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On 1 July 1945, the United States Third Fleet sortied from Leyte Gulf in the Philippines under the command of Admiral William Halsey to attack the Japanese home islands. Halsey's plans included the use of battleships and cruisers to bombard military facilities and factories. To prepare for these attacks, US Navy submarines sailed into Japan's inshore waters to search for naval mines. USAAF B-29 Superfortress and B-24 Liberator aircraft also conducted photo reconnaissance flights over much of Japan in search of airfields and facilities which could be attacked by the Third Fleet.
The Third Fleet's main component, Task Force 38 (TF 38), began striking targets in Japan on 10 July under the command of Vice Admiral John S. McCain. On this day, aircraft flying from the Task Force's aircraft carriers attacked facilities around Tokyo. Task Force 38 sailed north, and on 14 July began raids on Hokkaido and northern Honshu. These areas were outside the range of the B-29 Superfortress bombers, and had at that point not been attacked in the war. The American aircraft met little opposition, and sank 11 warships and 20 merchant ships. A further eight warships and 21 merchant ships were damaged, and the carrier aviators claimed to have destroyed 25 Japanese aircraft.
The first Allied bombardment of a Japanese coastal town was conducted on 14 July in conjunction with the air attacks on Hokkaido and northern Honshu. A bombardment group commanded by Rear Admiral John F. Shafroth designated Task Unit 34.8.1 (TU 34.8.1) was detached from TF 38 to attack the iron works at Kamaishi in northern Honshu. At the time the city had a population of 40,000 and the iron works was among the largest in Japan. However, due to shortages of coking coal and other raw materials, the iron works was running at less than half its capacity. Allied prisoners of war had been assigned to work at the Nippon Steel Company, and were housed in two camps in Kamaishi. TU 34.8.1 comprised the battleships USS South Dakota, Indiana and Massachusetts as well as the heavy cruisersUSS Quincy and Chicago and nine destroyers.
The bombardment group opened fire on the ironworks at 12:10 p.m. from a range of 29,000 yd (27,000 m). The ships then moved closer to the city, but did not cross the 100-fathom line as no minesweepers were available to clear the area of mines. The bombardment lasted for over two hours, during which time the force made six passes across the mouth of Kamaishi's harbor and fired 802 16-inch (410 mm) shells, 728 8-inch (200 mm) shells and 825 5-inch (130 mm) shells. While most of the shells landed within the grounds of the ironworks, the concussion from their explosions caused kitchen fires to break out across Kamaishi. The resulting smoke prevented US Navy aircraft from being able to support or spot for the warships, which continued to fire accurately on predetermined targets. No Japanese aircraft or coastal guns responded to this bombardment. Allied aircraft photographed the ironworks following the attack, but photo interpreters underestimated the extent to which they had been damaged. This was one of the first times that the Americans had used aerial photography to assess damage from a naval bombardment, and the interpreters placed too much weight on the fact that none of the ironworks' buildings had been destroyed. The Allies learned after the war that the ironworks had been extensively damaged and forced to cease production for a period. This resulted in a loss of the equivalent of four weeks of pig iron production and two-and-a-half months of coke production. Five Allied prisoners of war were killed by the bombardment.