Log in

Log in

Book Review, NRJ 69.1

May 06, 2024 6:21 AM | JAMES HATCH (Administrator)

Okinawa - The Last Naval Battle of WW2: The Official Admiralty Account of Operation Iceberg

By John Grehan

  • After the fighting at Okinawa ended, the Admiralty called for a summary of the battle to be written for internal Royal Navy consumption. It is that secret report, which was never intended to be seen by the public, that is published here for the first time.

    This report details the Royal Navy’s contribution to Operation Iceberg, the invasion and capture of Okinawa. The Royal Navy’s component, designated Task Force 57, for this operation was significant: huge – four carriers equipped with close to 250 aircraft, two battleships, six cruisers, and fourteen destroyers, along with sixty-two support ships of the fleet train formed into four self-defending logistic support groups. All in all, this contribution represented roughly a quarter of the total naval force deployed against Okinawa.

    The book follows the format of an after-action report, starting with a brief resumé of general situation. This is followed by a description of Allied plans, available ground and naval forces, and the expected size and locations of enemy forces. More detailed expositions under each these headings follow. Next comes detailed descriptions of the conduct of the entire campaign, not solely the Royal Navy’s experience, including the destruction of the Japanese battleship Yamato. There are multiple appendices covering equipment used and orders of battle, along with an index of vessels.

    This is a compilation of the official Admiralty account of the naval battle. It is a meticulous record of events as they were noted at the time: what happened when, and who did it. As such, it is definitely very dry and terse; the description of the kamikaze attack on the American carrier Bunker Hill, for example, is two brief emotionless and arid paragraphs relating its impact (over four hundred of the crew dead and missing) that simply notes that “The ship had to be sent to the rear area for repair.” There are no tales of heroism or cowardice, just a narration of events and what happened next.

    Where there is inconsistency or a gap in knowledge from the contemporary record which has since been resolved, the editor provides sidebar notes and references. Other than that, this is an essentially unadulterated version of Battle Summary No.47, the Admiralty account of Naval Operations in Assault & Capture of Okinawa (Operation ICEBERG). It may never be an easy or enjoyable read, but for any researcher interested in learning what happened rather than what subsequent authors have opined, this is an essential starting point.

  • Barnsley: Frontline Books, 2022
  • 6-1/4” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, xiv + 193 pages
  • Photographs, tables, appendices, index. $54.95
  • ISBN: 9781399091930

Reviewed by: Michael O'Brien, San Francisco, California

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software