered the
operation, providing air support and fighter defense.
- The NORTH CAROLINA, in company with
other fast battleships, conducted a pre-invasion bombardment of Okinawa from very long
ranges on 24 March; and fired again, in support of a feint landing on 17 April.
- On 6 April, in the heat of an air attack with all ships
firing, the Showboat was accidentally hit by a 5-inch
AA Common projectile fired at a low-flying kamikaze by a friendly ship. The
projectile struck the supporting trunk of the secondary battery director (Sky 2), killing
three men, wounding 44, and disabling the director. During a lull in the fighting, the
dead were buried at sea with members of the crew sadly bidding their shipmates a last
farewell in the traditional solemn rites.
- Just before taps that night, the voice of the Chaplain came
over the ship's public address system with the following prayer: "Heavenly
Father, today we committed to the deep three of our shipmates who gave their lives so that
others may live. We are particularly mindful at this time of their loved ones at home.
Sustain them in their sorrow. Help them to understand that those they love gave their
lives for their protection and care. Be with all the officers and men of this ship. Give
all of us heart and mind to serve thee and our country willingly and faithfully...."
- The NORTH CAROLINA, with Task Force 58,
was in the thick of the fighting around Okinawa for a total of 40 days before being
ordered to withdraw for repairs to her battle damage. During this 40-day period, hundreds
of kamikaze attacks were launched against naval units operating in the vicinity of
Okinawa, and a total of 73 ships were crashed by them. Of these, 20 were sunk or so badly
damaged they had to be scuttled, and 22 were damaged to the extent that repairs would not
be completed before the war was over. However, for every kamikaze pilot who succeeded in
crashing one of our ships, there were scores shot down by our fighters and ship's gunners.