The Battle For Mt. Yae Take
By 13 April the Sixth Division, by combat patrol and other means, had located the enemy’s defensive stronghold on Motobu. It was learned that the enemy force of 1500 men was commanded by Colonel Udo, and it included Infantry, Machine Gun 75mm and 150mm Artillery units.
His emplacements also included two 6 inch Naval Guns that could fire on the coastal road, Nago and Ie Shima.
Mount Yae Take dominated the entire peninsula, and it was here that the Japanese had organized their defensive positions. The terrain on the steep slopes was nearly impassable and all avenues of approach were mined and covered by fire. The broken rough ground would deny the assaulting marines the support of tanks.
Consequently, on 13 April the 4th Marines (less ¾) were ordered to move to the peninsula from the East Coast. While, the 29th marines were to pinpoint enemy positions and prepare for an early morning attack.
In response to these orders, 1/29 moved out from Itomi toward Manna to clear the road and join 3/29 near Toguchi. The column was ambushed and hit hard with 20mm fire from the high ground. The patrols of 3/29, moving north from Awa, also came under fire and involved in sharp a fire fight before they were able to withdraw under cover of 81mm mortar fire. Later in the afternoon 3/22 was subjected to harassing artillery fire and Japanese counter battery fire also struck the gun emplacements of 2/15. Their accurate fire caused 3 casualties including two Battery Commanders. The Battalion ammo dump was destroyed and two 105mm Howitzers. Air strikes were delivered in retaliation on suspected gun positions but 2/15 had to displace to alternate positions.
In the interior the 4th Marines, less 3/4 began their move to the peninsula with 2/4 in the lead. Following a long and difficult march over primitive roads, they reached their assigned area around 1700. By nightfall, the 1st and 2nd battalions were in perimeter defense 3 miles apart on the southwest coast of Motobu. The 3rd battalion was on the East Coast 20 miles distance, while Regiment and Weapons Company were in position near Yofuke.
General Shepherd’s operational plan for the 14th called for a coordinated attack. The 4th Marines with 3/29 attached would attack toward the east, while the 29th Marines, less 3/29, would drive to the west. In effect, the two regiments were assaulting the target from opposing directions with their fire masked by Mt. Yae Take.
Accordingly, the 4th Marines moved out at 0830 with 3/29 on the left, 2/4 on the right and 1/4 in regimental reserve. An artillery, air and naval gunfire bombardment preceded the attack. The advance met light resistance and the marines reached their initial objective, a700 ft. high ridge before noon. During this time, 1/4 moved to the right rear of 2/4 to guard the open right flank. Later, Company C and then Company A were committed to assault a ridge 1000 yards to the right front of 2/4.
Following preparatory fire, 2/4 and 3/29 resumed the attack to seize a ridge 1000 yards to their front. As the advance continued, resistance steadily increased, ambushes from cleverly concealed positions were frequent and many officers became casualties. The Battalion Commander of 1/4 was the victim of such an ambush in an area that had been quiet for hours
Company G of 2/4 came under heavy rifle, machine gun, mortar and artillery fire about 2000, and in a few minutes Company E was hit with the same fires. Naval gunfire was called down on an artillery position that had been spotted and the gun fell silent. Ignoring the heavy casualties suffered by Company G, 2/4 pressed the assault and took the ridge utilizing an envelopment from the right. By 1630 2/4 and 3/29 were on the regimental objective, and 1/4 occupied the high ground to the right. Close contact was then established between all units.
On the East Coast meanwhile, the 3rd Battalion, less K Company, was relieved by 1/22 and then proceeded to the peninsula where they relieved 3/22 in Division reserve. On the 15th the 4th Marines renewed the assault from their existing positions. Their advance moved against light resistance until mid-day. Then, as the assaulting units climbed the steep slopes, heavy fire from caves and emplacements slowed the advance. Fierce fighting erupted all along the line, with 2/4 experiencing the roughest going as they moved against high ground dominating the left flank. With three companies on line, 2/4 could make little progress against the intense fire of the enemy. The Battalion finally placed two Companies on hill 200. The third company had incurred heavy casualties (65 including 3 Commanding officers), but had moved three quarters of the way up a hill on the right. To establish a stronger position, G Company refused their right flank and tied in with F Company. When the attack was halted at 1630, the 1st and 2nd battalions were on their objective and 3/29 was on ground slightly to the rear
Re-supply and the evacuation of the growing number of casualties became very difficult during the day, and the assaulting marines were nearing exhaustion. However, many caves had been sealed, and 1,120 enemy dead had been counted. Colonel Udo, it was later learned, decided that evening to move his command by infiltration to northern Okinawa and engage in Guerrilla warfare. While plans were being formulated for the continuing assault, 3/4 reverted to the control of regiment and was committed to the next day’s attack.
PERSONAL NOTE: [My memory is vague concerning the march of K Company to the Peninsula. We were at least 28 miles north of the battalion when it was ordered to Motobu. I am not sure of the timing but I recall our rapid march to join the battalion. I believe we arrived on the field late in the day of 16 April.]
The Sixth Division was to make a maximum effort on the 16th to capture Mt. Yae Take. I will not attempt to describe the operational plans, complicated maneuvering of units, or the supporting fires that were utilized. It is enough to say that maximum pressure from all directions and by every means available would be brought to bear upon the enemy’s positions.
The successful coordinated attack was accomplished in the following way. 3/29 and 2/4 were in possession of the high ground facing east, while the 1st and 3rd Battalions 4th Marines were in position facing north at right angle to those two battalions. When the attack resumed 3/29 and 2/4 provided fire support to the advance of the 1st and 3rd Battalions of the 4th Marines. The dispositions were such that Mt. Yae Take was in the zone of the 1st Battalion. That unit moved out with A Company on the left and Company C advancing up a draw on the right. The steep slopes made progress slow and difficult but enemy fire was light and scattered. When A Company came over the crest they were met with intense fire at close range from reverse slope positions. The marines quickly withdrew from the crest and plastered the enemy with 60mm mortar fire and grenades. The battle raged at close quarters with the issue in doubt for some time. Finally, aided by the supporting fire of 2/4, A Company gained the upper hand and secured that area. The two companies held the crest of Mt. Yae Take but had suffered 50 casualties and were low on ammunition. Fortunately, accurate artillery fire and the mortar fire of 2/4 contained efforts by the enemy to re-group and counterattack. It was at this time that Company K coming up to join ¾, was able to assist in the re-supply of the 1st Battalion and the removal of their wounded. Soon after the re-supply was accomplished, the Japanese made a wild charge across the battalion front, however, the supporting fire of the artillery and 2/4 crushed the counterattack.
A very heavy artillery barrage preceded the assault of the 29th Marines the following morning, 17 April. In trace of the bombardment, the 29th moved out at 0800 to link up with the 4th Marines near the Itomi-Toguchi road. The two regiments then would attack abreast in a northerly direction. Although the rough terrain hindered their movement, 1/29 secured their initial objective by 1300. They met light resistance due primarily to a precise bombardment by the batteries of the USS Tennessee. In taking their objective the 29th had eliminated over 40 Japanese, but over 100 enemy dead were counted in the craters created by the naval guns.
The attack of 2/29 met little resistance that enabled the Battalion to destroy large enemy dumps of equipment, ammunition and other supplies. In late afternoon contact was made with 1/22, who had destroyed the enemy positions in it’s zone. When contact was made with the 4th Marines, the 22nd was pinched out and set up night positions near Awa.
On the 17th the 4th Marines waited until their supplies were replenished, before resuming the advance at 1200 hrs. The assault began with the 1st and 3rd Battalions on the right. The positions of 2/4 and 3/29 on the left, were at right angles to the assaulting units, and were directed to support the advance until their fire was masked.
Forward movement was rapid with little or no resistance. The elaborate fortifications of the enemy were quickly over run. The Japanese withdrawal had become a route, and dead bodies and military equipment were scattered all over the area. Large supplies of food, weapons, clothing and other equipment were destroyed. When 1/4 moved across the front of 3/29, two 8 inch naval guns, 5 artillery pieces, 8 caves full of ammunition and over 300 dead Japanese were discovered in front of Company G’s position on hill 210. During the advance ¾, 56 of the enemy were killed without a single marine being hit.
During the afternoon, the 4th and 29th Marines made contact on the high ground that dominated the Itomi-Toguchi Road. Then 1/29 was assigned responsibility to mop up any by-passed enemy in the zone of that regiment. By nightfall of the 17th it was evident that the Sixth Division had broken the enemy’s will to resist. Col. Udo’s command had been shattered and survivors were trying to escape destruction in whatever way they could.
The 18th was devoted to reorganizing, resupplying, consolidating the gains of the 17th and patrolling the Itomi-Toguchi road. In the sector of the 4th Marines, 1/4 went into reserve near Manna. Local patrols were conducted by 3/4 and 2/4 patrolled the ground passed over on the 17th.
Before the final drive to the northern coast began on the 19th, the ground ahead was subjected to a thorough bomb, rocket, napalm and strafing attack by VMF 312. The 4th and 29th Marines moved out on line at 0800 against no resistance. They encountered intricate trench and cave systems containing many enemy dead who were probably victims of the artillery, air and naval bombardment. Organized resistance came to an end when the 4th and 29th Marines reached the coast 20 April. The Sixth Marine Division during the seven-day campaign had sustained the following casualties: 207 KIA, 757 WIA and 6 MIA. The Division had counted over 2000 Japanese dead.
Following a brief period of rest and re-supply the regiments were re-assigned. The 4th Marines then moved to their designated areas in northern Okinawa. The 3rd Battalion relieved 3/1 at Kawada, 2/4 moved to Ora and 1/4 and Regimental Headquarters near Genka on the west coast. Marine patrols continually searched their areas for survivors of the Udo force and roving guerilla units. Their efforts were fruitless until the afternoon of 27 April. An enemy force of 200 men was then sighted by a reconnaissance patrol of 3/4 moving toward the East Coast. Two battalions of the 22nd Marines moved into a blocking position to the south while the 3rd Battalion 4th Marines moved toward the sighting from Kawada. The leading company of that unit made contact with the enemies force about noon on the 28th. During the ensuing firefight, 109 Japanese were killed while one marine was killed and 8 wounded. Following this successful action the 3rd Battalion returned to Kawada.
The Regiments of the Sixth Division continued to patrol and search their areas of responsibility while waiting for further orders.