Produced in 1945, this newsreel shows the invasion of Okinawa by U.S. Marines and the desperate battle that followed. The second half of the film documents the fate of the aircraft carrier USS Franklin, which was hit by a kamikaze fifty miles off the coast of Japan and severely damaged. 800 of its complement were killed. The epic battle to save the ship was one of the most courageous moments in the history of the U.S. Navy during WWII.
The Battle of Okinawa, codenamed Operation Iceberg, was fought on the Ryukyu Islands of Okinawa and was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific War of World War II. The 82-day-long battle lasted from early April until mid-June 1945. After a long campaign of island hopping, the Allies were approaching Japan, and planned to use Okinawa, a large island only 340 mi (550 km) away from mainland Japan, as a base for air operations on the planned invasion of Japanese mainland (coded Operation Downfall). Four divisions of the U.S. 10th Army (the 7th, 27th, 77th, and 96th) and two Marine Divisions (the 1st and 6th) fought on the island. Their invasion was supported by naval, amphibious, and tactical air forces.
The battle has been referred to as the "typhoon of steel" in English, and tetsu no ame ("rain of steel") or tetsu no bōfū ("violent wind of steel") in Japanese. The nicknames refer to the ferocity of the fighting, the intensity of kamikaze attacks from the Japanese defenders, and to the sheer numbers of Allied ships and armored vehicles that assaulted the island. The battle is considered one of the bloodiest in the Pacific. Based on Okinawan government sources, mainland Japan lost 77,166 soldiers, who were either killed or committed suicide, and the Allies suffered 14,009 deaths (with an estimated total of more than 65,000 casualties of all kinds). Simultaneously, 42,000–150,000 local civilians were killed or committed suicide, a significant proportion of the local population. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki together with the Soviet invasion of Manchuria caused Japan to surrender less than two months after the end of the fighting on Okinawa.
The USS Franklin (CV/CVA/CVS-13, AVT-8), nicknamed "Big Ben," was one of 24 Essex-class aircraft carriers built during World War II for the United States Navy, and the fifth US Navy ship to bear the name. Commissioned in January 1944, she served in several campaigns in the Pacific War, earning four battle stars. She was badly damaged by a Japanese air attack in March 1945, with the loss of over 800 of her crew, becoming the most heavily damaged United States carrier to survive the war. Movie footage of the actual attack was included in the 1949 film Task Force starring Gary Cooper.
After the attack, she returned to the U.S. mainland for repairs, missing the rest of the war; she was decommissioned in 1947. While in reserve, she was reclassified as an attack carrier (CVA), then an antisubmarine carrier (CVS), and finally an aircraft transport (AVT), but was never modernized and never saw active service again. Franklin and Bunker Hill (damaged by a kamikaze) were the only Essex-class carriers not to see active service as aircraft carriers after World War II The Franklin was sold for scrap in 1966.