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Friendly Fire


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Invasion of Okinawa
(April 1945)

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.


1999 The Battleship USS North Carolina Commission
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Last updated: July 18, 1999.