APRIL: Battle of Okinawa
My April Uniform of the Month is a tribute to the brave Marines and U.S. Army soldiers who fought in the last great battle of World War II on the Japanese island of Okinawa. Will and Casey and I headed out on a rainy morning to try to capture the essence of what being wet is all about. The temperatures were around 50° with a steady rainfall that got quite heavy at times. Casey and I were representing the Marines of the 1st Marine Division and Will was representing the Army's 77th Infantry Division.
The Battle of Okinawa, codenamed Operation Iceberg, was fought on the Ryukyu Islands of Okinawa and was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific War. The 82-day-long battle lasted from early April until mid-June 1945. After a long campaign of island hopping, the Allies were approaching Japan, and planned to use Okinawa, a large island only 340 mi (550 km) away from mainland Japan, as a base for air operations on the planned invasion of Japanese mainland (coded Operation Downfall). Four divisions of the U.S. 10th Army, the 7th, 27th, 77th, and 96th Infantry Divisions and two Marine Divisions, the 1st and 6th, fought on the island. Their invasion was supported by naval, amphibious, and tactical air forces.
The battle has been referred to as the "typhoon of steel" in English, and tetsu no ame ("rain of steel") or tetsu no bōfū ("violent wind of steel") in Japanese. The nicknames refer to the ferocity of the fighting, the intensity of kamikaze attacks from the Japanese defenders, and to the sheer numbers of Allied ships and armored vehicles that assaulted the island. The battle resulted in the highest number of casualties in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Based on Okinawan government sources, mainland Japan lost 77,166 soldiers, who were either killed or committed suicide, and the Allies suffered 14,009 deaths (with an estimated total of more than 65,000 casualties of all kinds). Simultaneously, 42,000 to 150,000 local civilians were killed or committed suicide, a significant proportion of the local population. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki together with the Soviet invasion of Manchuria caused Japan to surrender less than two months after the end of the fighting on Okinawa.
FEBRUARY: iWO JIMA FLAG RAISER
In honor of the Marine Corp's 69th Anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima, I thought it would be fun to do an impression of an actual Iwo Jima flag raiser from the famous Joe Rosenthal photograph. This was a pretty easy impression for me to put together as I have a pretty complete Marine Corps uniform and equipment collection. The uniform consists of an M1 helmet with a Marine camouflage helmet cover, a cloth utility cap, a set of P41 Marine Corps dungarees, an Army M41 field jacket, leggings and a pair of Boondocker boots. I wore only the equipment worn by Franklin Sousley. Sousley was always thought to be the flag raiser standing behind John Bradley, but based on what he is wearing and his equipment, I am positive that he is in the second slot behind Harlon Block in front. Please visit my website to learn more about the flag raising and the 5th Marine Division in World War II and Vietnam. http://www.5thmarinedivision.com
August: OPERATION STARLITE
Operation Starlite began on August 18, 1965. It was the first major offensive regimental size action conducted by a strictly U.S. military unit during the Vietnam War. The operation was launched based on intelligence provided by Major General Nguyen Chanh Thi, the commander of the South Vietnamese forces in northern I Corps area. Lieutenant General Lewis W. Walt devised a plan to launch a pre-emptive strike against the Viet Cong regiment to nullify the threat on the vital Chu Lai base and ensure its powerful communication tower remained intact. The operation was conducted as a combined arms assault involving ground, air and naval units. U.S. Marines were deployed by helicopter insertion into the designated landing zone while an amphibious landing was used to deploy other Marines. 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment – both stationed at Chu Lai – were chosen to move on Van Tuong, as well as 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, from the Special Landing Force, which made haste from the Philippines. Forty-eight years later, the lessons learned from Operation Starlite still echo through military operation manuals and the Marines who laid their lives on the line are recognized for their heroism. The engagement showed the Marine Corps to be a prime fighting force 190 years after its birth, even when faced with an enemy of relatively unknown capabilities in conditions less than ideal. Also the combination of amphibious assault and helicopter-borne forces used in Operation Starlite showed the Marines to be masters of their chosen crafts: amphibious assault and assault via helicopter. With success in Operation Starlite the Marines passed their first big test in Vietnam. Moreover, they tested on the battlefield the combined helicopter and amphibious doctrine that they had studied for more than a decade.
This was my first post for my ongoing "Uniform of the Month" series. Each month I spotlight a particular uniform from a time and place in U.S. military history. Because of my background and interests, these are mostly focused on World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars. This uniform was pulled together over several months as my interest in the Marine Corps of the Vietnam War has grown. Everything in the photos is original except for the Utility Cover and the OG-107 Trousers, both reproductions from Moore Militaria. I don't currently own an M-14 rifle but I held my M-1 in the photos and then added in an M-14 later.
UNIFORM OF THE MONTH
I love deciding which unique uniform impression I want to put together each month. Follow me right here to see what's next!