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Typhoon of Steel: Imperial Army outnumbered, outgunned by US in Battle of Okinawa (Pt. 3)

U.S. tank landing ships arrive on a beach on Okinawa's main island, on April 3, 1945. (Photo courtesy of the Okinawa Prefectural Archives)

NAHA -- During the Battle of Okinawa, the final land battle of the Pacific War, the Japanese Imperial Army was faced with both a lack of soldiers and supplies as innumerable bombs rained down on the island.

    Question: Did the United States or Japan have the advantage in terms of military strength during the Battle of Okinawa?

    Answer: The mostly U.S. Army and Marine military forces that made landfall on Okinawa numbered roughly 180,000. Combined with units stationed in surrounding areas that came to aid in the battle, the number comes to some 550,000, making it one of the United States' largest amphibious operations during the Pacific War. When the U.S. military reached the west coast of the central part of Okinawa's main island, it is said that there were so many battleships that the ocean looked like it had turned completely black.

    In comparison, the Japanese side was made up of approximately 100,000 military personnel, most of which belonged to the Imperial Japanese Army. However, a little over 20,000 of those soldiers were reserves called "defense units" or "student corps," among other names. These divisions were part of what was referred to as "grassroots mobilization," as they mainly comprised civilians and students who were making up for a lack of Japanese military personnel. Men between the ages of 14 and 45 were mobilized as soldiers, while women from age 15 to those in their 40s were assigned paramilitary duties.

    Aside from an advantage in the sheer size of its forces, the U.S. also overpowered Japan in weaponry, supplies and other key elements in battle. It is estimated that the overall might of the U.S. was over 10 times that of the Imperial Japanese military. Countless shells from both battleship artillery and airstrikes rained down on Okinawa. This relentless "typhoon of steel" resulted in Imperial Japanese Army and paramilitary casualties roughly eight times that of the U.S., and even altered the landscape of the island itself.

    (Japanese original by Takayasu Endo, Naha Bureau)

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