The Tenth was unique in that it had its own tactical air force joint Army-Marine command , and was also supported by combined naval and amphibious forces. The battle was one of the bloodiest in the Pacific, with approximately , casualties on both sides: In the naval operations surrounding the battle, both sides lost considerable numbers of ships and aircraft, including the Japanese battleship Yamato. After the battle, Okinawa provided a fleet anchorage, troop staging areas, and airfields in proximity to Japan in preparation for the planned invasion.
It comprised a force which included 50 warships, of which 17 were aircraft carriers; while the British armored flight decks meant that fewer planes could be carried in a single aircraft carrier, they were more resistant to kamikaze strikes. Although all the BPF aircraft carriers were provided by Britain, the carrier group was a combined British Commonwealth fleet with, Australian , New Zealand and Canadian , ships and personnel.
Most of the air-to-air fighters and the small dive bombers and strike aircraft were US Navy carrier-based airplanes. The Japanese land campaign mainly defensive was conducted by the 67,strong 77, according to some sources regular 32nd Army and some 9, Imperial Japanese Navy IJN troops at Oroku naval base only a few hundred of whom had been trained and equipped for ground combat , supported by 39, drafted local Ryukyuan people including 24, hastily drafted rear militia called Boeitai and 15, non-uniformed laborers.
The Japanese had used kamikaze tactics since the Battle of Leyte Gulf , but for the first time, they became a major part of the defense. Between the American landing on April 1 and May 25, seven major kamikaze attacks were attempted, involving more than 1, planes. The 32nd Army initially consisted of the 9th , 24th , and 62nd Divisions, and the 44th Independent Mixed Brigade. The 9th Division was moved to Taiwan before the invasion , resulting in shuffling of Japanese defensive plans.
In the north, Colonel Takehido Udo was in command. They expected the Americans to land 6—10 divisions against the Japanese garrison of two and a half divisions. The staff calculated that superior quality and numbers of weapons gave each US division five or six times the firepower of a Japanese division. To this, would be added the Americans' abundant naval and air firepower. The Japanese Imperial Army mobilized 1, middle school boys aged 14—17 years into front-line-service. This mobilization was conducted by the ordinance of the Ministry of Army, not by law. The ordinances mobilized the student as a volunteer soldier for form's sake.
In reality, the military authorities ordered schools to force almost all students to "volunteer" as soldiers. Sometimes they counterfeited the necessary documents.
After losing the Battle of Okinawa, the Japanese government enacted new laws in preparation for the decisive battles in the main islands. These laws made it possible for boys aged 15 or older and girls aged 17 or older to be drafted into front-line -service. Brown , US Navy .
Until April 27, a minimum of 14 and up to 18 escort carriers CVEs were in the area at all times. Until April 20, British Task Force 57, with 4 large and 6 escort carriers, remained off the Sakishima Islands to protect the southern flank.
Battle of Okinawa
The protracted length of the campaign under stressful conditions forced Admiral Chester W. Nimitz to take the unprecedented step of relieving the principal naval commanders to rest and recuperate. Following the practice of changing the fleet designation with the change of commanders, US naval forces began the campaign as the US 5th Fleet under Admiral Raymond Spruance , but ended it as the 3rd Fleet under Admiral William Halsey. Japanese air opposition had been relatively light during the first few days after the landings.
However, on April 6, the expected air reaction began with an attack by planes from Kyushu. Periodic heavy air attacks continued through April. For their part, by April 30, the Japanese had lost more than 1, planes to Allied naval forces alone. Between April 6 and June 22, the Japanese flew 1, kamikaze aircraft in large-scale attacks from Kyushu, individual kamikaze sorties from Kyushu, and individual kamikaze sorties from Formosa.
While US intelligence estimated there were 89 planes on Formosa, the Japanese actually had about , dismantled or well camouflaged and dispersed into scattered villages and towns; the US Fifth Air Force disputed Navy claims of kamikaze coming from Formosa.
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The ships lost were smaller vessels, particularly the destroyers of the radar pickets , as well as destroyer escorts and landing ships. While no major Allied warships were lost, several fleet carriers were severely damaged. The boat crews were re-formed into three additional infantry battalions. This small task force had been ordered to fight through enemy naval forces, then beach Yamato and fight from shore, using her guns as coastal artillery and her crew as naval infantry. The Ten-Go force was spotted by submarines shortly after it left the Japanese home waters, and was intercepted by US carrier aircraft.
Under attack from more than aircraft over a two-hour span, the world's largest battleship sank on April 7, , after a one-sided battle, long before she could reach Okinawa. US torpedo bombers were instructed to aim for only one side to prevent effective counter flooding by the battleship's crew, and to aim for the bow or the stern, where armor was believed to be the thinnest. Of Yamato ' s screening force, the light cruiser Yahagi and 4 of the 8 destroyers were also sunk.
The British Pacific Fleet , taking part as Task Force 57, was assigned the task of neutralizing the Japanese airfields in the Sakishima Islands, which it did successfully from March 26 to April On April 10, its attention was shifted to airfields on northern Formosa. The force withdrew to San Pedro Bay on April On May 1, the British Pacific Fleet returned to action, subduing the airfields as before, this time with naval bombardment as well as aircraft.
Several kamikaze attacks caused significant damage, but since the British had armored flight decks on their aircraft carriers, they experienced only a brief interruption to their force's operations.
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The land battle took place over about 81 days beginning on April 1, Subsidiary landings followed, and the Kerama group was secured over the next five days. In these preliminary operations, the 77th Infantry Division suffered 27 dead and 81 wounded, while Japanese dead and captured numbered over The operation provided a protected anchorage for the fleet and eliminated the threat from suicide boats.
The 2nd Marine Division conducted a demonstration off the Minatoga beaches on the southeastern coast to deceive the Japanese about American intentions and delay movement of reserves from there. The 10th Army swept across  the south-central part of the island with relative ease, capturing the Kadena and the Yomitan airbases within hours of the landing.
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In light of the weak opposition, General Buckner decided to proceed immediately with Phase II of his plan—the seizure of northern Okinawa. Six days later on April 13, the 2nd Battalion, 22nd Marine Regiment , reached Hedo Point Hedo-misaki at the northernmost tip of the island. By this point, the bulk of the Japanese forces in the north codenamed Udo Force were cornered on the Motobu Peninsula. Here, the terrain was mountainous and wooded, with the Japanese defenses concentrated on Yae-Dake , a twisted mass of rocky ridges and ravines on the center of the peninsula.
There was heavy fighting before the Marines finally cleared Yae-Dake on April However, this was not the end of ground combat in northern Okinawa. On May 24, the Japanese mounted "Operation Gi-gou ": In addition to conventional hazards, the 77th Infantry Division encountered kamikaze attacks, and even local women armed with spears.
There was heavy fighting before the area was declared secured on April 21, and became another air base for operations against Japan.
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The 96th Infantry Division began to encounter fierce resistance in west-central Okinawa from Japanese troops holding fortified positions east of Highway No. By the night of April 8, American troops had cleared these and several other strongly fortified positions. They suffered over 1, battle casualties in the process, while killing or capturing about 4, Japanese. Yet the battle had only begun, for it was now realized that "these were merely outposts," guarding the Shuri Line.
The next American objective was Kakazu Ridge , two hills with a connecting saddle that formed part of Shuri's outer defenses. The Japanese had prepared their positions well and fought tenaciously. The Japanese soldiers hid in fortified caves. American forces often lost personnel before clearing the Japanese out from each cave or other hiding place.
The Japanese sent Okinawans at gunpoint out to obtain water and supplies for them, which led to civilian casualties. The American advance was inexorable, but resulted in a high number of casualties on both sides. On the evening of April 12, the 32nd Army attacked American positions across the entire front. The Japanese attack was heavy, sustained, and well organized. After fierce close combat , the attackers retreated, only to repeat their offensive the following night.
A final assault on April 14 was again repulsed. The effort led the 32nd Army's staff to conclude that the Americans were vulnerable to night infiltration tactics , but that their superior firepower made any offensive Japanese troop concentrations extremely dangerous, and they reverted to their defensive strategy. The 27th Infantry Division—which had landed on April 9—took over on the right, along the west coast of Okinawa.
Hodge now had three divisions in the line, with the 96th in the middle, and the 7th to the east, with each division holding a front of only about 1. Hodge launched a new offensive of April 19 with a barrage of guns, the largest ever in the Pacific Ocean Theater. Battleships, cruisers, and destroyers joined the bombardment, which was followed by Navy and Marine planes attacking the enemy positions with napalm , rockets, bombs, and machine guns. The Japanese defenses were sited on reverse slopes , where the defenders waited out the artillery barrage and aerial attack in relative safety, emerging from the caves to rain mortar rounds and grenades upon the Americans advancing up the forward slope.
A tank assault to achieve breakthrough by outflanking Kakazu Ridge failed to link up with its infantry support attempting to cross the ridge, and therefore failed with the loss of 22 tanks. Although flame tanks cleared many cave defenses, there was no breakthrough, and the XXIV Corps suffered casualties.
The losses might have been greater except for the fact that the Japanese had practically all of their infantry reserves tied up farther south, held there by another feint off the Minatoga beaches by the 2nd Marine Division that coincided with the attack. At the end of April, after Army forces had pushed through the Machinato defensive line,  the 1st Marine Division relieved the 27th Infantry Division, and the 77th Infantry Division relieved the 96th. On May 4, the 32nd Army launched another counteroffensive.