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Risk in the Ryukyu Islands: Joint Planning for Okinawa

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US Army School for Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States

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Operation Iceberg, the campaign to seize positions within the Ryukyu Islands, signified the pinnacle of joint expeditionary power projection within the Pacific Theater of War. The campaign provides a useful case study in how shared understanding and acceptance of operational risk enabled people to work together and coordinate air, sea, and land forces to seize key locations within the Ryukyu Islands and develop bases there for future operations against Japan. The operational decision to land forces near Hagushi on the western side of Okinawa provided the shortest and most direct route to the strategic objectives of Kadena and Yonton Airfields, and the Naha Port facility. The immediate capture of these objectives provided the Allies an opportunity to more quickly establish bases to increase the sustained heavy bombing and air-sea blockade against Japan. Despite these benefits, the decision incurred greater risk of effective Japanese air and naval operations against Allied shipping due to the limited maneuver space on the western waters of the Ryukyu Islands. The decision to recognize the benefits associated with the Hagushi landings, considering the potential consequences, displayed sound operational leadership and judgement by the joint force commanders. Mutual understanding of the operations strategic purpose, nature of the threat, and available options facilitated the necessary discussion to properly assess opportunities and risk. The accepted operational risk became the unifying variable across the joint force to produce an operational approach to exploit the benefits of the Hagushi landings and overcome its associated risks.

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Technical Report



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