Admiral Minoru Ōta
|Native name||大田 実|
7 April 1891|
|Died||13 June 1945
|Allegiance||Empire of Japan|
|Service/branch||Imperial Japanese Navy|
|Years of service||1909-1945|
Minoru Ōta (大田 実 Ōta Minoru?, 7 April 1891 – 13 June 1945) was an admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II, and the final commander of the Japanese naval forces defending the Oroku Peninsula during the Battle of Okinawa.
Ōta was a native of Nagara, Chiba. He graduated 64th out of 118 cadets from the 41st class of the Imperial Japanese Navy Academy in 1913. Ōta served his midshipman duty on the cruiser Azuma on its long distance training voyage to Honolulu, San Pedro, San Francisco, Vancouver, Victoria, Tacoma, Seattle, Hakodate and Aomori. After his return to Japan, he was assigned to the battleship Kawachi, and after he was commissioned an ensign, to the battleship Fusō. After promotion to lieutenant in 1916, he returned to naval artillery school, but was forced to take a year off active service from November 1917 to September 1918 due to tuberculosis. On his return to active duty, he completed coursework in torpedo school and advanced courses in naval artillery. After brief tours of duty on the battleships Hiei and Fusō, he returned as an instructor at the Naval Engineering College.
Ōta also had experience with the Japanese Special Naval Landing Forces (SNLF, the Japanese equivalent of the Royal Marines), as he had been assigned command of a battalion of SNLF forces in the 1932 First Shanghai Incident. He was promoted to commander in 1934. In 1936, he was named executive officer of the battleship Yamashiro, and was finally given his first command, that of the oiler Tsurumi in 1937. He was promoted to captain in December the same year.
World War II
In 1938, with the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War, Ōta was assigned to command the Kure 6th SNLF. In 1941, he was assigned to the command of the SNLF under the Japanese China Area Fleet at Wuhan in China. He returned to Japan the following year, and was assigned to command the 2nd Combined Special Naval Landing Force that was earmarked for the seizure of Midway in the event of a Japanese victory over the United States Navy at the Battle of Midway. Although this never came to pass, he was promoted to rear admiral and commanded the 8th Combined Special Naval Landing Force at New Georgia against the American First Raider Battalion. He then served in various administrative capacities until January 1945, when he was reassigned to Okinawa to command the Japanese Navy's forces as part of the Japanese reinforcement effort prior to the anticipated invasion by Allied forces.
In Okinawa, Ōta commanded a force with a nominal strength of 10,000 men. However, half were civilian laborers conscripted into service with minimal training, and the remainder were gunners from various naval vessels with little experience in fighting on land. Allied sources are contradictory on his role as commander of the naval elements in Okinawa. Some cite Ōta as able to organize and lead them into an effective force, which fought aggressively against the Allied forces, "withdrawing slowly back to the fortified Oroku Peninsula." But Naval elements, except for outlying islands were headquartered on the Oroku peninsula from the beginning of the battle. Operations Planning Colonel Hiromichi Yahara of the Japanese 32nd Army describes a miscommunication occurring in the order for Ota's Naval elements to withdraw from the Oroku Peninsula to support the army further south. What actually happen is clear: Ōta began preparations on or around 24 May, for the withdrawal of all Naval elements to the south in support of the Army. He destroyed most heavy equipment, stocks of ammunition and even personal weapons. While in mid-march to the south, 32nd Army HQ ordered Ōta back into the Oroku peninsula citing that a mistake had been made in timing (explanations vary). Naval elements returned to their former positions with no heavy weapons and with about half the troops with no rifles. The Americans, who had not noticed the initial withdrawal attacked and cut off the peninsula by attacks from the north on land, and one last seaborne landing behind the Navy's positions. Naval elements then committed suicide with whatever weapons possible, with some leading a last charge out of the cave entrances. According to the museum for the underground Naval Headquarters in Okinawa, "4,000 soldiers committed suicide" inside the command bunker, including Ōta.
On 11 June 1945, the U.S. 6th Marine Division encircled Ōta’s positions, and Ōta sent a farewell telegram to the IJA 32nd Army Headquarters at 16:00 on 12 June (although the Naval Headquarters Museum in Okinawa, posits in a translation that the last telegram was sent at 20:16 hours, on 6 June 1945). On 13 June, Ōta committed suicide with a handgun. He was posthumously promoted to vice admiral.
Sent at 20:16 on the 6th of June, 1945:
"Please convey the following telegram to the Vice-Admiral.
While the Governor should be the person to relay this report on the present condition of the Okinawa prefectural inhabitants, he has no available means of communication and the 32nd Division Headquarters appears to be thoroughly occupied with their own correspondences. However, due to the critical situations we are in, I feel compelled to make this urgent report though it is without the Governor's consent.
Since the enemy attack began, our Army and Navy has been fighting defensive battles and have not been able to tend to the people of the Prefecture. Consequently, due to our negligence, these innocent people have lost their homes and property to enemy assault. Every man has been conscripted to partake in the defense, while women, children and elders are forced into hiding in the small underground shelters which are not tactically important or are exposed to shelling, air raids or the harsh elements of nature. Moreover, girls have devoted themselves to nursing and cooking for the soldiers and have gone as far as to volunteer in carrying ammunition, or join in attacking the enemy.
This leaves the village people vulnerable to enemy attacks where they will surely be killed. In desperation, some parents have asked the military to protect their daughters against rape by the enemy, prepared that they may never see them again.
Nurses, with wounded soldiers, wander aimlessly because the medical team had moved and left them behind. The military has changed its operation, ordering people to move to far residential areas, however, those without means of transportation trudge along on foot in the dark and rain, all the while looking for food to stay alive.
Ever since our Army and Navy occupied Okinawa, the inhabitants of the Prefecture have been forced into military service and hard labor, while sacrificing everything they own as well as the lives of their loved ones. They have served with loyalty. Now we are nearing the end of the battle, but they will go unrecognized, unrewarded. Seeing this, I feel deeply depressed and lament a loss of words for them. Every tree, every plant life is gone.
Even the weeds are burnt. By the end of June, there will be no more food. This is how the Okinawan people have fought the war. And for this reason, I ask that you give the Okinawan people special consideration, this day forward".
- Alexander, Joseph H. Storm Landings: Epic Amphibious Battles in the Central Pacific. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-032-0.
- Astor, Gerald (1996). Operation Iceberg : The Invasion and Conquest of Okinawa in World War II. Dell. ISBN 0-440-22178-1.
- Feifer, George (2001). The Battle of Okinawa: The Blood and the Bomb. The Lyons Press. ISBN 1-58574-215-5.
- Lacey, Laura Homan (2005). Stay Off The Skyline: The Sixth Marine Division on Okinawa—An Oral History. Potomac Books. ISBN 1-57488-952-4.
- Leckie, Robert (1997). Strong Men Armed: The United States Marines Against Japan. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-80785-8.
- Prange, Gordon W (1983). Miracle at Midway. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-006814-7.
- Wiest, Andrew A (2001). The Pacific War: Campaigns of World War II. Motorbooks International. ISBN 0-7603-1146-3.
- Nishida, Hiroshi. "Imperial Japanese Navy".
- Nishida, Hiroshi, Imperial Japanese Navy
- Prange, Miracle at Midway, page 63
- Alexander. Storm Landings. Page 206
- Astor. Operation Iceberg. page 462.
- Weist. The Pacific War:Campaigns of World War II. page 223
- Feifer, The Battle of Okinawa.
- Yahara, Michihiro "The Battle for Okinawa"
- Navy Underground Museum, Okinawa, sign outside Commanding Officer bunker with English translation of Japanese telegram
- Lacey, Stay Off the Skyline. Page 64