Anonymous Letter from U. S. S. Wichita, 1945.
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We had to act as a covering force for the landings, first on Kerama Rhetto, a group of small islands 20 miles west of Okinawa, and later, on the main island itself. Okinawa is a large island some 67 miles long and varying from about 10 to 25 miles across At different apots [spots]. We could see from our position that we would do a lot of bombarding as the place was well fortified and there were lots of things that had to be destroyed so that the troops would be able to land and move in without too much trouble. Our job was going to be to shell gun emplacements, pill boxes, and other targets.
The Kerama Rhetto operation came off with little trouble and then we started on Okinawa proper. Things were quiet at first but on the second morning a small sub fired a torpedo at us and then surfaced about 500 yards off our starboard. It dived immediately and we watched the wake of the torpedo as it came toward us. By skillful maneuvering we missed it, thank God, but we could see its wake about 10 yards across our bow and along the port side. That put the fear of the Lord in us. Next morning came some of Tojo's torpedo planes attacked us at dawn but did no damage. We shot one down off our port quarter and it was thrilling and satisfying to see it dive into the sea and lie burning on the surface.
For the next five days we shelled the beach. We had plenty of air raids during that time but only a few of the planes ever got close enough for us to open up with our anti-aircraft batteries. Love Day (that was the name the Navy gave to the day of invasion) was bright and clear and the sea was calm. It was EASTER SUNDAY but it sounded like the Fourth of July. Just before the first wave hit the beach the WICHITA opened up with just about every gun she could bring to the bear including some of her anti-aircraft guns. We fired several nine gun salvos which seemed to shake the ship down to the very keel. You can imagine how those big guns shook the Japs. The beach was so blanketed with smoke we could not see the troops land, they just disappeared into the haze but we got the word later that everything was going okay on Okinawa.
After that, one day was pretty much like the other. We continued to throw out shells without any return fire from the beach. Then one evening a battery on the beach opened up on us. Nobody likes to be shot at and we were happy that none of the shells hit us; in a flash all hell broke loose. Every ship started firing and even the Army's Long Toms, set up on a spit of coral off the island, let them have it. The battery was liquidated in short order. Several times during our stay around Okinawa the Japs threw some shells at us but they never scored a hit on the WITCHITA and they were promptly silenced by our guns. During the campaign we were hit twice, most probably by wild anti-aircraft fire; however, little damage was done and the people injured were taken care of by our doctors and corpsmen.
You have heard and read a lot about the Jap kamekazi corps. They are the boys who dive planes into ships. Quite a few ships were hit and they almost got us by the "Lucky Witch" got by safely again.