Today is the 68th anniversary of L-Day, known as “Love Day” to the half a million Allied soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines whose mission was the conquest of the island of Okinawa. An armada of 1,300 ships included 40 CVs, CVLs, and CVEs, and close to 400 amphibious vessels carrying 187,000 troops, thousands of trucks, artillery tubes, mortars, tanks, amtraks, and many thousands of tons of ammunition and all classes of supply to sustain the landing force of the XXIV Corps and the Marine III Amphibious Corps in the fighting ashore.
The Japanese, to the surprise and immense relief of the invasion force, barely contested the beaches. Almost every unit came ashore without opposition, as the first night saw more than 60,000 ashore. The Japanese 32nd Army’s 100,000 defenders and the locally recruited militia of Okinawan men would instead meet their American enemy inland, in expertly-prepared and defended positions on key terrain. But all of that, the massive kikusui of the kamikaze aircraft, the drenching rains that turned the island into a reprise of the horrors of the Western Front in the Great War, the savage fighting for Naha and the Shuri line, the Half-Moon, Sugar Loaf, the sacrifice of the Yamato battle squadron in Operation Ten-Gō, the massed suicides of civilians, was yet to come. On this day, casualties were negligible, and a lodgment established. The question became not if, but when, Okinawa would fall.