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KILLING GROUND ON OKINAWA: The Battle for Sugar Loaf Hill.
Sugar Loaf Hill was a small, insignificant-looking mound, barely 50 feet high and about 300 yards long, situated on the southern end of Okinawa. It was part of a triangle of strongpoints set up by the Japanese defenders designed to delay and damage the attacking American forces. The other two points of the triangle were the higher terrain of Shuri Heights and an irregular-shaped set of hills that Marines called the Half Moon.
The Sixth Marine Division was given the task of taking the mound called Sugar Loaf, and it would prove costly. By the time the area was considered secure, 1,656 Marines would be dead and another 7,429 wounded. Regiments were reduced to company strength, and companies to platoon size. Platoons and squads simply ceased to exist in some cases. It took 11 tries during a 12-day period and ate up most of three regiments before the hill was taken. Why this was so, and how the hill was eventually taken, is the subject of James Hallas’ World War II book, “Killing Ground on Okinawa: The Battle for Sugar Loaf Hill.”
Hallas interviewed a number of survivors of the battles and coupled their recollections with unit official accounts to come up with a story that graphically and explicitly describes the horrors of the battles and the courage and sacrifices exhibited by the attacking Marines. This book is not for the faint of heart. When Hallas writes of the battles, he includes descriptions of horrific wounds suffered by the casualties that make even calloused gunnery sergeants cringe. In doing so, he is merely passing on the sights and smells of the assaults indelibly imprinted in the memories of those who survived, and who passed on their recollections to the author. These stories are what make the chapters come alive for the reader.
Leathernecks of Company G, 22d Marine Regiment were the first to bump heads with the mound, and the first to feel the heat of the interlocking fires. By the end of its struggle to take Sugar Loaf, “George” Co would be down to 24 men of its original complement. When it was relieved, more units were ordered into the fight and were consumed one by one. Many times, Marines reached the summit of the mound only to be driven off or killed by the murderous fire. Eventually, the realization sank in, that the mound was an interlocking system of caves and tunnels with the firing ports so cleverly disguised as to be virtually undetectable. The tanks being used to support the assaults often fell victim to mines, artillery and antitank fire. Those who got through were ineffective in taking out the bunkers because of the camouflage.
The Japanese were so entrenched that many Marines fought the battles without ever sighting the enemy. The frustration they felt is summed up in one chapter that describes a colonel shaking hands with the Marines who returned from one of the fights. One Marine refused to shake hands, saying: “I don’t deserve any commendation. I took the worst licking of my life and never even got one of them in my sights.”
The stories Hallas tells are ones of bravery and devotion to duty. When officers and noncommissioned officers fell, privates stepped up and assumed command. The killing ground leading up to Sugar Loaf was littered for days by the dead, and it was only after the battle that they could be recovered. The war ended shortly after Sugar Loaf and Okinawa were secured. For some of the survivors, it has never ended.
KILLING GROUND ON OKINAWA: The Battle for Sugar Loaf Hill.
By James H. Hallas. Published by Naval Institute Press.
272 pages. Softcover. Stock #159114356X.
$17.95 MCA Members. $19.95 Regular Price.
- Key To The Castle (April 1972) (Magazine Page)
- Fighting For Okinawa, 1945 (Magazine Page)
- Okinawa: The Final Great Battle of World War II (Article)
- "Sledgehammer" At War And At Peace (Article)
- IWO JIMA: World War II Veterans Remember the Greatest Battle of the Pacific. (Book Review)
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Today in USMC History
Historic Leatherneck Magazine Covers
Leatherneck Staff Artist, Technical Sergeant Robert Fleischauer, felt that our July cover should be commemorative of the Fourth of July. Since the members of the missile units are probably the Corps' best rocketeers, he picked them to perform a standard Fourth of July action. Whether or not the "Honest Johnny" is useful as a combat piece is a matter for debate, but you can't beat it for morale." [July 1957.]
“The Join Up on the Nick” by Major Alex Durr, USMCR, a member of the History Division, Marine Corps University, Quantico, Va.
Hospitalman Daniel T. Bobic, assigned to Headquarters and Service Company, 3d Battalion, Second Marine Regiment, rappelled at the Jungle Warfare Training Center in Okinawa, Japan, in late April, 2002.
The oldest post of the Marine Corps, Washington, DC, is celebrating 200 years of excellence. Posed near the Barracks main gate were members of the official Color Guard of the United States Marine Corps (left to right): LCpl Joseph N. Keough, rifleman; Sgt Blake L. Richardson, Color Sergeant of the Marine Corps; Cpl Gerardo A. Guajardo, organizational color bearer; and LCpl Gregory A. Serwo, rifleman.
GySgt Verlando Frazier, East Coast Food Service Management Team, looked ready to dig into some of the new items included in MREs.
This photo by Sgt Earnie Grafton of Marines from Fox Co., 2/4 shows varied emotions as they greeted the coalition forces outside Kuwait city.
A fleet of trucks was needed to transport Dr. Felix de Weldon’s original model of the Iwo Jima flag-raising statue from the sculptor’s home in Newport, R.I., to the grounds of the Marine Military Academy at Harlingen, Texas. After the statue’s arrival, a nearly around-the-clock effort by skilled workmen was required in order to have the memorial reassembled and ready for dedication ceremonies on April 16, 1982.
In April this year (1981), two squadrons of AV-8A “Harriers” sailed for the Mediterranean aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Nassau. Purpose of the cruise was to demonstrate the Navy/Marine Corps team’s capability to augment naval forces in any area of the World on short notice and to provide at-sea training for Marine Harrier pilots.
The cover of Leatherneck’s Bicentennial issue is an oil painting by the late Colonel Donald L. Dickson, USMCR. The painting depicts General George Washington’s Colonial troops at Gadsby’s Tavern in Alexandria, Va., during the French and Indian War.
Sightseeing tours for the men of the Marine Barracks, San Juan, Puerto Rico, include a trip to the El Morro Fortress. San Juan is now retired as a Post of the Corps.
The Marines in Vietnam have found that the programs which work best are those which operate close to the people. Our July cover is a mixed media (acrylic and charcoal) by Art Editor James L. Hopewell. It catches the spirit of Marines who enjoy their relationship with the Vietnamese around them.
In Naples, Italy, Marines are responsible for the internal security of the Headquarters of NATO’s Southern European Command, while the elite Carabinieri Corpa provides external security. PFC Robert M. Mallard’s NATO shield was admired by a Carabiniere as the two men prepared to take up their side-by-side posts at the entrance of the imposing NATO Headquarters, which appears in the background of this cover.
"We've Fought In Every Clime And Place": Stamping out the Caco Insurrection in the Republic d' Haiti.
January 2002: The Marines engraved another mark in the rich history of the Corps when they came from more than 400 miles offshore to establish a forward operating base south of Kandahar in the war on terrorism. The Marine CH-46 helicopter on the cover, photographed by PH1(AW/SW) Greg Messier, USN, fought in the desert sand to land and resupply Marines such as the ones (inset) photographed by Sgt Joseph R. Chenelly.
January 2001: This firefight during the Frozen Chosin Reservoir Campaign of 1950 was painted by “Chosin Few” veteran Jack Cannon, who served with Company B, 1st Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment and resides in the warmer climes of New Mexico. The cover was part of Leatherneck’s 50th anniversary salute to the Korean War veterans.
January 1992: This cover photograph of runners during Marine Corps Marathon XVI in Washington, D.C., was photographed by Sgt Deirdre Hallett.
January 1991: This month’s cover by Ross Simpson captures the Marines’ waiting-but-ready posture in the Middle East.
January 1982: Participants in the Sixth Annual Marine Corps Marathon presented a colorful spectacle as they began the 26-mile, 385-yard run in Washington, D.C., November 1, 1981. The cover photo, by Tom Bartlett, was taken from a bridge overlooking Highway 50 about a half-mile from the starting line.
January 1981: Nearly 7,800 runners participated in the Fifth Annual Marine Corps Marathon held in northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. The oldest finisher was 78; the youngest was 10. Leatherneck staffer Ron Lunn pre-positioned himself near the Nation’s Capitol to photograph runners during their 14th mile of the 26-mile, 385-yard course.
January 1972: This month’s cover, by Marine Combat Artist Peter Gish, shows members of the New Corps sightseeing in the Old World. While on liberty in Athens, Greece, the 3d Bn, Eighth Marines, were able to tour the Erektheon Porch and Cariatides. The water color is from the U.S. Marine Corps Combat Art collection.
Originally Published December 1983 -- Something tells us that we could date the cover without knowing when it was published.
Originally Published December 1972 -- We're not sure what's more interesting, Santa or the old style gas pump.
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This November 1992 article in the Marine Corps Gazette looked at the uniform regulations of 1859 and the attempt to standardize uniforms within the Corps. Read the story and see more pics.