Warfare History Network
The plan was to get to Iwo Jima. It never happened.
When the distance from Task Force 58 narrowed to 250 miles, Vice Adm. Mitscher launched his planes; some 280 dive and torpedo bombers comprised the initial waves. Ensign Harry Jones, a native of Pittsburgh in an Avenger from Torpedo Squadron 17 aboard the carrier Hornet, recalled, “Scuttlebutt on the ship had it that the battleship admirals who outranked the air admirals wanted to shoot it out with the Japanese. But the Yamato’s guns were bigger than anything we had and the air admirals won out. We would intercept them.
In the late afternoon of April 6, 1945, five days after American GIs and leathernecks scrambled onto an Okinawa beach a scant 500 miles from Japan, two U.S. submarines, Hackleback and Threadin, lurking around the Bungo Suido exit from the Inland Sea, observed the passage of 10 Japanese warships, including a very large one.
Last Remaining Pride of the Imperial Navy
In the dim light through the periscope, a sub skipper guessed the biggest enemy vessel was an aircraft carrier. In fact, it was the last remaining pride of the Imperial Navy, the mighty battleship Yamato, under full steam. Escorted by a light cruiser and eight destroyers in the East China Sea, the Yamato could only be bound for the American anchorage off Okinawa. The Japanese task force was under Vice Adm. Seiichi Ito with Rear Adm. Kosaku Ariga in command of the Yamato.
Under orders to report but not attack, the submarines advised the Pacific Fifth Fleet headquarters of their sightings. Alerted by a radio message, Rear Adm. Morton Deyo, commander of the American gunfire and bombardment forces off Okinawa, prepared to execute a battle plan that would dispatch six battleships, seven cruisers, and 21 destroyers to intercept the Yamato and its cohorts. Deyo’s superior, Vice Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner, advised, “Hope you will bring back a nice fish for breakfast.” But even as Deyo scribbled his reply, “Many thanks, will try to,” the radio crackled news that Task Force 58, Vice Adm. Marc Mitscher’s fast carrier group, had picked up the scent and was already launching an airborne attack. Deyo then added the comment, “If the pelicans haven’t caught them all.”
The National Interest
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