Friday, March 23, 2012

The Island of Okinawa
Easter <> 1 April 1945
Last battle of World War II

Okinawa is part of Japan and was expected to be defended forcefully by the Japanese Army. Okinawa is sixty miles long and from two to sixteen miles wide. Its topography and irregular terrain facilitated the Japanese defense. There was a pre-invasion population of about 500,000.

Background to the Invasion of Okinawa

The invasion of Iwo Jima on 19 February 1945 (secured in March) breached the Japanese inner defensive perimeter. To keep up the momentum, the Allies planned to move even closer to the Japanese home islands to capture Okinawa, only 360 miles from Japan and considered part of the Japanese homeland. The Japanese had extensively fortified the island during 1944 and committed 120,000 troops of Japan's 32nd Army to defend it. The Japanese were determined to repel the invasion and they assembled hundreds of aircraft, small boats and manned torpedoes and began emphasizing suicide training.

Preparing for the Invasion of Okinawa

In late March 1945, nearly 1,300 Allied ships converged to participate in Operation Iceberg, the invasion of Okinawa and the Ryukyus Islands, the largest operation of the Pacific war, similar in size to the Normandy invasion of western Europe. Although not known at the time, this tremendous effort would be the final major battle before the surrender of Japan. The Allies committed over one-half million men for the operation including three Marine divisions and four Army infantry divisions. A fifth infantry division waited in New Caledonia in reserve.

The first landing in the Ryukyus took place in the Kerama Islands, fifteen miles from Okinawa, on 26 March 1945. Three other subsidiary landings followed immediately, and by 31 March American forces had secured all the Keramas. On 31 March the Americans landed without opposition on Keise Shima, four small islands eight miles west of the Okinawan capital of Naha. Two artillery battalions were immediately deployed to Keise Shima, with twenty-four 155mm guns to support the attack on Okinawa itself.

Invasion of Okinawa, 1 April 1945

The main landing on Okinawa (L-Day) was on 1 April 1945, Easter Sunday, supported by the heaviest concentration of naval gunfire ever expended to support an amphibious landing. Based on the experience of previous campaigns, the Allies committed the necessary forces to insure that they had complete control of the air and sea before the invasion.

On L-day the Navy and Coast Guard landed 16,000 troops in the first hour on the Hagushi west-facing beaches. By nightfall more than 60,000 were ashore.. By the end of 2 April, elements of the 7th Infantry Division had crossed from the west to the east coast of Okinawa . Elements of the 1st Marine Division reached the eastern shore the following day. cutting the Japanese forces on the island into two groups.

Tenacious Japanese Defense of Okinawa

The largely unopposed landings and quick progress were deceptive. The Japanese developed a deliberate defensive strategy after their experience on Saipan. They did not contest the landings, except for some minor air attacks and light artillery and mortar fire on the beaches. They now planned to focus their defensive strength in the interior, concentrated around strong points in the central and southern parts of the island.

The Japanese 32nd Army built its main defensive positions across the Okinawa isthmus on the "Shuri Line," running from Uchitomari on the west coast to Tsuwa on the east. The rugged terrain in this area hid hilltop pillboxes, caves and bunkers. Because the terrain was hilly and irregular, it provided innumerable short fields of fire, ideal for the Japanese who relied on large numbers of short-range weapons. The tangled, broken ground forced the Americans to fight a thousand small battles hand-to-hand instead of one large battle at a distance where American long-range land, sea, and air firepower would have given them the advantage.

Japanese Counterattacks in the Battle for Okinawa

The invasion of Okinawa was conducted from a huge sea base, in the waters of the Ryukyus with support extending all the way back to the Marianas Islands, 800 miles away. On 6 April, the Japanese began their counterattack against the fleet off the island using suicide planes and manned torpedoes. These Kamikaze attacks sank six ships, heavily damaged seven more and slightly damaged four others, the first of 120 ships sunk or damaged during the campaign. The Japanese also planned to use small, fast boats, loaded with one or two depth charges to attack the fleet, but most of these were captured or destroyed before they could be deployed.

On 6-7 April the increasingly desperate Japanese attempted a surface fleet raid from Kyushu, led by the world's largest battleship Yamato, including a cruiser and eight destroyers. The huge 72,000 ton Yamato and its escorts attempted to attack the invasion fleet, but 300 American carrier planes caught the Japanese at sea. The Yamato, the cruiser and three destroyers were sunk with the loss of about 3,700 men against American losses of only 10 planes and twelve men.

The Campaign to Secure Okinawa

U.S. 6th Marine Division quickly secured the northern half of Okinawa, but American forces were soon bogged down against the Shuri Line defenses. The Japanese fought tenaciously, entrenched in their pillboxes, concrete emplacements, fortified caves, and other ingenious prepared defensive positions. Desperate hand-to-hand fighting was common with thousands of casualties on both sides. Shuri, Okinawa's second largest urban area, cultural center, and ancient royal capital was the major target, but heavily defended in depth and hard to approach by land.

From 12-18 May, the 6th Marine Division fought to capture Sugar Loaf Hill, a 50 foot elevation approximately 300 yards long, strategically anchoring the western end of the Japanese defensive line. Sugar Loaf became a killing ground, as the 6th Marine Division suffered over 2,600 killed or wounded and another 1,300 lost to exhaustion or combat fatigue in seven days of back and forth assaults to take Sugar Loaf summit and move against the flank of the defensive line.

Marines entered Wana Ridge and Wana Draw, east of Sugar Loaf, on 14 May, but were not able to fully subdue the defenders in their maze of fortifications, until after the withdrawal of the Japanese at the end of the month. The Sugar Loaf complex in the west was seized by the 6th Marine Division on 18 May after horrific fighting and Conical Hill on the eastern end of the Shuri Line was captured by the 96th Infantry Division on 21 May. Shuri no longer seemed invincible.

Near the end of May 1945, the campaign to seize Okinawa was two months old. Week after week of costly, exhausting, attrition warfare against the Shuri complex, centered on Shuri Castle in southern Okinawa was finally bearing fruit. Although the Shuri heights had provided superb fields of observed fire covering Naha, its port and the entire five-mile neck of southern Okinawa, Gen. Ushijima, commander of the Japanese 32nd Army, had seen his position erode and had gradually evacuated his troops out of Wana Draw and the Shuri Line during second half of May. When the Marines finally arrived at Shuri Castle on 29 May, they found it only lightly defended.

Gen. Ushijima withdrew to his final command post in a cave near the sea and conducted a fierce, last ditch defense of every yard of southern Okinawa. It took another three weeks, until 20 June, for 7th Infantry Division troops to reach the top of Hill 89, the site of Ushijima's headquarters. The final battle ended with the Harakiri suicide of Ushijima and his Chief of Staff at 0430 hours on 23 June 1945.

Summary of the Battle of Okinawa

Despite their tremendous numerical superiority, it took the Army and Marines almost three months, from 1 April to 23 June 1945, to secure the island. The battle for Okinawa was one of the longest and one of the costliest of the war, claiming over 13,000 American lives and over 57,000 other casualties, including combat exhaustion. The Japanese fanatical attempt to defend the islands cost them an estimated 120,000 dead. About 7,000 Japanese uncharacteristically surrendered at the end. There was much suffering by the Okinawan population -- about 150,000 died in the "Typhoon of Steel" required to overwhelm the Japanese.

Two months later, on 2 September 1945, after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasari in August, Japan surrendered, bringing World War II to a close.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

          Gulf Breeze, Florida
              My Hometown

Gulf Breeze is a suburban community located on the Fairpoint Peninsula in south Santa Rosa County, Florida and is a suburb of Pensacola, FL. The population was 5,665 at the 2000 census. As of 2004, the population recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau is 6,333, an 11.79% increase.

Gulf Breeze serves mostly as a bedroom community to Pensacola. Residents of Gulf Breeze generally try to differentiate between the incorporated City of Gulf Breeze and the unincorporated neighborhoods to the east of it by calling these areas "Gulf Breeze Proper" and "Down the Highway," respectively. "Down the Highway" refers to Highway 98 which serves as the main corridor for both the incorporated and unincorporated areas in Gulf Breeze.


Gulf Breeze shares the rich history of Pensacola Bay. Shell mounds here date back over one thousand years, evidence of the Native Americans desire for seafood. The first European settlement was attempted in 1559 by Tristan de Luna, but was abandoned two years later. The Spanish returned in 1698, but transferred all of Florida to the British in 1763. It was the British who named Town Point. English Navy Cove was the area where ships were careened, a process of hauling ships aground to allow the hulls to be scraped free of barnacles.

Florida became American territory in 1821, and by 1824 a road ran through the peninsula all the way to St. Augustine. Part of this road can be traced in the Naval Live Oaks Reservation of the Gulf Islands National Seashore today. President John Quincy Adams authorized Naval Live Oaks, a federal tree farm dedicated to providing live oak timber for U.S. Navy ships, in 1828.

The Pensacola Navy Yard across the bay from Fair Point dates to 1825, and the Army began building forts to protect the yard and Pensacola Bay in 1829. Beginning with Fort Pickens, the Army built harbor forts off and on through World War II, all of which are located within the Gulf Islands National Seashore (a unit of the National Park System). Fort Pickens was one of only four forts in the South to be held by the Union for the duration of the American Civil War. In November 1861, Union-held Fort Pickens exchanged 6000 rounds of cannon fire for two days with Confederates at Fort Barrancas and Fort McRee. Both Confederate held forts were heavily damaged and the Confederates abandoned the area in May 1862.

In 1931 the first bridge across Pensacola Bay was opened to Gulf Breeze with great fanfare. This concrete drawbridge connected the cities until they were replaced by the current bridge 1960. The original bridge was converted into two fishing piers. Hurricane Ivan in 2004 substantially destroyed the fishing piers, and demolition of the remaining portion of the structure is ongoing as of 2007.

A wooden bridge to Pensacola Beach was also built in 1931; this structure was replaced with a concrete drawbridge in 1951. It, too, was repurposed as a fishing pier following the construction of a taller span, the Bob Sikes Bridge, in 1973.

Gulf Breeze traces its name to the Gulf Breeze Cottages and Store, which opened a post office branch in 1936 where Beach Road Plaza now stands. The community began to grow following the opening of the improved bay bridge in 1960, and continues to grow today.

From 1995 to 2005, Gulf Breeze has received several direct hits and severe blows from numerous hurricanes. In 1995, Hurricane Erin and Opal made landfall just south of the city. While Erin caused moderate damage to the area, Hurricane Opal devastated much of the community. Nine years later, in 2004, Hurricane Ivan made landfall west of the Gulf Breeze but caused widespread damage in the city, destroying many homes and businesses. In 2005, Hurricane Dennis passed just east of the city. Damage from this storm was more severe than that received in communities lying further west.

The City of Gulf Breeze is now often referred to as "Gulf Breeze Proper." This differentiates it from other communities further east which are assigned Gulf Breeze addresses by the U.S. Postal Service but lie outside of the city limits.

Growth of the city itself is geographically restricted, surrounded by major water bodies on three sides. Additionally, the eastern portion of Gulf Breeze is occupied by the Naval Live Oaks Reservation. As a result, new growth occurs outside of the city limits along U.S. Highway 98. This growth has been tremendous; many new subdivisions, schools, fire and police stations, and businesses have been built within a few miles of Gulf Breeze Proper.

Point of Interest
Gulf Breeze became famous in 1987 as the site of several UFO sightings. It has been referred to as the UFO capital of the United States.

AAA has designated Gulf Breeze as also one of seven "strict enforcement areas" for traffic laws in the United States. This rating is one level short of speed trap, and is only shared by six other cities and towns nationwide.

Gulf Breeze also received media attention for instituting a program to allow volunteers to drive police cars within the city and report traffic violations to police. Volunteers receive training in radio use and first aid but are not empowered to make arrests or traffic stops. The City of Gulf Breeze is known as a "Speed trap" due to a major east-west highway (U.S. HWY. 98) dividing the City in half.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Alexander Vandegrift
United States Marine Corps
18th Commandant

Alexander Archer Vandegrift was a General in the United States Marine Corps between March 13, 1887 - May 8, 1973. He commanded the 1st Marine Division to victory in its first ground offensive of World War II, the Battle of Guadalcanal. For his actions during the Solomon Islands campaign, he received the Medal of Honor. Vandegrift later served as the 18th Commandant of the Marine Corps, and was the first U.S. Marine to hold the rank of four-star general while on active duty.


Alexander Archer Vandegrift was born on March 13, 1887 in the small town of Charlottesville, Virginia where his father was an architect and contractor. Young Vandegrift, known as "Archer" in his boyhood, had an interest in the military - both from reading military history novels and from stories of ancestors who fought in various wars.

He attended the University of Virginia for three years; then won his commission in the U.S. Marine Corps through a week-long competitive examination in 1908, becoming a second lieutenant on January 22, 1909.

While at the Marine Corps Schools in 1909 he wrote a prophetic article entitled "Aviation, the Cavalry of the Future". Later as Commandant, he would appoint the Hogenboom Board that began the USMC's development of vertical envelopment, the use of helicopters for air assault. During his early years as a Second Lieutenant, General Vandegrift was also very nearly dismissed from the Marine Corps due to disciplinary infractions and negative evaluations. In his first evaluation from the Marine Corps, dated June 30, 1909, Vandegrift received an overall rating of "Not Good" with these remarks from the Commander of the Marine Officers School.

"This officer has not shown that he appreciates the responsibilities of his position as an officer, and unless there is a decisive improvement, his relations will not be to the advantage of the service."

In Vandegrift's next evaluation, dated December 1909, he received a "Good and Tolerable" rating and next was rated as "Excellent" upon reporting to the Marine Corps Barracks, Navy Yard, Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1910.

The Banana Wars

Following instruction at the Marine Officers' School, Port Royal, South Carolina, his first tour of duty was at the Marine Barracks, Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In 1912, he went to foreign shore duty in the Caribbean, first to Cuba and then to Nicaragua. He participated in the bombardment, assault, and capture of Coyotepe in Nicaragua. Then in 1914, he participated in the engagement and occupation of Vera Cruz, Mexico.

In December 1914, following his promotion to first lieutenant, he attended the Advance Base Course at the Marine Barracks, Philadelphia. Upon completion of schooling, he sailed for Haiti with the 1st Marines and participated in action against hostile Cacos bandits at Le Trou and Fort Capois, Haiti.

In August 1916, he was promoted to captain and became a member of the Haitian Constabulary at Port-au-Prince, where he remained until detached to the United States in December 1918. He returned to Haiti again in July 1919 to serve with the Gendarmerie d'Haiti as an Inspector of Constabulary. He was promoted to major in June 1920.


Major Vandegrift returned to the U.S. in April 1923 and was assigned to the Marine Barracks, MCB Quantico, Virginia. He completed the Field Officers' Course, Marine Corps Schools in May 1926. He then was transferred to the Marine Corps Base San Diego, California as Assistant Chief of Staff.

In February 1927, he sailed for China where he served as Operations and Training Officer of the 3rd Marines with Headquarters at Tientsin. He was ordered to Washington, D.C., in September 1928 where he became Assistant Chief Coordinator, Bureau of the Budget.

Following duty in Washington, D.C., he joined the Marine Barracks, Quantico, where he became Assistant Chief of Staff, G-1 Section, Fleet Marine Force (FMF). During this assignment, in June 1934, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel.

Ordered to China in June 1935, LtCol Vandegrift served successively as Executive Officer and Commanding Officer of the Marine Detachment at the American Embassy in Peiping. Promoted to colonel in September 1936, Col Vandegrift reported to Headquarters Marine Corps (HQMC), Washington, D.C. in June 1937, where he became Military Secretary to the Major General Commandant. In March 1940, he was appointed Assistant to the Major General Commandant, and the following month was promoted to brigadier general.

World War II

Brigadier General Vandegrift was detached to the 1st Marine Division in November 1941, shortly before the United States of America entered World War II. He was promoted to major general in March 1942 and sailed for the South Pacific Area that May as commanding general of the first Marine division to ever leave the shores of the United States. On August 7, 1942, in the Solomon Islands, he led ashore the 1st Marine Division in the first large-scale offensive action against the Japanese, which was the first ground offensive of World War II.

For outstanding service as Commanding General of the 1st Marine Division during the attack on Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and Gavutu in the Solomon Islands, he was awarded the Navy Cross and for the subsequent occupation and defense from August 7 to December 9, 1942, received the Medal of Honor.

In July 1943, he assumed command of the 1st Marine Amphibious Corps and commanded this organization in the landing at Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville, Northern Solomon Islands, on November 1, 1943. Upon establishing the initial beachhead, he relinquished command and returned to Washington, D.C. as Commandant-designate.

Commandant of the Marine Corps

On January 1, 1944, as a lieutenant general, he was sworn in as the 18th Commandant of the Marine Corps. On April 4, 1945, he was appointed general, with date of rank from March 21, 1945, the first Marine officer on active duty to attain four-star rank.

During his tenure as Commandant, the Marine Corps faced institutional threats from Army efforts to absorb the mission of the Marines. Though the Navy was sympathetic to the Marine Corps' predicament, it was ready to accept the diminishment of the Corps in exchange for keeping naval aviation from consolidation within the Air Force. The post-war discussions on the restructuring of the American defense establishment opened the door to diminishing the mission and role of the Marine Corps in the new defense structure. Proponents of such cuts included President Harry Truman and General Dwight Eisenhower. In this power struggle, the Marine Corps aligned itself with Congress, warning against the encroachment on civilian oversight within the Army proposals.

To cinch the support of Congress, Commandant Vandegrift delivered the famous "bended knee speech" on May 6, 1946 to the Senate Committee on Naval Affairs. In it, he stated

The Marine Corps...believes that it has earned this right - to have its future decided by the legislative body which created it - nothing more. Sentiment is not a valid consideration in determining questions of national security. We have pride in ourselves and in our past, but we do not rest our case on any presumed ground of gratitude owing us from the Nation. The bended knee is not a tradition of our Corps. If the Marine as a fighting man has not made a case for himself after 170 years of service, he must go. But I think you will agree with me that he has earned the right to depart with dignity and honor, not by subjugation to the status of uselessness and servility planned for him by the War Department.

For outstanding service as Commandant of the Marine Corps from January 1, 1944 to June 30, 1946, General Vandegrift was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. He left active service on December 31, 1947 and was placed on the retired list on April 1, 1949.

The general co-authored a book chronicling his experiences in World War II. The book is titled Once a Marine: The Memoirs of General A. A. Vandegrift Commandant of the U.S. Marines in World War II.

General Vandegrift died on May 8, 1973, at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland, after a long illness. His interment was on May 10, 1973 at the Arlington National Cemetery.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

National Anthem of the
      United States

The Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem of the United States of America. It was written by Francis Scott Key. National Anthem Day celebrates this song, and the rich history behind its creation. The song officially became our national anthem on March 3, 1931.

Celebrate today by proudly flying the flag. Also listen to and sing the Star-Spangled Banner.

A rich history..........

Many people think the Star Spangled Banner was written during the Revolutionary War. It was actually written during the war of 1812 (1812-1814).

In August 1814, the British army detained Dr. William Beanes as a prisoner of war. He was a friend of Francis Scott Key. On Sept. 13, 1814, Francis Scott Key and a U.S. negotiator boarded a British vessel where Beanes was being held. He negotiated his friends' release. But then, Francis Scott Key was detained that day along with the negotiator. They were held until after the attack on Fort McHenry, which guarded the harbor and city of Baltimore.

He watched the bombardment of the fort from the ship. The next morning, he was ecstatic to see that the American flag was still flying over Fort McHenry. This historic event inspired Francis Scott Key to write "The Star-Spangled Banner" the following day (September 14, 1814).

Correcting the confusion.........

A few people incorrectly assumed that National Anthem Day is September 14, the day the song was written. This is incorrect. National Anthem Day is every March 3rd, in celebration of the day that congress made the Star-Spangled Banner our national anthem.

Lyrics of Star-Spangled Banner

Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!