Memories from Battle of Okinawa – ‘Operation Iceberg’

Recording in his journal the days and nights leading up to the Battle of Okinawa, Lt. Col. William A. Kuretich described the weather, the mood of the soldiers and the preparations by the US Army for the battle. He kept a journal throughout the war, recording bits and pieces of the battles he was involved in. He wrote a fair bit about ‘Operation Iceberg’, primarily because he was very actively involved in the mission, and also because he knew that success in the Battle of Okinawa could ultimately enable the US to help win the war.

Battle of Okinawa

The last major land battle of WW2 – also known as ‘Operation Iceberg’ – was fought on the island of Okinawa; this battle was followed by the dropping of atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, which consequently lead to Japanese surrender.

Operation Iceberg lasted from 1st April to 22nd June 1945. Okinawa had a population of 430,000 civilians, living in small villages and towns. There were some 130,000 Japanese soldiers deployed on the island, who were facing more than 280,000 US troops. Okinawa was critically important in the US war against Japan; its air bases were especially important for the invasion of the Japanese mainland, 350 miles away.

Memories of Okinawa in Kuretich’s words

Since he was a child, William Kuretich had always dreamed of becoming an aviator and owning a farm. In 1956, Kuretich retired with the rank of Brigadier General from the Marine Corps. He took his family to Independence, a town in Kansas, USA, where he first worked as an administrator with the International Telephone and Telegraph Co. and later, in Coffeyville a nearby town, as V.P. of the Parkesburg Division of Textron.

His dream of owning a farm became a reality in the year 1960, when his wife, Wilma, inherited a farm from her parents. They later discovered that the farm had previously been owned by Laura Ingalls, the author of the famous ‘Little House’ series of books. William Kuretich’s daughter, Jean Schodorf, who had formerly been a Republican state senator in Wichita, discovered her father’s old journal after he died in 2001. She said that she had always been proud of his participation in such a great event in recent history. She recalls that her father never mentioned anything about Operation Iceberg or the Battle of Okinawa. Her brother, Bill, on the other hand, remembers a couple of stories his father told him about his experiences in the battle, the News reports.

Bill remembers his father telling him about the fear they had about Kamikaze pilots. These pilots would deliberately crash into US navy ships with their planes full of explosives, killing scores of crew and wounding many. This proved to be a very useful tactic for Japan, causing the US a significant number of causalities. Bill also remembers his father telling him about the time he was put in charge of bombers over Okinawa. Kuretich told Bill that due to bad weather they feared hitting their own troops on ground while trying to hit the target. Luckily, all the bombs they dropped – weighing 500 pounds each – hit the Japanese targets. Kuretich had been greatly relieved upon this success.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE