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    Ie Shima 伊江島 (Iejima) Okinawa Prefecture Japan
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Bill Wallisch c1945

PacificWrecks.com

U. S. Army c1945

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U. S. Army c1945
Location
Lat 26° 43' 24N Long 127° 47' 15E  Ie Shima is an oval shaped island in Okinawa Prefecture in Japan. Includes Ie (Ie Town) on the southeast corner. Three miles to the southeast is the Motobu Peninsula of Okinawa Island. In Japanese known as Iejima. During the Pacific War, known to the Americans as Ie Shima. Today, accessible by ferry from Okinawa four times a day.

Wartime History
During the Pacific War, the Japanese built Ie Shima Airfield on the center of the island. By November 1944, the only Japanese military unit stationed on Ie Shima was the 50th Airfield Battalion. By the end of the year, they were reinforced by the Japanese Army 44th Independent Mixed Brigade, 2nd Infantry Unit, 1st Battalion "Igawa Unit" under the command of Major Igawa. The airfield personnel were designated as infantry and redesignated as the 50th Specially Established Infantry Battalion to augment the defense.

Starting in early October 1944, attacked by U. S. Navy (USN) carrier aircraft that targeted American aircraft targeted Ie Shima Airfield and shipping in the area to isolated the island.

American missions against Ie Shima
1944–1945

During February 1945, a labor unit of 580 Okinawan men arrived to help build defenses with the help of roughly 2,000 civilians still on the island built defenses, pillboxes, trenches, tunnels and emplacements. The Japanese prepared strong defenses in the eastern and central part of the island while the western half was neglected with only outpost positions and mines.

The 50th Battalion was ordered to destroy Ie Shima Airfield then to withdraw to Okinawa but were without ships to transport them. The Japanese began evacuating the civilian population to Okinawa but less than half were removed before the U. S. landing on Okinawa on April 1, 1945.

After the April 1, 1945 U. S. landing on the western Okinawa Island and their rapid advance to the Motobu Peninsula, the occupation of Ie Shima was accelerated with the U. S. Army 77th Infantry Division assigned to capture the island and airfield.

Battle of Ie Shima

On April 16, 1945 the U. S. Army, 77th Infantry Division made an amphibious landing on the southern shore of Ie Shima. Landing at "Green 1" on the southwest beaches was 306th Infantry Regiment 1st Battalion and 2nd Battalion. Landing at "Red 1" was the 305th Infantry Regiment (305th RCT), 3rd Battalion. Landing at "Red 2" was the 305th Infantry Regiment (305th RCT), 1st Battalion. The beaches designated "Red 3" and "Red 4" to the south of Ie (Ie Town) were neglected as U. S. intelligence detected they were heavily defended. The landings were supported by U. S. Army artillery fire from Minna Shima to the south.

During the Battle of Ie Shima, a total of 1,100 American casualties were sustained capturing the island. On April 17, 1945 among those landing was U. S. Correspondent Ernie Pyle who landed with ashore with the 305th Infantry Regiment. On April 18, 1945 Pyle was a passenger in a jeep with Lt. Col. Joseph B. Coolidge (C. O. 305th Infantry Regiment) plus three other officers bound for his new command post. On the outskirts of Ie (Ie Town), a Japanese machine gunner opened fire and the men in the jeep ran into a nearby ditch seeking cover. When Pyle raised his head above the ditch he was hit in the head below the rim of his helmet, killing him instantly.

Ie (Ie Town)
Located on the southern coast of Ie Shima.

Mount Gusuku (Iegusugu, The Pinnacle)
Highest point on the island with an elevation of roughly 600' at the center of Ie Shima. Also known as Iegusugu Mountain (Mt Iegusugu). During April 1945 Battle of Ie Shima, Americans Nicknamed the feature "The Pinnacle".

Ie Shima Airfield (Ie Shima Auxiliary Air Base, Ie Jima Airport)
Built by the Japanese, captured by Americans and expanded into a major airbase still in use today

Ernie Pyle Monument
Located to the south of the main pier at Ie Shima. This monument was dedicated during World War II to U. S. Correspondent Ernie Pyle who was killed on April 18, 1945 by machine gun fire on Ie Shima. The memorial has a plaque with a relief of the statue of liberty and below a brass plaque with the inscription "At this spot the 77th Infantry Division lost a buddy, Ernie Pyle, 18 April 1945". The memorial remains to this day.

References
U. S. In World War II - Okinawa: The Last Battle Chapter VII The Capture of Ie Shima pages 149-183

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Last Updated
May 18, 2020

 

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