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this is how buying a used car should be. this is truecar. ♪ tonight on "war stories," suicide piloting in the sky. >> it's a frightening thing, because you know what they can do. >> hidden enemies on the ground. >> we knew we had run into something. >> these trucks were stacked with dead american soldiers, and they were loaded on there like wood. >> on okinawa, the last battle of world war ii. coming up on "war stories." ♪
i'm oliver north and this is "war stories." how do you fight an enemy so dangerous, so desperate he's literally willing to kill himself in order to destroy you? you fight to the death, that's how. on the island of okinawa, that's exactly what the soldiers, sailors, around marines did in a gut wrenching final showdown with japanese forces in the spring of 1945. this is the story of what was to be the last battle of world war ii. the bloodiest conflict of the pacific theater, with over 600 wounded and more than 100,000 japanese soldiers and equal number of civilians died. this would become japan's brutal last stand against overwhelming american force. at sea, ferocious fighting between american ships an sued seed a kamikaze pilots killed more sailors than any other
battle, including pearl harbor. and on land, one soldier called the battleground the most ghastly corner of hell he had ever witnessed. spring, 1945. the tide of war had turned, but it wasn't over yet. one year earlier at normandy, allied forces invaded, putting hitler on the defensive in europe. >> much fighting needs to be done. >> across the pacific, the japanese time was already running out. fighting for the allies for three years had taken a toll on the army, navy, and air force on japan. an air bass near mainland japan was secured. ♪ >> back at home, the war effort
was in full swing. women were on the job, filling in for the 16 million american men in uniform. >> what will the decision be, peace or war? >> america was waging war on two fronts. casual tties mounted. over a million americans were dead or wounded. >> the war is heating up. but for those that think it's over, let the think of this. >> at 17, i decided that was the biggest show in the world and i was going to have to be part of it. i volunteered for the raiders and they accepted me. >> dan barton's two older brothers were marines. in 1943 he came a marine raider. >> many people were telling me, you're too soft.
you're not going to beat the japanese. >> larry joined the navy and requested sea duty. >> i was a kid out of high school. high school friends had been killed in north africa. >> herman celebrated his 19th birthday with the 96th infantry birthday. >> on my 19th birthday, they had a foxhole-to-foxhole network set up and sang happy birthday. >> an island 360 miles off the coast of japan, okinawa, the emperor's doorstep. >> it was the door to japan, and they knew that better than we did. >> the japanese government, after the wall of iwa jima, knew the americans were going to strike at okinawa. they knew that once okinawa fell, it was only a matter of time before the invasion of
japan. >> okinawa, the most strategic point invaded thus far. >> the proximity to japan made okinawa critical to the allied plan. get an unconditional japanese surrender, even if they had to go to tokyo to get it. the island is 60 miles long, populated with farmers. >> because of the large civilian population that inhabited the island for centuries, there was turtle back tombs made of stone that's part of the culture. they're burial vaulting. >> son of a confederate general, would lead the amphibious assault, operation iceberg. >> he was physically in suburb shape. he was tough as nails.
and the men liked him. >> buckner and his young son bill went on a last fishing trip before the war. >> we were close. we had a glorious fishing trip together in alaska in 1941, just before the war, catching huge rainbow trout. >> on the other side leading the japanese 32nd army, a senior member of imperial head quarters, he assembled one of the most effective combat teams in history. >> he was a very capable commander. he was relatively small in stature, and he was the type of leader that would allow his staff to prepare plans and so forth, then he would ratify them. >> soon american troops are to land here, preceded by an immense bombardment. >> march 1945.
attacks from the air and sea soften up the opposition on okinawa. american naval gunfire and bombing is so intense, the japanese call it a typhoon of steel. over 1400 ships carrying hundreds of thousands of men crossed the pacific. a logistical nightmare for general buckner. >> logistics were a nightmare. there were those on his staff that said you can't do it. >> larry was aboard one of the ships, a destroyer. the ship traveled from normandy to attack okinawa. >> that pacific ocean is big. you go for days and days and days and don't see anything but water. it's big. >> army private first class herman butchington was amazed at the size of the armada. >> we were on ship about 30 days. they had so many ships there it looked like a city. as far as you could see was
ships. >> their leaders were brutally honest. they were told to expect horrific casualties. >> the last two weeks we had briefings of all types. you're an 18-year-old kid receiving these briefings. >> now he was with marines the night before the invasion. april 1st, 1945, easter sunday. april fool's day. and landing day for operation iceberg. i spoke to a marine historian who was there with the first marines. when you were making the landing on okinawa, it turned out to be the last major battle of world war ii. but it wasn't thought that it was going to be, was it? >> oh, no. i didn't know when i was going to go home. i expected once okinawa was done, we were going to go to japan. in which case i didn't think i would come home alive.
>> they started playing music. it was easter sunday, and some of you folks don't remember a very popular song "the easter parade." this was on, and i remember when we got into the landing craft, we started in to the beaches. you could hear it as long as you possibly could. it just got weaker and weaker, and no one, no one was saying a thing. >> the japanese weren't sure when it was going to happen. they knew it was going to happen. they were aware that it was coming and they were developing their contingency plans accordingly. >> in japanese, kamikaze means divine wind. for a sailor unlucky enough to see one up close, it could mean certain death. with over 2,000 kamikaze planes designated to take out navy ships, 5,000 american sailors wouldn't live to tell the tale. we'll meet one navy gunner who beat the odds, next
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april 1st, 1945, landing day on okinawa. 180,000 soldiers and marines in the assault, in the final battle of world war ii. when you were preparing for the landing, did you know that you were going to land on these beaches? >> no. >> tell us, describe for us just exactly how the landing went, if you would, on the map. >> there's a river, the hagushi river. on the right hand side was the 24th, on the left side was the 3rd amphibious corps. >> because of the heavy casualties at iwo, we were expecting very heavy casualties in the first wave.
the first number of waves. and when we walked ashore, there was nothing. we just walked on. >> nobody could understand what was going on. it couldn't be that easy. something is up here, and we were kind of having a piece of cake. >> the soldiers and marines landed with's. instead of an ambush at the beach, the japanese army seemed awol on okinawa. >> it was like nobody was there, and the marines peeled to the north, and the army divisions cut across and bisected the island. >> our objective was the northern end. they gave us 90 days to secure it. but we secured it in 21 days. >> at sea, a very different story.
kamikazes were sent out on a one-way ticket to hell. >> the kamikazes rained total terror and hell in the battle for okinawa. >> it's a frightening thing. it's a frightening thing, because you know what they can do. you're not talking about getting hit with a ping-pong ball. a plane comes in with somebody aiming it to make sure it goes where they want it to go. it's loaded with gasoline, you get very intense fires. you know it's going to be really destructive. you know that you do anything to avoid being hit. >> the weapon is not extraordinary. but the will behind it is. >> the kamikaze training in japan was limited. all they needed to know how to do was take off, steer the plane, and that was it. in most cases, they would have a
farewell. they would drink sake in a most, a farewell toast, and they were totally committed for one, but they also had the resolve to follow through with it, because they looked at it they were going to become venerated heroes. they were projecting mainland japan, their loved ones from the eventual invasion. >> this shows a battleship and aircraft carrier hit by diving kamikazes. >> off the coast, larry witnessed several kamikaze attacks. >> we could see the pilot in there and see his neckerchief floating in the breeze. >> aircraft carriers were the ckamikaz kamikaze's main targets. they sank some 34 other ships by
the end of the battle. >> we saw so many things happen. we just knew sooner or later some of the people on our ship were going to be lost and there was no escape. that's the thing when you're in the navy, there's no place to hide. >> april 16th started out like a normal day at sea aboard the ship. >> you get up before sunup and you're on battle stations so that your eyes could adjust to the light, and you would be ready to go. >> then on the horizon, the d d dreaded silhouette of a kamikaze appeared, then another, then another. >> once they started coming in in numbers, we started taking some hits. it was a plane that hit just
forward of my gun. we had one terrible gasoline fire, not just inside my gun but on the lower decks, as well. >> fires raged and out of nowhere the second kamikaze crashed directly into the gun mount. >> it blew me up the deck 15 feet. when i woke up, i was draped over a depth charge rack on the side of the ship. >> of 13 men in his gun crew, only seven died. that day the ship with stood 80 minutes of hell. 31 sailor s died in the wreckag. gun 53 was ripped to shreds. >> the tremendous concussion that took place and how it just took that quarter inch steel and opened it up like a can opener on both sides of the gun point.
>> larry lived to tell about surviving two kamikaze strikes. >> i always felt like i had a guardian angel, always. to this day i feel like i have a guardian angel. >> back on okinawa, soldiers and marines would soon be needing guardian angels of their own. at first, american ground forces on okinawa didn't encounter much enemy resistance because the japanese simply weren't there. they had gone underground. the underworld of cavs and tunnels set a hellish deathtrap for the soldiers and marines, coming up on "war stories." you totanobody's hurt, new car. but there will still be pain.
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april, 1945, the battle for okinawa. so easy at first, took a sharp bloody turn for the worse. >> when we started going south and started look sping into the eyes of these fellows come back, we started to understand we've run into a buzz saw. >> within the hills of southern okinawa lurked a deadly hidden enemy. over 100,000 soldiers of the 32nd imperial japanese army. >> what the japanese general decided upon is instead of trying to meet us at the beach where we had the overwhelming firepower, he decided to end us on the southern end of okinawa. >> he was a brilliant commander.
he did all he could do to use all the natural obstacles and cavs to et up his defenses. >> did they expect to be able to beat the americans on this island or simply to inflict massive casualties? >> i think they expected to inflict major casualties. they knew what had happened in the pacific. they knew that its time had come. >> soon our troops saw evidence of the japanese general's plan in action. >> we were walking down a road coming towards the lines and they were coming back from the lines. and these trucks, after the first ones past, we noticed they were stacked with dead american soldiers, and they were loaded on there like wood. >> there's an old military axiom, always take the high ground. he had very effectively done that. >> the first major confrontation, the army's 96th division was fighting one hill
at a time and suffered almost 3,000 casualties in four days. private herman buffington was there. >> we would go up there to take the ground, and they would be moved back in those cavs and the bombing and whatever. then they would come right back out facing us. and it's pretty much suicide. >> the only ones you would see were the dead ones. >> because they were fighting from underground? >> the camouflage was great, the use of the terrain was great. >> april 12th, a loss stuns the troops. franklin roosevelt was dead. >> the question was, who was the president? the answer was, harry truman, who was harry truman?
>> he was moving more towards the battle zone, and he was with a commanding officer, and a japanese machine gun opened up on their building. they both jumped out and got into a ditch. ernie raised his head up and he was killed. >> all the men wore their helmets with greater care as the fighting heated up. >> i used to never like the word helmet because he was heavy. i would wear a baseball cap. >> casualties mount to 3,000 a day as the gis and marines get bogged down in a stalemate on okinawa. that's n
may 1945, on okinawa, the last bloodiest battle of the pacific. the fighting was escalating, and so were the number of casualties. over 20,000 dead or wounded. >> driving through powerful jap fortifications. enemy strong points are cleared out. >> the same psychology of most soldiers in combat. whatever army they're in, it's going to happen to the guy in front of you or in back of you, but it's not going to happen to you. but that philosophy was hard to hold up on okinawa. >> sometimes it might take two or three weeks to take one stop. you would usually crawl over japanese dead bodies and this type thing, to take those hills and you would have to have enough people left to hold the hill. they're going to have a counterattack on you immediately. >> the pressure was on commander
buckner. >> the navy at times was losing a ship and a half a day to these kamikaze pilots. let's get it over with on the one side. the other is, don't waste lives unnecessarily. we lost a lot of people any way. >> private first class herman buffington ran into the general on the front line. >> this gentleman kneeled down, and asked me, soldier, how is it going? i told him very well. and he said, well, could i borrow your rifle and shoot some? i said yes, sir, you may. he said, i want you to tell me if i'm still a pretty good shot. you know, just like out at the firing range. so that's what i did, and he was good. he was a sharp shooter. it was great. >> he was right down there on the front many times seeing what was working, what was not working.
and then passing the information back and forth between the army and marine units, kicking rears where necessary and praising where necessary. >> the japanese general commanded the 32nd army. his underground headquarters was 110 feet down with walls four feet thick. >> shuri castle was the center of the japanese operations. the defenses that the japanese had, the cross fire that they had, the amount of weapons that they had, really created a problem for the 10th army. >> he had 110,000 japanese at okinawa and soldiers dug in, some of those caves went down three, four, five stories. >> they were among the best soldiers in the world. they were very fanatical, totally, absolutely fanatical. they didn't surrender, and we
didn't take any -- we wouldn't have taken them any way. >> meanwhile, kamikaze pilots continued their reign of terror on the sea off okinawa. >> the japanese expended a lot of valuable resources with pilots that couldn't be replaced and so on. but you have to remember the dark days they were in and the feeling of desperation. >> the crashing suicide planes turned ships into floating infernos. may 8th, ve-day, 5500 miles away in berlin, the defeat of nazi germany encourages those fighting on okinawa. >> the nazis began the ruthless bombs of cities. the allies finished. >> we were happy it was over in germany, because we knew we were going to get lots more help and
the war would be over. that was a happy time for us. the next day we started going up the hill. >> the hills around shuri that would defend the approach were well fortified and were the scenes of some horrific battles. and those hills, dotted with these hurtle back tombs connected with natural cav systems to slow down the american advance. >> may 11th. general buckner launched a counterattack, the fiercest fighting on okinawa was just beginning. >> many times it reached hand-to-hand combat. with you they would throw a battalion at the hill, they
would take casualties. they would throw a large counteroffensive at us. so it was constant sea saw back and forth. >> heavy rains transformed the battlefield into a sea of mud. what were the rains like in 1945? >> miserable. >> did the monsoon work to the advantage of the japanese? >> i would say so. there were quagmires all over the place and you're slipping and sliding. it made replenishment of ammunition and food difficult. >> the ground was so soft you couldn't dig a foxhole. >> soldiers and marines helped each other going. >> one of the greatest things was the people you were. you develop a camaraderie, a friendship. and the biggest thing in your mind is i cannot let the guy next to me down. >> we were -- the single guys were protective of the married
guys. we really wanted them to survive, because they had children, and we thought well, they better survive more than we should. >> for those who survive the battle for the shuri line was unforgetably gruesome. >> you never forget the stench. you're fighting over the same piece of turf, day in and day out. you cannot evacuate or get rid of the dead. and there is a smell that you never get out of your nostrils for the rest of your life. >> near sugar loaf hill, dan barton was almost killed. >> my sergeant came up and asked if i was hit and i said i don't know. you're kind of dazed and shook up and don't know exactly what's going on. i put back, and i was
bleeding. so i laid down and about that time, a shell hit behind us and killed him and wounded me. i got two pieces of shrapnel through the piece. the worst part of that is, we were pinned down. we could not move. anybody stood up, they were cut down by machine gunfire. so i had to lay down there all day and shoot myself with morphine. >> but that night, he was rescued and evacuated from okinawa. he would later receive two purple wounds. >> i remember laying in the hospital. when we got to guam, my whole saying has been home alive in '45 and i made it. >> according to the japanese warrior code, there is no surrender. a soldier must take his own life rather than fall into the hands of the enemy. of the enemy. that's next on "war stories."
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may 31st, 1945. after two months of brutal fighting on okinawa, with over 50,000 american casualties, the soldiers and marines of the 10th army secure the shuri line. >> i was in the 6th marine division area of operations. they hit it again and again and again to take the castle. >> the japanese general was forced to retreat further south. imperial headquarters refused his request for assistance, but his soldiers were determined to fight on. >> they were embued with the spirit of emperor worship, tremendous nationalism, ready to
commit suicide by going out against the guns of the americans. >> the japanese booby trapped not only dead bodies, but they also booby trapped cave and tunnel positions. >> the 10th army commander had victory in his sight. >> there's no question that they're going to win. we had taken enough of the island that we had operating airfields. so how do we end resistance? well, we just blast them out. >> a second amphibious landing finished off japanese naval forces on the island. >> the naval command was there. and also it held the city of naha. that was a very well done operation. as a matter of fact, people on okinawa could see how the 6th
division was advancing and encircling the japanese troops. >> he said something to the effect, one general to the other, we're both infantry generals, and we want to save lives and the best way we can save lives is for you to surrender. when the japanese saw this document, they laughed, because it just wasn't the japanese code. >> june 18th, general buckner inspected the 8th marine regiment. it was his last visit to the front lines. >> my father went to the 8th marine regiment, a newly committed regiment. it was an observation post that he wanted to see how they were doing. it was in the afternoon, early afternoon that a japanese artillery unit opened fire with their last ammunition, as i
understand it, and there was just one casualty, and that was my father. >> general buckner died on the battlefield, the highest ranking american officer to be killed in action in world war ii. his won was on a train to west point when he heard the news. >> i thought i saw something on the headline down at the end of the railroad car. sure enough, it was the headline that my father had been killed. that's where i learned about it. well, what are your thoughts when your father is killed in battle? he actually said he always wanted to die with his boots on. >> a marine general took over command and made history. >> general buckner thought so highly of general geiger that he issued instructions that should anything happen to him, general geiger would take over the army. and so it happened that major general roy s. geiger took over
command of the 10th army, first time a marine officer commanded so large an organization. >> miles away, the general got the word about his adversary's death. >> he got word that my father had been killed. his staff thought it was the best news they had ever heard. but no for him. he was very moved. >> ishujima and his staff, highly respected by the emperor. they decide they can't face defeat or they have decided the destruction of their army requires that they commit ritual suicide. >> they recognized the cause was lost, the battle was over and they embarrassed themselves before the emperor. so they had a ceremonial feast. each wrote a poem or a message in haiku.
they were dressed in their white robes. they went out to the front of the cave and knelt and disembowled themselves. as they did so, there was a lieutenant with his samurai sword who chopped the heads off of each of the generals. >> both generals were dead. the island of okinawa was declared secure. but would the remaining japanese soldiers ever surrender? >> they were jumping off of a cliff, civilians were jumping off of that. to us, that was okay. >> the atom bomb finally
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♪ june 22, 1945. after 82 days of brutal combat, the victory flag flies over okinawa. beginning of the mopup campaign. horrific carnage. 200,000 dead japanese and civilians. >> here you have these very carefree, loving, warm, friendly island people who are caught in the middle between this firestorm between americans and japanese. and the people suffered horribly. >> soldiers and marines rounded up japanese prisoners and, where possible, catered for the battered population.
>> we pushed the japanese and civilians further south, there were cases of suicide where the women would throw their children off the cliffs and jump after them. >> there were casualties to the bitter end. private buffington took a piece of shrapnel last day of the battle. >> i was hit in the leg. it hit in a spot where it went right under the knee and stopped at the bone. it fries just like cooking bacon. you can hear it. yes, it hurts. it does hurt. >> in spite of the ghastly losses on okinawa, japan still refused to surrender. >> if the japanese insist on continuing resistance onthe point of reason, their country will suffer the same destruction as germany. >> victory brought no rest for the troops. they received order to prepare
for a land invasion of japan. >> we knew we were going to japan. we had been taken out of the hospitals and put in separation units going back getting ready to invade japan. this was a horrible thought. >> the thoughts i had at the end of the okinawa operation were that i was not going to go home right away, but the war was not over and we were going to have to invade japan and i probably wasn't going to survive the landing on japan. >> meanwhile in the new mexico desert, the first successful test of a new weapon, the atomic bomb. >> harry truman was very much impressed by the number of casualties americans received on iwo jima and on okinawa and was determined not to have that in an invasion of japan.
>> still, the japanese won't bend. >> a short time ago, an american airplane dropped one bomb on hiroshima. >> august 6th, the first atomic bomb was dropped on hiroshima. no reaction from japan. >> i've been asked many times what do i think about dropping the atomic bomb? and i say to those people that i feel like going digging president harry up and shaking his hand again. but it was the finest thing to us in that position at that particular time that could have happened. >> august 9, nagasaki becomes the target for the second atomic bomb. five days later, the emperor was forced to relent. japan unconditionally surrendered. the bloodiest war in
♪ after 3 1/2 years, it was finally over. >> i have received this afternoon a message from the japanese government. >> aboard the "uss missouri" in tokyo bay, the japanese formally surrender. >> the supreme commander of the allied powers will now sign on behalf of all the nations at war with japan. >> i could not believe the japanese would ever surrender, ever, ever. i still couldn't believe it. they announced on the p.a. system that the war was over. you would probably think that we went out and jumped up and down in the streets and threw our hats up.
no, didn't do it. that was the quietest play as you would ever want to be in. >> i had the strangest feeling, here i was a salty marine. as i got closer to home, i wanted to go back to my unit. that was my home. >> today, okinawa is a strategic clinch pin in the far east. >> the uneasiness between the u.s. and china, china and taiwan, north and south korea. okinawa once again could be thrust into another historic period should something erupt in the pacific again. >> most of us wouldn't want to do it again, but we're very proud we were there. >> if we had invaded the japanese mainland, based on the bloodshed at okinawa and the other battles, officials estimate we would have suffered up to a million american casualties and 2 million japanese. but thanks to those who fought and bled at okinawa, we didn't
have to. thousands gave their lives to save millions of others. theirs is a war story that deserves to be hold. i'm oliver north for "war stories." good night. . tonight on "war stories." >> how thick is the army on a destroyer. >> there is no armor on a destroyer. >> lack of protection di >> lack of protection didn't stop them. >> i guess we didn't know any bett better. we were 20, we were 20, 18, 19 years old. >> from a fierce enemy to mother nature. >> >> incoming wind, it would take the skin right off of you. >> the tin can sailors of world war ii faced it all. that's next on "war stories." ♪