RARE AND FASCINATING DOUBLE-SIDED U.S ARMY MAP OF OKINAWA ISLAND BEFORE THE BATTLE, DATED FEBRUARY 1945
(WORLD WAR II). Pre-battle map of Okinawa Island. Washington: Army Map Service, 1945. Single sheet, measuring 22-1/2 by 20 inches, with black-and-white topographical map on Side A and color oceanographic map on Side B. $2500.
Official doubled-sided U.S. Army map of Okinawa Island before the Battle of Okinawa, labeled "SECRET."
The Battle of Okinawa (code name "Operation Iceberg") took place on Okinawa Island between April 1, 1945 and June 22, 1945. One of the Ryukyu Islands extending southwest of the Japanese mainland, Okinawa was of paramount strategic importance. Allied forces needed it to launch Operation Downfall, the large-scale on-the-ground invasion of Japan anticipated to take place in November 1945. Allied forces, the bulk of which were U.S. Army and marines, faced off against the Imperial Japanese Army and conscripted indigenous Okinawan civilians that spring. The Allies launched a multi-pronged amphibious assault of Okinawa and surrounding islands. Although the Allies significantly outnumbered defenders, the Japanese brooked their efforts with kamikaze and other extreme defense tactics. Approximately 250,000 died from war, starvation, illness, and mass suicide in what would be the bloodiest battle in the Pacific Theater.
Side A of this map shows Beach Landing zones coded by color and number extending down the western coast of southern Okinawa Island and corresponding to the area around modern day Yomitan. Kedena Air Base, from which Allied forces planned to transport troops in Operation Downfall, is located just a little further inland outside of the map limits. The map shows roads, airports, railroad, and radio towers, and lighthouses, as well as underwater currents, obstacles, and cables. Gun, pill box, block house, and earth-covered installations are demarcated as are limited topographical features. A Japanese-English glossary of helpful topographical terms underscores the nature of the foreign invasion.
Side B shows a composite image of an aerial photo map overlaid with a topographical map, also reproduced in February 1945 a few months prior to Operation Iceberg. This map shows landmarks like airports, docks, and major cities, while also giving a sense of water currents and depth.
On April 1, 1945, Commander of the Tenth Army Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr. successfully launched an amphibious assault against this very coastline. His Army divisions and Marines, commanded by Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr., Roy Geiger, John R. Hodge, and Pedro de Valle, among others, landed in waves on Hagushi Beaches (shown on both sides of this map.) Allied forces met such little resistance that they captured Yomitan Air Base (shown as "Yontan Airport" on Side A) and Kedena Air Base within hours. Lieutenant General Buckner was killed by coral shrapnel just days before the battle's conclusion, on June 18, 1945.
This map and scant others like it facilitated the Allied invasion by introducing troops to the topography, landmarks, and place names of Okinawa Island. Accurate maps depended on military intelligence collected using the latest technology. Maps related to the Battle of Okinawa are significantly scarcer than D-Day maps (which are highly coveted).