6th Marine Division Uses "Corkscrew and Blowtorch" Tactics on Okinawa

Tenth Army commander General Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr. called the tactics used on Okinawa "corkscrew and blowtorch" for the press. Demolitions were the corkscrew and flamethrowers the blowtorch. This view shows a team from the 6th Marine Division using dynamite to seal a cave as the Marines approach the Shuri Line. The man closest to the camera has a SCR-300 "walkie-talkie" radio. The three mutually supporting hills, Horseshoe, Half Moon and Sugar Loaf, rose abruptly from surrounding bare terrain. The flanks and rear of Sugar Loaf Hill were blanketed by fire from extensive cave and tunnel positions in Half Moon Hill to the southeast and the Horseshoe to the south. The 6th Division's analysis of the terrain pointed out that: ...the sharp depression included within the Horseshoe afforded mortar positions that were almost inaccessible to any arm short of direct, aimed rifle fire and hand grenades. Any attempt to capture Sugar Loaf by flanking action from east or west is immediately exposed to flat trajectory fire from both of the supporting terrain features. Likewise, an attempt to reduce either the Horseshoe or the Half Moon would be exposed to destructive, well-aimed fire from Sugar Loaf itself. In addition, the three localities are connected by a network of tunnels and galleries, facilitating the covered movement of reserves. As a final factor in the strength of the position it will be seen that all sides of Sugar Loaf Hill are precipitous, and there are no evident avenues of approach into the hill mass. For strategic location and tactical strength it is hard to conceive of a more powerful position than the Sugar Loaf terrain afforded. Added to all the foregoing was the bitter fact that troops assaulting this position presented a clear target to enemy machine guns, mortars, and artillery emplaced on the Shuri heights to their left and left rear." Between May 9-18, 1945, the 6th Marine Division suffered 2,662 combat casualties in reducing the Sugar Loaf complex. Japanese casualties were much higher; almost all were killed. Only five Japanese were taken prisoner in early May 1945.
Caption Written By: 
Jason McDonald
National Archives
Date Photographed: 
Wednesday, May 9, 1945
Sugar Loaf