THE BRITISH FLEET AT OKINAWA I’m sure the subject of British participation in the Pacific theater of war during World War Two has been discussed on this forum before – perhaps many times. However, I thought it might be interesting to bring it up once again because of a personal (but minor) involvement I had concerning the subject. During the Okinawa operation I was an enlisted NCO in an Air Support Control Unit (ASCU) attached to the staff of Admiral William Blandy, Commander of the U.S. Amphibious Support Force (Task Force-52) and second in command of the Okinawa operation, under Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner. My air support group, headquartered on Blandy’s command ship, was designated as Task Group 52.10 The Amphibious Support Force arrived off Okinawa eight days before D-Day to conduct pre-invasion bombardment of the island, neutralize enemy fortifications, clear beach approaches (mine sweeping, underwater demolition, etc.), and capture nearby Karama Retto Atoll, with its large lagoon, which would be used as a safe forward base for refueling, rearming, re-supplying and repairing ships for both the Okinawa operation and the following November’s invasion of Japan. The British Pacific Fleet (Task Force- 75) was under the tactical command of Admiral Sir Bernard Rawlings and was comprised of 30 ships: Two battleships, five cruisers, four aircraft carriers, eighteen destroyers, and one destroyer tender. Simply stated, their assignment was to "watch our back" while Blandy’s Amphibious Support Force carried out its assignment at Kerama Retto and Okinawa. Because the BPF’s role was essentially an air operation my air control unit maintained communication with them. Our support force was able to supply its own local air protection from Japanese air raids and Kamikaze attacks, but it also needed long- range protection. Admiral Mitscher’s powerful U.S. Task Force 58 would cover the northern approaches from mainland Japan. The British Fleet’s assignment was to cover the southern approaches. The southern threats were six large enemy airfields located on a group of islands off the east coast of Japanese-held Formosa called Sakishima Gunto. A secondary threat came from airfields on the island of Formosa itself. The British fleet’s job was to (1) Render the six Japanese airfields un-usable to the enemy by constant bombing and cratering of the runways, plus destruction of buildings. (2) Destroy enemy aircraft on the ground and in the air, (3) Prevent aircraft originating in Formosa from using the islands as a staging area to attack the American fleet at Okinawa or reinforce land based aircraft in Japan. (4) Transmit early air raid warnings to air support people and CIC people at Okinawa. The BPF cratered the airfields during the day -- the Japs repaired them at night -- and the BPF cratered them the next day. ( If there’s any doubt that this wasn’t an important job assigned for the British – consider the fact that giant B-29 bombers of the U. S. Air Force operating from Tinian and Saipan were given the same assignment of cratering airfields on the Japanese mainland island of Kyushu) During the first part of March Admiral Blandy’s support force assembled at the U. S. naval base at Ulithi Atoll. It included One command ship, one Air Support Control Unit, ten battleships, eleven cruisers, thirty two destroyers, twelve aircraft carriers, ten underwater demolition teams, seventy five minesweepers, a large flotilla of gunboats, supply, ammunition, repair and refueling ships. Our Pre-Invasion Force force arrived at Kerama Retto early on morning of March 24th. The second section of the support force – the Landing Force – arrived on March 26th with their troops, twenty transports, landing and supply ships . At dawn of March 25th we were hit by the first Kamikaze attack of the Okinawa operation. It originated from airfields in the Sakishima Gunto group of islands. The following morning – March 26 --the British Pacific Fleet arrived on the scene. That same afternoon they conducted their first bombing of the Sakishima airfields – paying the enemy back for the visit they paid us the day before. During the first three days of air attacks on the Sakishima islands BPF dropped 81 tons of bombs. Although the British Pacific Fleet would continue performing its assignment at Sakishima, my brief contact with them ended with the April first landings on Okinawa. At that point my Air Support Control Unit turned its complete attention to providing close air support for our troops on the ground. After two months on the job the British fleet retired to their forward base at Manus Island, in the Admiralty Islands, to ready for the invasion of Japan. For that operation (Olympic) the British Pacific Fleet, consisting of five aircraft carriers, four battleships, cruisers and destroyers, was going to be a part of Admiral Halsey’s huge Third U.S. Fleet . The Third Fleet assignment was to support the Kyushu landings by striking targets along the east coast of Japan. Of course, before all this could happen, the Japanese August 1945 surrender ended all joint U.S/British operations in the Pacific. During the Okinawa operation, 4,907 United States sailors lost their lives and 4,824 were wounded or missing. Most of those 9,731 Navy casualties were the result of Kamikaze attacks that sank 36 ships (of all sizes) and damaged 368. Casualties would have been higher if the Brits hadn’t been "watching our back". vcs-ww2 . – . – .