WWII In The Pacific - Kakazu Ridge

Kakazu Ridge, which faces the runways on MCAS Futenma, is extremely steep and was the sight of some of the bloodiest fighting during the Battle of Okinawa from April 8-24, 1945.

Japanese troops staunchly defended the ridge to try to keep American forces from taking Shuri. It took Americans from several divisions, among them the Army's 27th Division, three weeks to get anywhere on the ridge. By the 20th of April, American soldiers could crawl no more then 450 meters at a time due to the many advantages the Japanese soldiers had -- excellent look-outs, underground bunkers, mines strategically laid out, machine gun and mortar barrages, and reverse-slope defenses.

The Americans finally overcame the Japanese on "that damned hill" with flame throwers and artillery fire, although they found that going cave by cave (man-made by the Japanese) gave the best results -- success.

There were a high number of American casualties and injuries during this fighting. In fact, reports indicate that in one day of fighting alone there were over 700 men killed or wounded.

Today, Kakazu Ridge is topped with a two-story "globe" tower. The steps leading up the hill and to the top of the tower seem to take forever, but once you get there, it's all worth it -- there's a 360-degree view of Okinawa. On a clear day can see practically forever.

Next to and around the tower are many underground entrances, now covered or closed off. These once led to the man-made Japanese Army bunkers which American forces destroyed, except one. This single bunker now bears a war memorial on top, erected by the city of Kyoto in memory of the soldiers from that city who were killed during the battle.

There are several other war memorials on this site, as well as a trail leading up to the ridge from the side (for the adventurous), a playground and picnic area at the base of the ridge, and signs warning of habu.

If you live on Okinawa or plan to visit soon, follow these directions to Kakazu Ridge:
(From Kadena) Go south on Hwy 58 past MCAS Futenma to Route 34. Turn left onto 34. At the Maehara intersection of Hwy 5, turn right. At the third traffic light (just past a blue pedestrian bridge) turn right and go up the hill to the first "Y" in the road, then turn right. The globe tower -- it's blue -- will be ahead and to the right. Park in the lot at the bottom of the hill.