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U. S. Army April 1945
U. S. Army May 4, 1945
Lat 26° 14' 24N Long 127° 44' 8E Maeda 前田 is located at an elevation of 95' / 28m above sea level at the center of southern Okinawa Island in Okinawa Prefecture in Japan. Also spelled Meida or Meda. To the south was the Ginowan-Shuri Road / Highway 5 (Hwy 5) the connects to Shuri. To the north is Urasoe and to the northwest is Nakama.
Maeda Escarpment (Urasoe-Maeda Escarpment)
The Maeda Escarpment is a feature in the south center portion of Okinawa Island the runs roughly from the northwest to the southeast. Named for Maeda on the west side of the feature. Also known as Urasoe-Maeda Escarpment. During the Battle of Okinawa, the U. S. Army nicknamed the feature "Hacksaw Ridge" or "Big Escarpment". Includes Kakazu Ridge. At the at the center of the escarpment is a vertical rock dubbed "Needle Rock" then to the southeast 200 yard away was Hill 150 and 400 yards beyond Hill 152 and then the Ginowan-Shuri Road (Highway 5) that turns around the end of the escarpment to the southwest towards Shuri.
By late April 1945, the Maeda Escarpment was defended by roughly 2,500 Japanese Army under the command of Colonel Munetatsu Hara. The defenders established an intricate network of defenses on the southern reverse slope of the feature with a network of natural caves and tunnels that interconnected to pillboxes and fighting positions.
On April 25, 1945 the U. S. Army 96th Division was deployed to the northeast of the ridge from Hill 150 and began an artillery bombardment firing a total of 1,616 rounds plus aircraft dropping napalm onto the ridge against suspected enemy positions.
On April 26, 1945 they attacked and initially had little difficulty reaching the forward face of the escarpment including Needle Rock but came under machine gun fire from the reverse slope and suffered heavy casualties and by dusk had to withdraw under a mortar smoke screen. Further to the southeast, the 383rd Infantry Regiment reached the crest of Hill 150 and Hill 152 caught an estimated 600 Japanese defenders that were exposed in the open killing them with small arms fire. Meanwhile, further to the south tanks and armored flame throwers were able to reach the edge of Maeda and open fire into cave openings. Learning the Americans had broken the line, General Ushijima order the defenders to "attack the enemy advancing in the Maeda sector and expect to repulse him decisively".
On April 27, 1945 the 1st Battalion, 383rd Infantry Regiment began to advance between Hill 150 and Hill 152 supported by tanks from the 763d Tank Battalion and flame throwers from the 713th that fired into caves and when defenders were visible they were fired on by the infantry. Although the tanks entered the southern edge of Maeda, enemy fire prevented the infantry from advancing. At the crest of the ridge a large pillbox and underground was assaulted but failed. By the end of the day, only slight advances were made aside from slight advanced in Maeda near Hill 150 and Hill 152.
On April 28, 1945, at the northwest end of the Maeda Escarpment, a flanking effort was made by Company K, 381st Infantry Regiment to attack from Nakama southeast towards a structure dubbed "Apartment House" a concrete building that was formally a school and used as a barracks. While attacking the building, the company was repelled after a half hour of hand-to-hand fighting and suffered heavy casualties until they withdrew under a smokescreen. Afterwards, Company K was so reduced by casualties it was combined with Company I but together were understrength.
On April 29, 1945 in the morning, Japanese counterattacked along the escarpment using grenades and even spears but were repulsed, including one attack the U. S. claimed 265 enemy killed and tanks and flamethrowers joined the fight killing another 200. Meanwhile, at the southeast flank of the battle, Company L 383rd Infantry Regiment captured the crest of Hill 138 and at that moment had pushed further to the south than any other part of the U. S. Army advance. Storming the hill, a machine gun position was captured by Pfc Gabriel Chavez who rushed it with a grenade and killed five defenders and himself. Meanwhile, tanks fired at the hill top and engaged in duels with 47mm anti-tank guns further to the south and direct fire could reach Shuri roughly a mile beyond to the southwest. That same day the 77th Infantry Division took over the line from the 381st Infantry Regiment against Maeda that had been reduced to 40% combat efficiency suffering 1,021 casualties including 536 on the Maeda Escarpment over the past four days and the survivors were exhausted from the combat including hand-to-hand fighting.
During the battle, Pfc Desmond T. Doss a medical aid attached to Company B, 307th Infantry Regiment, 77th Infantry Division remained atop the crest after others withdrew to lower wounded Americans down the side using a rope litter, administered first aid to the wounded and carried others to safety near enemy positions. For his actions, he later earned the Medal of Honor.
At the at the center of the escarpment is a vertical rock dubbed "Needle Rock" by the U. S. Army during the Battle of Okinawa. During the Maeda Escarpment, American soldiers reached the rock on the first day of the assault on April 26, 1945 but withdrew due to heavy fire from the reverse slope and it took five days of fighting before the 1st Battalion, 307th Infantry under the command of Lt. Col. Gerald D. Cooney finally secured this feature.
U. S. Army in World War II - Okinawa: The Last Battle Chapter XI Assaulting The Second Shuri Defense Ring pages 274-282
April 25-29, 1945
May 3 45
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