Many captured enemy soldiers and civilians had stated that the main Japanese defensive force was in southern Okinawa but that a force of about men, commanded by a Colonel Udo, was somewhere up north, probably on Motobu. Aerial observation and photo terrain studies confirmed indications that there was a sizeable enemy force on the peninsula. On 8 April the Twenty Ninth Marines moved out in three columns, one along the south coast, one along the north coast and one up the center toward the town of Itomi.
At first progress was rapid and there were few contacts made; it was noted, however, that all inland trails were mined or blocked. The coast roads had numerous roadblocks and tank traps. Near Toguchi, on the Manna road, it had contacted Udo's force. West of Itomi the First Battalion was also in contact with what was apparently the same force. Meanwhile the Second Battalion had captured the enemy midget submarine base at Unten Ko but had encoun- tered no appreciable resistance.
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During the next three days the battalions were in almost constant contact with Udo's forces. Ambushes were frequent but the enemy could not be engaged in any de- cisive action. It was clear that he was engaged in guerrilla-type warfare and wanted to harass our troops but was trying to avoid a meeting engagement. By 13 April the enemy position was definitely fixed as being in the Mt. Yaetake area; it was known that he had considerable artillery, mortars, and a few naval guns emplaced in hidden positions in the wild and rugged mountain mass. Yaetake provided Colonel Udo with ideal ground for defensive positions.
Here he had unlimited observation in every direction; it was impossible to attack him with- out warning. The rugged character of the terrain prohibited the use of mechanized support in the reduction of his positions. While the Twenty Ninth Marines were fixing the enemy position and determining its character and strength, General Shepherd saw that he would need additional troops to destroy Udo's force. His tactical decision was to move the Fourth Marines, less the Third Battalion, to Sakimotobu on the western side of the peninsula and attach to it the Third Battalion, Twenty Ninth Marines which was near by.
Then he ordered a coordinated attack for 14 April with the Fourth Marines driving into Yaetake in an easterly direction while the Twenty Ninth Marines, with two battalions, near Itomi, at- tacked to the west and southwest. Udo would be hit from front and rear. On 14 April the Fourth Marines, commanded by Colonel Alan Shapley with the Third Battalion, Twenty Ninth, attached, moved rapidly inland to seize the first high ground from which to launch the attack on Mt.
The Twenty Ninth Marines found enemy dispositions to its front in such strength and on such unfavorable ground, - 6 - that it was virtually impossible to attack in a southwesterly direction. Resuming the attack on 15 April the Fourth Marines drove. Yaetake; fighting was bitter with one battalion commander killed and several com- pany commanders casualties. The First Battalion, Fourth Marines, seized a key hill mass southwest of the Yaetake peak against heavy resistance. Over rugged terrain the Twenty Ninth Marines continued to advance into the rear of Udo's position against intermittent resistance.
Next day, 16 April, the Sixth Marine Division prepared to attack the enemy from three sides. The First Battalion, Twenty Second Marines, which had been in immediate reserve near Awa, was ordered to advance to the north to close the gap between the two attacking regiments. After a day of extremely hard fighting the Fourth Marines seized Mt.
Yaetake and held it despite an all-out Banzai charge. Whaling, USMC, had swung its front to the west and north, destroying fixed emplacements and enemy groups as it moved. With Udo's force caught in the jaws of a giant nutcracker, and driven from the com- manding ground in its position, the Fourth Marines changed its tactics. Colonel Shapley ordered his two left battalions, facing east, to initiate a holding attack on 17 April, while the two right battalions drove down from Mt.
Yaetake to the north with the mission of seizing the Manna Road. The situation on this day then, was for the two battalions to sweep down a corridor formed by the First and Second Battalions, Twenty Ninth, on the east and the Second Battalion, Fourth Marines, and Third Battalion, Twenty Ninth, on the west. Down from Yaetake and through the corridor swept the First and Third Bat- talions, Fourth Marines, mopping up enemy remnants as they went.
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Nightfall saw both regiments on the first hills south of the Toguchi-Itomi road, the. On 19 April the Sixth Marine Division began a coordinated drive to secure the high ground remaining between the Toguchi-Itomi road and the north coast of the peninsula. From Toguchi, the Third Battalion, Twenty Ninth moved by truck to Itomi and struck out through the hills toward the highest hill mass in the northern part of Motobu, which was seized next morning. On 20 April, the drive continued and both regiments reached the north coast without difficulty.
Little opposition had been found in this last sweep, but it was known that several hundred enemy troops had escaped from Motobu and were somewhere in northern Okinawa. The battle for Motobu had challenged the Sixth Division with mountain warfare of the most rugged sort. It was costly: the Sixth Marine Division lost men killed, wounded and 6 missing in action.
In contrast, the enemy lost 2, men killed. Captured enemy material included 11 field pieces of 75 and mm. Schneider, USMC, continued its march up the northern part of the mainland. On 13 April the Second Battalion moved by forced march to seize Hedo Misaki, the northern tip of the island. Scattered resistance was encountered during the march.
Upon occupying Hedo Misaki, the regiment sent patrols down the east coast and on 19 April, patrols from the north and south met on the east coast at Aha. By 20 April all of Okinawa north of the original landing beaches had been secured by the Sixth Marine Division; it was known, however, that several small enemy groups still remained at large.
After two days of heavy fighting most of the enemy band was destroyed although a few escaped to join another remnant of the Motobu action. By 27 April this group had been located and from Hentona two battalions of the Twenty Second Marines advanced toward the suspected area in a forced night march. After considerable maneuvering, the battalion outflanked the enemy and forced him to fight on unfavorable ground.
Most of the group was destroyed; a handful escaped. Its mission was clear out the Jichaku plateau area and then strike toward Shuri, the core of the Japanese defensive position. All through the last week in April, the Sixth Division patrolled and garrisoned northern Okinawa. Preparations were made for the move to the south.
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The regiments rested, re-equipped themselves and received replacements. During the month of April the division had traveled over 84 miles, seized square miles of enemy territory, cap- tured 46 prisoners and killed nearly 2, of the enemy. In the same period the division had lost men killed and 1, wounded in action. On 2 May the division began to move southward to assembly areas near Chibana, east of the original landing beaches. The First Marine Division was already committed and was fighting to secure the high ground north and northeast of the Asa River.
The Sixth Marine Division was ordered to commit one regimental combat team on the right of the First Division on 8 May. General Shepherd chose the Twenty Second Marines to be committed first.
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Its mission was to cross the Asa and seize the first high ground to the south. From here, the division could attack to carry out its mission, which was: To seize Naha and the line of the Kokuba River in its zone of action, to assist the First Marine Division by fire and maneuver, and to protect the Corps' right west flank.
All during the fighting on Motobu, the men of the Sixth Marine Division had heard stories of the fighting down south. They knew that the Tenth Army had uncovered the main Japanese defensive positions; that the enemy had chosen rough hilly ground across a narrow part of the island. The enemy was well dug in on a high and broken hill mass which took its name from its geographical center — Shuri. The line, or series of lines really, ran from north of Naha through Shuri to Yonabaru on the east coast.
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They had heard that the XXIV Corps had run into a virtual stalemate; that some sixty thousand of the enemy were offering fierce resistance from concealed positions; that the enemy was using mortars and artillery on an unprecedented scale; and that the enemy troops in southern Okinawa were excellent soldiers, well disciplined, and well prepared to fight - 8 - a long and costly campaign.
Before the second week in May had passed the men were certain that none of the stories were exaggerated. In the new zone of action, the Sixth Marine Division launched its first attack when it sent the Twenty Second Marines across the Asa River in the early morning hours of 10 May. Patrols had crossed the river on the previous day and reconnoitered the ground to its immediate south.
The only bridge across the river in this sector had been totally destroyed. Through the night of May, the Sixth Engineer Battalion worked to con- struct a footbridge. Although the little bridge was finally completed in time for the pre-dawn attack, a group of the enemy carrying demolitions packs succeeded in destroy- ing themselves and a section of the bridge before many of the Marines got across.
At , 10 May, the First and Third Battalions of the Twenty Second Marines crossed the Asa; the First waded across upstream on the regiment's left, while the Third started to use the footbridge. When it was destroyed, the battalion was forced to go upstream and wade across. At first enemy resistance was light, but as the Japanese became aware of this threat to their left flank, opposition became fierce.
Despite heavy artillery, mortar, and small arms fire, the troops moved on up the first ridges. By nightfall, and after a day of heavy casualties, a bridgehead yards wide and about yards deep had been established. Next morning the reserve battalion of the Twenty Second Marines, the Second, was committed to cover the left flank of the First which was fighting to reduce an enemy stronghold on a formidable coral hill southeast of Asa village. When flanking action failed to secure the hill, the troops withdrew so that naval gunfire from the USS Indian- apolis could be utilized.
In the meantime the engineers labored under sporadic enemy fire to construct a Bailey Bridge across the Asa, where the footbridge had been. About noon the structure was completed and tanks roared across to support the troops. With the added fire power of the tanks, the First Battalion attacked the hill again, this time successfully. Over on the right, the Third Battalion fought for three hours before capturing the precipitous cliff area in its zone of action. On 12 May the Twenty Second Marines, with all three battalions in the line, con- tinued to advance despite increasing enemy resistance.
Not only was the regiment re- ceiving fire from its front, but also from the left flank, where the enemy in his positions on Wana Ridge and the Shuri heights could observe troop movements and bring fire to bear at an instant's notice.