Task Force 58 (and its alter-ego Task Force 38) was the “first-man-in” as the United States (the Allies) advanced methodically westward across the Pacific toward Japan. The ships would attack island groups and enemy bases in advance of amphibious landings in which Marines and infantrymen would slug it out with entrenched, well equipped and tenacious Japanese soldiers, who were ordered to fight until the last man fell – no surrender.
Iwo Jima, like all the “landings” before, proved to be a grueling battle of attrition in which only 216 of the (approximately) 22,000 Japanese defenders taken prisoner by the time the island was declared “secure” on March 26, 1945 – 35 days after the initial assault. The rest were killed. Despite the massive air and ongoing ship bombardments leading up to and during the invasion, there were almost 26,000 American casualties (6,825 dead).
The next “Home Island” target was Okinawa, which proved to be a horrifying harbinger of the planned Invasion of Japan (Operations Olympic and Coronet). There were as many as 500,000 Okinawan civilians living on the island. “Final” casualty counts estimate that as many as 42,000 civilians died, including unknown hundreds who hurled themselves en masse off cliffs rather than be captured by the barbaric Americans. About 108,000 Japanese soldiers (including about 20, 000 Okinawans “conscripted” into the Army) were killed. American assault troop casualties totaled 12,000 killed and about 38,000 wounded.
Japanese strategists had a special surprise for the Americans. They unleashed ten massive raids of kamikaze planes and fighter escorts against both the invasion fleet just offshore and the Task Force ships ranging further offshore. Between April 6 and June 22, 1945, Kikusui Raids (“Floating Chrysanthemums”) swarmed Navy ships day and night. Total numbers are unknown, but some of the raids consisted of several hundred kamikazes and equal numbers of conventional fighter planes and bombers. Hardest hit group were the “Picket Destroyers” stationed in strategic locations around Okinawa as “early warning radar posts” to protect the beachhead invasion and the carriers further offshore from enemy air attacks. The kiketsui extracted a heavy toll: more than 5,000 sailors killed, 21 ships sunk and 66 more damaged — some so heavily they were out of commission for the rest of the war.
The Boston and her crew escaped this madness. They were ordered home for retrofits and repairs in advance of the planned invasion of Japan.
1944: The Boston, on it’s way to the South Pacific (to participate in Operation Reckless — the support of Gen. MacArthur’s invasion of Hollandia and other enemy strongholds on New Guinea), crosses the Equator for the first time and the men are inducted into the Realm of King Neptune — a centuries old Navy Initiation ritual.
This document graciously supplied by the family of Augustus Harris, S1C, CA-69
1945: The Boston is steaming home after being detached from it’s task group at the start of operations against Okinawa leading up to the Invasion on April 1. On March 9, 1945, the Boston is sailing east toward Pearl Harbor.
1946: The Boston sails north from San Francisco to the boneyard at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard – where she finishes her AMAZING Pacific Tour on March 12, 1946.
1944: On January 19th. The ships take turns leaving Pearl Harbor for the last time. The Boston forms up with other ships in Task Group 58.4 and the rest of Task Force 58 as they accompany the Invasion Fleet — destination: the Marshall Islands. It takes six days for the ships to reach striking distance of their objective. January 26 marks the beginning of the first Central Pacific offensive operation against Japan – starting the attacks and simultaneous amphibious assault on targets spread all across the Marshall Islands — known as Operation Flintlock. The Boston’s task group bombarded and attacked the southeastern atolls through early February, concentrating on Wotje Atoll, Maleolap Atoll and Majuro Atoll.
1945: After refueling on the 11th, Boston’s Task Group 38.1 is joined by TG 38.2 and begins Operation Gratitude – attacks on Japanese targets in Occupied Chinese territory. The ships are in the South China Sea, the furthest west American warships have been in the war. Admiral Halsey is eager to find the Imperial Japanese Fleet — reported to be anchored in CamRahn Bay — and engage it in a great surface battle. (The Japanese Fleet had already departed.) The next six days the ships rode out a typhoon — launching planes whenever possible against targets in Hong Kong, Canton, and IndoChina (Vietnam). The ships come under attack while in the South China Sea. On January 20, the carrier planes are launched against targets on the huge enemy bases on Formosa (Taiwan). The ships begin heading for anchorage at Ulithi Atoll (south of the Marianas – which they reach on the 25th). On the drive-by, they attack targets in the Okinawa group of islands (Jan 22.). The Boston is in anchorage from Jan 26 until Feb 10.