Okinawa proved to be the last major campaign of the Pacific war. Defended by more than 100,000 Japanese troops, it presented a difficult challenge to the Allied forces arrayed against Japan. But if it could be taken, the Allies would gain a tremendous strategic advantage over Japan since it sat astride Japan's sea lines of communication. Japan would be isolated and could, possibly, be starved into submission. Alternatively, if Japan continued to resist, Okinawa's harbors and anchorages could be used as a staging point for the ships, troops, aircraft, and supplies necessary to invade Japan.
The invasion began on April 1, 1945 when 60,000 troops (two Marine and two Army divisions) landed with little opposition at Haguushi. As at Iwo Jima, the Japanese chose not to defend the beaches but instead dug into caves and tunnels on the high ground in the hope of lessening the impact of the Allies' superior sea and air power. One of the units involved in the assault was the 5th Marine Regiment. The regiment spent the first month of the campaign in the vicinity of the Katchin Peninsula, sealing burial tombs, demolishing caves, and picking up Japanese stragglers. On May 1, the 5th Marines began an assault against the Awacha Pocket, a Japanese stronghold built into the cliffs and gorges. This job proved to be very bloody, often accomplished only by burning defenders alive or sealing them in caves with explosives.
On May 2, 1945, during this operation, HA1 Bush's platoon was tasked with taking a low hill. As the platoon advanced against the Japanese position, it was surprised when the Japanese emerged from hidden positions and a number of Marines were killed or wounded. One of the wounded was the platoon leader who was cut off from the rest of the platoon. Bush volunteered to rescue the Lieutenant and set out for him along with two Marines who were to provide Bush with covering fire. As they advanced toward the Lieutenant, the two Marines were killed by enemy fire. Bush made it to the Lieutenant unscathed. He quickly sized up the officer's medical situation and began dressing his wounds. While he was administering plasma to the Lieutenant, the officer inexplicably jumped to his feet and ran back toward friendly lines, dragging the plasma can behind him!
Isolated and alone out in front of his company, and armed only with his .45 and the Lieutenant's carbine, Bush knew he was in trouble. He began firing the carbine in the hope of staving off the Japanese until help arrived. The Japanese began throwing grenades into his position and Bush sustained a number of serious wounds to his right eye, left shoulder, lungs, buttocks, and belly. Realizing he had to move or he would die, Bush moved to his left and began ascending the hill. Surprisingly, the Japanese did not see this movement and continued to throw grenades into the vacant shell hole. As he ascended the hill, he picked up an abandoned M-1 rifle. By the time he got to the top of the hill, he had worked himself behind the Japanese position. Exploiting the element of surprise, he attacked and routed the Japanese single-handedly. That done, he walked back down the hill into his own lines.
- taken from Honor, Courage and Commitment: United States Naval Reserve Medal of Honor Recipients, Naval Historical Center