The only way to eradicate these Japs, M-15 hand grenades with White Phosphorus or Napalm with flamethrowers

As these positions were being occupied, Charlie Co made a drive for Dick Baker. As soon as they reached the base of this hill, the Japanese opened up with all they had. The valley between Dick and Zebra was swept with mortar, machine guns, artillery, and small arms fire. Able and Baker Cos made an all-out effort to reach Charlie Co’s position but were repulsed. Enemy fire coming from Harriet Hill, Baker Hill, Flattop Hill, Dick Hill, and Oboe Hills soon made it seem that Charlie Co would be lost. Two tanks finally reached the position, loaded on the seriously wounded, and provided some protection for the others as they fought their way back to the holes along the southern slopes of Zebra. The 3rd Battalion was having no less trouble. On the rough southern slope of Item Hill the Japanese had reinforced their cave openings with concrete and steel. By continuing the attack throughout the day they were finally able to clear out and occupy about 200 yards of this reverse slope.

Pole Charge 1944 Illustration - Demonstration in 1944 on the Siegfried Line Bunkers

Pole Charge 1944 Illustration - Demonstration in 1944 on the Siegfried Line BunkersBy May 12, it was quite apparent that no real progress was possible in the capture of Dick Hill until the flanking fire from Harriet Hill and Baker Hill was eliminated. Several 57-MM anti-tank guns and M-7s were worked to positions on Zebra Hill and Item Hill from which they could deliver direct fire in support of a three-company coordinated attack by the 3rd Battalion on Harriet Hill and Baker Hill. The plan of attack called for one company to swing to the right through the 1st Battalion zone, attack down the southeastern slope of Zebra and establish a base of fire on Harriet and Baker as the other two companies attacked frontally. This was a highly successful maneuver. By noon, Harriet Hill was reached and by the use of flame throwers, hand grenades, and pole charges, one company was able to establish itself on the crest of Baker Hill before dark.

The lst Battalion, meanwhile, spent the morning mopping up the holed-in Japanese on the southern slope of Zebra Hill. After the 3rd Battalion’s success on Harriet, the 1st Battalion commander decided to try again for Dick Hill. The base of Dick Baker was reached again; however, heavy casualties again drove the battalion back to their position on Zebra Hill. On May 13, in a coordinated attack by both the 1st and the 3rd Battalions, the 1st Battalion with Able and Baker Companies abreast, attacked both Dick Able and Dick Baker, and were able to reach the crest of both hills. Staying was another matter. The Japanese poured on one of the heaviest concentrations of fire of the campaign. At least 250 rounds of 90-MM, a heavy concentration of 150-MM, and a hail of mortar fire landed in the area. All but one or two men in one platoon of Able Company were killed. Casualties were high in both companies. Baker Company had no choice but to withdraw. The 307-IR of the 77-ID was making a furious assault on Flattop Hill, which diverted a great deal of fire from our position and made it possible for Able Company to dig in sufficiently to hold Dick Baker.

Okinawa 1945

During the attack, the Japanese efforts seem largely concentrated on the 307th Infantry Regiment and our 1st Battalion. This allowed the 3rd Battalion to clean up the enemy remaining in their immediate area, and by the continued use of the flame-thrower, pole-charger tactics of the previous day to advance and dig in at the base of Dick Left. On May 14, the 1st Battalion made three attempts to advance over the crest of Dick Baker and around its right flank. Withering fire from Flattop and Dick Eight stopped every attempt to cross this completely exposed area. One company, however, did succeed in reestablishing itself on Dick Able. The 3rd Battalion, storming up the almost perpendicular face of Dick Left, was able to dig in just short of the crest. During this assault, the Japanese threw hundreds of grenades and rolled satchel charges over the crest. As soon as the battalion was within range, there followed one of the fiercest grenade duels of the war. The opposing lines were dug in on opposite sides of the crest no more than 25 or 30 yards apart. Grenades and satchel charges flew back and forth, making any consolidation of the position practically impossible. In spite of grenades, satchel charges, and constant infiltration attempts, morning found the battalion well dug in on the northwestern slope of Dick Left.

On May 15, the 3rd Battalion moved Ithem Company by infiltration to a position on its right flank from which it was able to surprise the enemy and launch a heavily supported assault against the eastern slope of Dick Eight. This was the only occasion during the entire operation on which the regiment was able to effect a surprise against the alert Japanese. As soon as the penetration was detected, the Japanese savagely counter-attacked. These attacking Japanese were ‘sitting ducks’ for the rifles and machine guns of the rest of the battalion. The counterattack was a double failure, for while the enemy’s attention was focused on the 3rd Battalion, the 1st Battalion assaulted the western slope and came abreast of Ithem Company just short of the skyline on Dick Right. An attempt was then made to go over the crest, but machine gun fire from Oboe, Flattop, and Jane hills made any effort to cross the skyline suicidal. During the period May 16-20, the 3rd Battalion made repeated attempts to occupy the southern slope of Dick Left but were stopped on every try by fires coming from the front and both flanks. During this same period, the 2nd Battalion passed through the 1st Battalion. The major problems in the 2nd Battalion sector were to eliminate the fire coming from Flattop Hill in the 307th Infantry’s sector, and to get tanks back into action by eliminating the minefields in the out between Dick Eight and Flattop.

A 37mm anti-tank gun prepares to fire point-blank at a Japanese pillbox on Conical Hill on Okinawa. The 383rd Infantry Regiment of the Army's 96th Infantry Division found this small weapon effective

In close coordination with the 307th Infantry, seven tons of Bangalore Torpedoes were used to clear the minefield. Tanks were then moved into firing positions through the cut, from which they were able to seal or destroy numerous large caves and pillboxes. Several tanks were lost in this action, but the results were well worth the cost. The tank-infantry team tactics enabled the 2nd Battalion to completely clear the southern slopes of both Dick Right and Dick Left. The fire support they were able to deliver in the 307th Infantry’s zone made it possible for that unit to finally occupy the crest of Flattop and to come abreast of the 382nd Infantry. On May 21, the 96th Division placed all three regiments in line, narrowing the sector of the 382nd Infantry; however, it still included Oboe, Hector, and Hen hills.

The 1st Battalion was moved to the left flank in the regimental zone and launched an attack against Oboe from the east. By closely following a heavy artillery and mortar barrage, the assault companies were within 25 yards of the crest by 1500 hours. Every attempt to cross the crest was met with murderous fire from both flanks and the front. The 2nd Battalion, again using tanks with the assault company, met stiff resistance; their attack was stopped shortly after it started. It was necessary to lay down a heavy smoke screen through which they were able to cross the open ground. At a point about 100 yards short of the top of Hen Hill they were forced to dig in. George and Fox Cos tried going over the top but met with the same difficulty as the 1st Battalion on Oboe Hill.

US Coast Guard correspondent Victor Hayden lighting a cigarette for an Okinawan peasant woman

This deep penetration made it seem that the Japanese defenses were beginning to crumble. Rapid advances had been made all along the line. Our advance would surely have continued with diminishing resistance, but nature interfered. Rain, which had been falling since May 19, made the entire area a sea of mud impassable to all vehicles. Due to heavy fighting during the day, all supplies, particularly hand grenades, and ammunition, were extremely short. From this day until May 29, all supplies were of necessity air-dropped or hand-carried.

Seizing this opportunity, the Japanese launched a series of counter-attacks. They tried in every conceivable way to drive the 1st Battalion off Oboe Hill. On several occasions during the period May 21-29, they successfully penetrated our lines, inflicting heavy casualties. The 1st Battalion was so depleted that the entire battalion strength was 198 officers and enlisted men, who were reorganized into one company. The 3rd Battalion, which had borne the brunt of the fighting to date, was also down to about company strength. Using all drivers, cooks, and other miscellaneous personnel as riflemen, they moved up to help hold the line between Oboe and Hen hills.

Grim-faced American soldiers fight to listen to the radio broadcast of the surrender of Germany and the end of the war in Europe

During the stalemate which developed because of the rain, every available supporting weapon was used against the Japanese fortifications. Artillery fired nearly twenty-four hours a day. Despite heavily overcast skies, liaison planes were in the air every day, pin-pointing the enemy positions. Special fire bombs were prepared by fastening white phosphorous grenades in metal shell containers filled with napalm. By attaching a small demolition charge and rolling them onto the Japanese positions, they proved to be a great deal more effective than satchel charges in producing casualties and demoralizing the enemy.

On May 27, word was received that the Japanese were pulling out of their positions, and retreating to the south. Patrols started out to verify this report but met with the same stubborn defense. Machine gun and mortar fire prevented their crossing the crest at any point along the line. Perhaps the Japanese were pulling out, but there were few in the 382nd Infantry who would believe it. On May 29, the skies cleared and an attack was planned for the next day. In a coordinated attack with the 307th Infantry, the 2nd Battalion jumped off. The enemy defended the reverse slope of Hen Hill with unabated and suicidal ferocity. The position fell only after courageous efforts and many casualties. Once this position was taken, the battalion continued all the way to Bart Hill. Many Japanese attempted to withdraw from their positions in the front of the 2nd Battalion as the enemy positions were approached in this rapid drive. The retreating Japanese were taken under fire by the 1st Battalion and practically all were destroyed.

With this success, it was evident that the main Shuri Defense Line was finally falling. On May 31, after the 1st Battalion had cleared all enemy resistance on the southern slope of Oboe, the way was open for an uninterrupted pursuit of the retiring enemy. Depleted in strength, physically exhausted, but proud of its accomplishments, the 382d Infantry Regiment went into Division Reserve in the vicinity of Kochi.

American Army Lt. Richard K. Jones sharing his food rations with pair of young Japanese children found hiding in an abandoned tomb

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