The largest of the Ryukyu Islands. Okinawa was the site of one of the last major island landings of World War II and scene of some of its heaviest fighting. The operation, under the strategic command of Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, began with 5th Fleet air strikes against Kyushu on 18 March 1945, and initial landings on Okinawa itself on Easter Sunday, 1 April. An enormous assemblage of ships participated in the operation, during which 36 of them of destroyer size or smaller were lost, most to the heaviest concentration of kamikaze attacks of the war. Almost 8,000 enemy aircraft were destroyed in the air or on the ground. As part of the action, on 7 April last remnants of the Imperial Japanese Navy ventured forth, only to be met by the overwhelming Navy airpower. Japanese super-battleship Yamato, a cruiser, and four destroyers were sunk in the one-day battle. As a result of securing Okinawa, the supply lanes of the East China Sea were blocked, isolating all southern possessions still in Japanese hands; and the last obstacle in the path to the Japanese Home Islands was cleared.
(CVE–127: dp. 24,275; l. 557’1”; b. 75’; ew. 105’2”; dr. 32’; s. 19.1 k.; cpl. 1,076; a. 2 5”, 36 40mm., 20 20mm.; cl. Commencement Bay)
CVE–127 was laid down 22 May 1945 by the Todd-Pacific Shipyards, Inc., Tacoma, Wash.; and named Okinawa 29 June 1945. Her contract was cancelled 11 August 1945, before launching.
(LPH–3: dp. 18,000; l. 592’; b. 84’; ew. 105’; dr. 27’; s. 22 k.; cpl. 550; trp. 2,000; a. 8 3”1 cl. Iwo Jima)
Okinawa (LPH–3) was laid down 1 April 1960 (15th anniversary of the invasion of Okinawa) by the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, Philadelphia, Pa.; launched 19 August 1961; sponsored by Mrs. John L. McClellan, wife of the Senator from Arkansas; and commissioned 14 April 1962, Capt. William E. Lemos in command.
Following commissioning and sea trials, Okinawa departed Philadelphia 20 June 1962 for her homeport, Norfolk, where she spent a month fitting out. After a six-week shakedown cruise out of Guantanamo Bay and another month in Norfolk, the amphibious assault ship began participation in her first fleet exercise in the Caribbean, 15 October. Shortly thereafter the Cuban Quarantine was placed in effect and Okinawa remained in the area, lending force to the United States’ stand, until 3 December when she returned to Norfolk.
The first half of 1963 was spent in availability at the Philadelphia and Norfolk Naval Shipyards and further trial operations in the Caribbean and out of Norfolk. On 9 July Okinawa began her first formal Caribbean deployment, returning to Norfolk 1 October and spending the remainder of that year and the first part of the next in that area. During June 1964 she sailed to Newport, R.I., and New York for the World’s Fair. On 7 October she left on her first trip to European waters, for operation “Steel Pike I,” an amphibious exercise off the coast of Spain. After a stop in France and a goodwill visit to Plymouth, England, Okinawa arrived back in Norfolk at the end of November.
In April 1965, while participating in an exercise off Puerto Rico, Okinawa was alerted and sent to an area off the Dominican Republic to act as medical evacuation ship with her marines as a floating reserve during the crisis in that troubled country. Then, following the end of her deployment, she proceeded via Norfolk to Philadelphia for overhaul. The following April she returned to Norfolk and began her third Caribbean deployment on 13 June. Okinawa transferred to the Pacific Fleet sailing 24 January 1967, for the West Coast, and arriving San Diego, her new home port, 8 February.
Okinawa left on 10 March for her first deployment off Vietnam. On 13 April, while sailing from Okinawa to Taiwan, the ship was diverted by a distress call, and the next day rescued all 38 persons from the grounded Panamanian vessel Silver Peak near the Sento Shosho Islands. While off Vietnam, Okinawa was a mobile base from which a well-equipped force of marines could quickly strike via helicopters at the Communist insurgents. She returned to San Diego 5 December.
On 4 April 1968, after an intensive period of special training, Okinawa recovered the unmanned Apollo VI space capsule 380 miles north of Kauai, Hawaii. With further exercises and upkeep, she conducted her second Westpac deployment from 2 November to 26 June 1969, when she arrived in San Diego for leave and upkeep. Okinawa continues her role in support of freedom at home and abroad, alternating duty in home waters with deployments to the Far East into 1970.