Bookshop: Battle of Okinawa

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Second World War: Pacific
General Works
Iwo Jima

Books - Second World War- Pacific - Okinawa

Appleman, Roy E. Okinawa, Konecky & Konecky Military Books, 1994.

Alexander, Col Joseph H. USMC (Ret). The Final Campaign: Marines in the Victory on Okinawa Marines in World War II Commemorative Series, Marine Corps Historical Centre, Washington DC, 1996.

Huber, Thomas M., Japan's Battle of Okinawa, April - June 1945 , Leavenworth Papers No. 18, Combat Studies Institute, US Army Command and Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 1990.

Leckie, Robert, Okinawa: The Last Battle of World War Two , Penguin Books, New York, 1996.

Feifer, George, The Battle of Okinawa: The Blood and the Bomb, Lyons Press, 2001.

Foster, Simon, Okinawa 1945 , Cassell Military, London, 1999.

Yahara, Colonel Hiromichi. The Battle for Okinawa, John Wiley & Sons, London, 1997.

Rottman, Gordon L. Okinawa, 1945, Osprey Publishing, Oxford, 2002, Campaign Series No. 96.

Sledge, E B. With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, 1996 (Reprint).

Iwo Jima and Okinawa , Black, Wallace B. , Prentice Hall, London, 1993

Bloody Okinawa: The Last Great Battle of World War II

A stirring narrative of World War II's final major battle–the Pacific war's largest, bloodiest, most savagely fought campaign–the last of its kind.

On Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945, more than 184,000 US troops began landing on the only Japanese home soil invaded during the Pacific war. Just 350 miles from mainland Japan, Okinawa was to serve as a forward base for Japan's invasion in the fall of 1945.

Nearly 140,000 Japanese and auxiliary soldiers fought with suicidal tenacity from hollowed-out, fortified hills and ridges. Under constant fire and in the rain and mud, the Americans battered the defenders with artillery, aerial bombing, naval gunfire, and every infantry tool. Waves of Japanese kamikaze and conventional warplanes sank 36 warships, damaged 368 others, and killed nearly 5,000 US seamen.

When the slugfest ended after 82 days, more than 125,000 enemy soldiers lay dead–along with 7,500 US ground troops. Tragically, more than 100,000 Okinawa civilians perished while trapped between the armies. The brutal campaign persuaded US leaders to drop the atomic bomb instead of invading Japan.

Utilizing accounts by US combatants and Japanese sources, author Joseph Wheelan endows this riveting story of the war's last great battle with a compelling human dimension.

Okinawan chronicles: 10 books that show the many faces of Japan's 'island paradise'

Precious little was written about Okinawa in English before World War II. Early accounts by ship captains and officers offer only passing impressions of the islands. It was not until the middle of the 19th century that more considered observations appeared.

“There were no lethal weapons in Luchu (an early English name for Okinawa), no feudal factions, few if any crimes of violence,” writes British scholar Basil Hall Chamberlain, describing the islanders’ natural preference for compromise over force, which arose due to a strong Confucian system — one that was absolute and patriarchal.

Few foreign writers ventured to Okinawa in the early postwar period, but in the 1980s and 󈨞s several accounts of the Battle of Okinawa were published, including “Okinawa: The Last Battle of World War II” (1995) by military historian Robert Leckie and “Okinawa 1945: Gateway To Japan” by Ian Gow. These books are interesting, but ultimately contain little or no analysis of the effects of war on the lives of Okinawans, who would come to describe the role their island played in the conflict as a sute ishi (“throwaway stone”).

The war’s legacy lives on in Okinawa, and the islands’ explosive political landscape — with its lines of confrontation periodically redrawn — can impact the shelf life and relevance of books about the region. There are several instances of admirable titles that have been overtaken by the shifting temporal nature of their subjects.

The following 10 books represent a diverse focus on Okinawan subjects that have stood the test of time — for now. They are highlights from what is becoming a respectable body of English-language books about Japan’s contested island “paradise.”

George Kerr’s 1958 history of the Okinawa islands is the single most meticulously researched work on the subject. The author traces a line from the mythological past to the establishing of the 14th-century Sho Dynasty. He continues through to the age of the great trading routes synonymous with the independent Ryukyu Kingdom, the devastating impact of the 1609 invasion by the Shimazu clan, the unilateral recasting of the islands as a Japanese prefecture and the abduction of the last Ryukyu king. Kerr ends with the trauma of WWII and the American Occupation.

Though a thoroughly impartial history, one suspects Kerr’s sympathies lie with the common Okinawan people, who, as he mentions in relation to the Battle of Okinawa, were “forced to make a hideous sacrifice on Japan’s behalf.”

This extremely well written book remains eminently quotable. Almost 60 years after its publication, the reader will be impressed by Kerr’s prescience. Referring to the Meiji Era (1868-1912) government’s decision to build a military base on the island, he notes how, “Okinawans protested that a garrison would attract Japan’s enemies, with whom they had no quarrel.” One hears the same complaints voiced today from Okinawan residents resentful at being implicated in foreign wars, and cognizant of the fact that American bases and Japanese Self-Defense Forces installations have turned their homes into primary targets.

Old rituals: Okinawan priestesses called noro (above, in a print found in a Naha bookstore) have been an integral part of life on Kudaka Island. | STEPHEN MANSFIELD

William P. Lebra’s 1966 study of the beliefs and rituals that constitute a unique religion — a system quite distinct from Buddhism and Shinto — remains an enlightening read. Placing local practices in the context of the history, ethnic characteristics, habitats and language of the islands, the author stresses the centrality of community and kin groups, two strong aspects of contemporary Okinawan life.

Some of the rituals described by Lebra no longer exist. For example, a latter generation of women rose up against the traditional bone-washing ceremony in which body parts of deceased persons — beginning with the feet and ending with the skull — were picked clean of flesh before being placed in mortuary jars.

Caught between two pathologically violent forces, roughly one-third of the islands’ civilian population perished in the Battle of Okinawa. Many of these deaths occurred after excruciatingly long periods of suffering involving physical and mental torment. It is against this backdrop that Akira Yoshimura, whose sympathies were firmly with the excluded and expendable, set his 1967 novel.

The effect of military indoctrination is so strong that 14-year-old Shinichi, recruited into Japan’s youth corps during the desperate last days of the battle, is resolute in wanting to die as a “soldier of the Empire … to be enshrined with the war heroes at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo.”

The child-soldier’s vision of glory, disturbingly similar to that of today’s young Islamic martyrs, ends with Shinichi huddled in the septic filth of a cave, the air tainted with the odor of purulent corpses.

Tiny survivor: Tomiko Higa holds a white flag and covers her face, in a photo taken on June 25, 1945. | WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Tomiko Higa’s account of being a lone 7-year-old child during the Battle of Okinawa was originally published in 1989. The English version was released a mere two years later.

The book’s cover image — taken by an American service photographer on June 25, 1945 — depicts Higa holding a white flag. In the weeks before the photograph was taken she roamed a scorched wasteland, witnessed starvation and disease, and kept herself alive by, among other tactics, removing morsels of food from the knapsacks of dead soldiers. Even when the conflict was over, the effects of wartime propaganda were still evident, Higa hearing a woman wailing, “They’re going to put us all in a big hole, pour gasoline on us, and set us on fire!”

A record of the destruction of an island, people and culture, Higa’s book is also an elegy to the annihilation of childhood.

Mitsugu Sakihara’s translation of the “Omoro Soshi” is part fact, myth and dream world, with a cover resembling a blackened funeral tablet embossed with gold lettering. This history of Okinawa, however, is less solemn than it appears.

The contents of the “Omoro Soshi” — an anthology of ancient songs and verse collected from the Okinawa and Amami islands — covers almost six centuries of literature, folk legends and creation myths, from anonymous 12th-century contributions to poems composed by Queen Sho Nei in 1610. Beside examples from the original 22 volumes of the “Omoro Soshi,” Sakihara provides a fascinating text on Okinawa’s links to an indigenous belief system.

The deities, in imparting ritual meaning to the lives of the ancients, created a stabilizing structure that would be eroded in the coming centuries by the encroachments of outside forces, whose intentions were seldom in the best interests of Okinawans.

Ongoing struggles: Japanese prisoners stand in a makeshift jail on Okinawa in June 1945. Though the war is over, its effects linger. As former Prefectural Assembly member Keiko Itokazu says of life in modern Okinawa, ‘It feels like we are at war.’ | PUBLIC DOMAIN

This highly accessible potpourri of voices and personal tales is a refreshing break from more academic titles about Japan’s island chain.

“There’s no war on now,” opines former Prefectural Assembly member Keiko Itokazu, “but it feels like we are at war.” The authors cast their net wide in this book, with content running from interviews with people such as Itokazu to pieces on karate, musical genres, the work of filmmaker Go Takamine, conservation issues and thoughts on local gastronomy. The authors also speak with a minshuku (traditional guesthouse) owner, and share the rarely heard voices of American military personnel who reside on Okinawa’s U.S. bases.

Christopher T. Nelson, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of North Carolina, put in plenty of legwork for this work of social anthropology — the writer is more participant than observer. Nelson’s own memories of Okinawa loop back to the summer of 1985, when, as a newly recruited lieutenant in the U.S. Marines, he recalls standing outside a bar in the Okinawan city of Koza, soaking up the “smell of the street, asphalt and exhaust, frying oil, sewage.”

Seasoned by experience, and with a more mature slant on the concealed intentions of Washington and Tokyo, Nelson finds Okinawan performers active in reactivating and transmitting the past, through music, film, recitation, story telling and dramatic monologues.

The coastline of Okinawa’s main island, viewed from the air | WE MAKE NOISE, VIA FLICKR / CC BY-ND 2.0.

Nine Okinawan women of different generations reflect on their complex and ambivalent feelings toward the Japanese state and the American Occupation, but also provide telling insights into their own lives and concerns.

The women Ruth Ann Keyso chose as her subjects — store cashiers, maids in private homes, club waitresses — had direct contact with U.S. military personnel and, in the most intimate cases, some were the wives of GIs. This latter group appears to have been the prime victims of physical and sexual abuse.

Not all the women featured here are hostile to the American presence. One woman, employed at a U.S. installation, claims the bases are easy targets for people who want to blame the Americans for their own shortcomings in taking action against such problems as pollution, traffic congestion and noise.

Nobody who has spent time in Okinawa can fail to notice the primacy of music in the lives of islanders. English music journalist John Potter, who has made Okinawa his home, is eminently well placed to guide us through the history, key figures and new developments in an ever-evolving music scene.

Potter’s passion for his subject, his tireless research into the origins of the music and its bifurcating forms, has resulted in a study that is both accessible and hugely satisfying — a book that even those with only a passing interest in the topic will enjoy.

Potter demonstrates how Okinawa has long been fertile ground for the kind of instrumental fusions, genre blends and collaborations we now call world music. The writer was instrumental in bringing together the American pianist Geoffrey Keezer and the Okinawan singer and sanshin player Yasukatsu Oshima, who would go on to create a studio recording with a small number of jazz musicians.

“The Power of Okinawa” comes with an appendage of recommended albums to assist further explorations of this vibrant musical scene.

At war with war: Okinawans have been protesting the presence of U.S. bases on their islands for decades. Okinawan novelist Shun Medoruma, featured in ‘Islands of Protest,’ was recently arrested for allegedly trespassing in a restricted area near a U.S. military base during a demonstration. | KYODO

“Islands of Protest,” a recently published anthology of Okinawan literature, is a fine companion anthology to the 2000 collection “Southern Exposure: Modern Japanese Literature From Okinawa.”

There is more than a touch of irony in the title of Shun Medoruma’s powerful and oppressive story “Hope,” in which the protagonist, after abducting and murdering an American child, self-immolates in a park known for holding a protest against the real-life 1995 rape of an Okinawan child by three U.S. servicemen. Medoruma’s work depicts Okinawa as the stage for some of the most violent dramas unfolding in Japan today, not as the peaceful, tropical paradise the media is at pains to project.

“The Kunenbo Orange Trees,” written by Yamagusuku Seichi in 1911, prefigures Medoruma’s concerns, this time exposing the behavior of Japanese soldiers billeted in Okinawa during the 1894-95 Sino-Japanese War. Here, in a rehearsal of what would take place on a far larger scale in WWII, we read of drunken Japanese soldiers, referred to as “Yamato beasts,” pouring into the grounds of Shuri Castle, intent on sexually assaulting Okinawan women.

Among the stories and short poems is a startling 1976 stage play titled “Jinruikan” (“Human Pavilion”) by Chinen Seishin. The story seems to be referencing the reaction of an incensed newspaper editor in Naha who complained about the representation of Okinawans at the 1903 Osaka Exhibition. He said islanders were being displayed alongside other “primitive peoples” — including Ainu, Taiwanese, Javanese and Asian Indians — as exotic specimens. Seishin’s satire reveals the relentless pressures that have been put on Okinawans to become more Japanese and more “civilized.”

“Islands of Protest” is a fitting addition to a canon of highly varied literature that expresses the humiliation of living on an occupied island. These texts provide a vent for the release of deeply festering grievances, serving as a voice promoting the transmission of memory and experience in a country that is more inclined to see itself as a victim of historical injustices than a perpetrator of them.

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Battle of Okinawa: A Photographic Experience, 1945.

Easter Sunday, 1 April 1945 (US Air Force Photo) 1 April 1945 (National Archives photo) Okinawa: 400-foot escarpment in the 7th Division area of responsibility, about 700-yards southwest of Tomui (USAF photo) US Marine Corps on Okinawa (USMC photo) (USAF photo) Burial vaults 20 April 1945 (USAF photo) Burial Vaults (USAF photo) Village (USAF photo) Conical Hill (USAF photo) (USAF photo) Marine hit the beach on Okinawa, 1 April 45 (National Archives photo) US Marines (US Defense Dept.) Results of bombing and shelling of Japanese held position around Shuri Castle (USAF photo) Marines on Okinawa (National Archives Photos) Approximately one mile south of the city of Naha (USAF photo) 13 April 45, Yellow Beach (Coast Guard photo) The 382nd Inf. Regt., 96th Inf. Divison scaled these cliffs to advance against the Japanese positions on top (USAF photo) US Marines near Naha, May 1945 (US Defense Dept. photo) Remains of a LST hit by a kamikaze plane (USAF photo) US Marines 11 May 45 (US Marines Corps photo) View of Shuri, 28 April 1945 (USAF photo) US Army 10 May 45 (National Archives photo) Remains of Japanese Naval Academy, Naha (USAF photo) Torii Gate, Naha (USAF photo) April 1945 (National Archives photo) Sunken Japanese ships, Naha Harbor (USAF photo) Yonton Airfield 28 April 1945 (USMC photo) A 6th Marine Div. demolition team destroy a Japanese cave. Okinawa, May 1945. (Marine Corps photo) Naha Airfield after the US Marines secured it (USAF photo) Naha Airfield (USAF photo) Naha (USAF photo) Mission church used during the battle as an observation post and machine gun position (USAF photo) Cemetery on Ie Shima (USAF photo) 77th Inf. Div. Cemetery, Okinawa (USAF photo) Easter Sunday 1946 (USAF photo) Farmer planting rice, Okinawa (USAF photo) Mother and child, Okinawa (USAF photo) (USAF photo) Civilians in the village of Koza (USAF photo) (USAF photo) Native pound rice into flour (USAF photo) (USAF photo) Low tide, Naha Harbor (USAF photo) Native village (USAF photo) (USAF photo) (USAF photo) (USAF photo) (USAF photo) (USAF photo) (USAF photo) (USAF photo) Former POW held in Kobi, Japan at the end of the war. Hitchhiked 450 miles to Ataugi to catch a ride to Kadena Airfield, Okinawa on one leg. 30 August 1945 (USAF photo) 8 May 1945, Okinawa (USAF photo) (USAF photo) Baka suicide plane “Cherry Blossom Unit” (USAF photo) Burial vaults (USAF photo) Street artists painting with water colors (USAF photo) (USAF photo) (USAF photo) (USAF photo) (USAF photo) American Cemeteries on Okinawa

Crucible of Hell: Okinawa the Last Great Battle of the Second World War

From award-winning historian Saul David, an action-packed and powerful new narrative of the Battle of Okinawa - the last great clash of the Second World War, and one that had profound consequences for the modern world. For eighty-three blood-soaked days, the fighting on the island of Okinawa plumbed depths of savagery as bad as anything seen on the Eastern Front. When it was over, almost a quarter of a million people had lost their lives, making it by far the bloodiest US battle of the Pacific.

In Okinawa, the death toll included thousands of civilians lost to mass suicide, convinced by Japanese propaganda that they would otherwise be raped and murdered by the enemy. On the US side, David argues that the horror of the battle ultimately determined President Truman's choice to use atomic bombs in August 1945. It is a brutal, heart-rending story, and one David tells with masterly attention to detail: the cramped cockpit of a kamikaze plane, the claustrophobic gun turret of a warship under attack, and a half-submerged foxhole amidst the squalor and battle detritus.

The narrative follows generals, presidents and emperors, as well as the humbler experiences of ordinary servicemen and families on both sides, and the Okinawan civilians who were caught so tragically between the warring parties. Using graphic eyewitness accounts and declassified documents from archives in three continents, Saul David illuminates a shocking chapter of history that is too often missing from Western-centric narratives of the Second World War.

Saul David is a historian, broadcaster and the author of several critically-acclaimed works of fiction and non-fiction. He is Professor of Military History at the University of Buckingham. His history books include The Indian Mutiny (shortlisted for the Westminster Medal for Military Literature), Zulu (a Waterstone's Military History Book of the Year), and Operation Thunderbolt: Flight 139 and the Raid on Entebbe Airport.

Chronology of Okinawan History

Okinawan History: A Chronology PRIMEVAL Old Stone AgeShell Mound Age 605 The Chinese Emperor Yo (Sui Dynasty) sends Shu-Kan to the Ryukyus 608 From about this time, the "Southern Island" people pay tribute to the Japanese Imperial Court. ANCIENT 1187 Shunten becomes overlord of Central Okinawa 1260 Eiso beomes new overlord 1296 A Mongol invasion army attacks Okinawa and is repulsed 1317 Miyako islanders drift ashore in China while enroute to trade in Souteast Asia 1326 At about this time, the Three Kingdoms in Okinawa (Hokuzan, Chuzan, and Nanzan) begin their rivalry 1349 Satto becomes ruler of Chuzan and increases its influence 1350 Nanzan (the southern kingdom) sends tribute to the Ming 1383 Hokuzan (the northern kingdom) sends tribute to the Ming 1392 A group of Chinese, now known as the "Thirty-six Families" are naturalized in Chuzan. 1404 A Siamese shop comes to Okinawa to trade 1416 The Chuzan King, Sho Hashi, captures Nakijin Castle and brings about the downfall of Hokuzan. 1425 Sho Hashi sends trading vessles to Siam 1428 Sho Hashi sends trading vessels to Palembang (Sumatra) 1429 Sho Hashi conquers Nanzan and is the first to succeed in uniting all Okinawa. (Beginning of the First Sho Dynasty.) 1430 Trading ships are sent to Java 1431 Sho Hashi establishes formal diplomatic relations with Korea and initiates trade 1451Sho Kimpuku builds the Chokotei (a road around Naha inlet) 1458The Gosamayu Awamari rebellion takes place. A large bell (the Bankoku Shinryo), on which there is an inscription concerning the prosperity of the Ryukyus, is cast. 1459Kanemaru Uchima is appointed Foreign Trade Minister. 1463Trading ships are sent to Malacca 1466After an audience with the Shogun of the Muromachi Shogunate (Japan), a Ryukyuan friendship mission sets off gunpowder outside the gates in celebration and astonishes the people of Kyoto. 1470Kanemaru Uchima overthrows the First Sho Dynasty, begins a new (the second) Sho Dynasty, and assumes the name of Sho En. 1492The Enkakuji Temple is built 1498Trade begins with Patani (on east coast of Malaysa) 1500Sho Shin conquers Miyako Island, he also puts down the rebellion led by Oyake Akahachi of Yaeyama Island and assumes rule over the castles of Saki Shima (the "Southern Island" as Miyako and Yaeyama were then known.) 1511Portugal causes the downfall of Malacca and strengthens it to be used as a base for the invasion of Asia. 1532The first volume of the Omoro Soshi (a compendium of ancient songs and rituals) is compiled. 1534The Chinese Ming Emperor sends an envoy, Chin Kan, and party to visit the Ryukyus 1553Yara Castle is built at Naha Harbor and coastal defenses are prepared 1579A tablet inscribed "Country and Propriety" is placed on public display at Shuri Castle. (Translator's Note: This tablet had been presented to the King at Shuri by the Chinese Emperor in recognition of the Ryukyuans' strict adherence to the Chinese rules of ritual and etiquette.) 1592Hideyoshi Toyotomi (the Japanese Shogun) orders the King of the Ryukyus to assist in the invasion of Korea the King ignores the order. 1600The Eastern army wins the great Battle of Sekigahara (in Japan). Ieyasu Tokugawa establishes his leadership in Japan. 1609Ichisa Shimazu of Satsuma sends 3,000 troops and subjugates the Ryukyu Kingdom. (The Shimazu Invasion) 1611The Satsuma Clan looks into the productive capacity of the Ryukyus divides the Amami Oshima area (the islands north of Yoron Island) from the Ryukyus: and hands down the Okite Jugo Jo (fifteen ordinances to be obeyed by all in the Ryukyus). 1614The Satsumas order strict surveillance of all shipping into and out of the Ryukyus. PRE-MODERN (Feudal) 1623Compilation of the Omoro Soshi (22 volumes) is completed 1631As a means of keeping the Ryukyus under control, the Satsuma send a permanent administrator to Naha. 1634The system of sending missions of congratulation and gratitude to Edo (Tokyo) is begun. 1637A poll tax is levied on Miyako and Yaeyama Islands 1644The Ching Dynasty succeeds the Ming Dynasty in China 1650Sho Jo-Ken (Choshu Haneji) prepares the "History of Chuzan." 1667Sho Jo-Ken orders acquisition of an elementary knowledge of the Japanese performing arts. 1711A dictionary of the old Ryukyuan language (Konkoken Shu) is compiled 1719Chokun Tamagusuku composes the Kumi Udui (odori) and the first performance is presented 1728 Sai On becomes a member of the Regency Council of Three (Prime Minister). 1734The scholar Chobin Hishicha is executed for political offenses 1771A tidal wave strikes Miyako and Yaeyama Islands, causing great damage 1798A state school is founded at Shuri for the upper class descendants of samurai 1816The British warships Alceste and Lyra call on the Ryukyus on their way home from China. Captain Basil Hall of the Lyra later stops briefly at Helena and tells the exiled Napoleon of the Ryukyus. 1844The French warship Alemene calls and puts a Christian missionary at Naha. 1846An English warship brings the active missionary Bettelheim to Naha. 1851Perry, leading an American naval force, comes to Naha and visits Shuri Castle 1854Russian warships call on Naha. Perry returns and a compact between the United States and the Kingdom of "Lew Chew" is signed. 1859The Makishi-Onga incident occurs. 1866Sho Tai receives seals and documents of investiture as King from the Manchurs he is the last to receive these and is also the last King of the Ryukyus. 1868The Tokugawa Shogunate is overthorwn and a national government under the Emperor Meiji is realized. 1871A ship manned by Miyako Islanders is shipwrecked on Formosa, and fifty-four men are murdered by aborigines. (The Formosan Shipwreck incident) 1872The Meiji government abolishes the Kingdom of the Ryukyus and establishes the Ryukyu Han (feudal clan). 1879In order to make the Ryukyus an integral part of Japan, although opposed by the hereditary lords of the Ryukyus, Meiji abolishes the Ryukyu Han and sets up Okinawa Prefecture. 1880The Chinese Manchus strongly protest the Meiji rule over the Ryukyus the question is resolved through the arbitration of ex-U.S. President Grant. 1881The Meiji government decides to preserve and utilize the old system of rule within Okinawa Prefecture. 1893Okinawa's first newspaper, the "Ryukyu Shimpo," begins publication. MODERN 1894 Because of China's loss in the Sino-Japanese War, anti-Japanese factions in Okinawa rapidly lose influence. 1898 The rivalry between a faction centered around Noboru Jahana, which demands revision of unjust political practices in Okinawa, and the old school deepens. Military conscription laws are put into force. 1903 Land reform is completed new land distribution and taxation systems are established. 1909The first election of assemblymen and convocation of an Okinawan Prefectural Assembly take place. 1911 The Okinawan historian, Fuyu Iha, publishes his great work Ko Ryukyu (Ancient Ryukyu). 1914World War I breaks out. 1919Laws concerning election of representatives to the House of Representatives are applied fully to Okinawa for the first time. 1925Due to a severe recession, the three banks on Okinawa suffer management difficulties. 1926There is great controversy centered around the novel "A Wandering Ryukyuan." 1928Numerous labor disputes arise in Okinawa. 1934A social science research association is formed. 1938An Okinawa executive committee to arouse national spirit is established, and militaristic wartime systems are strengthened. 1940A dispute about the use of the Okinawan hogen (dialect) takes place. 1941World War II breaks out. 1944Okinawa undergoes a great raid by American forces and Naha suffers grave damage. (The October tenth air raid.) 1945American forces invade Okinawa. Japan surrenders unconditionally. 1946General MacArthur declares Japan and the Nansei Shoto (all islands from Amami Oshima south to Yaeyama) to be under separate administrations. 1949The Republic of China (Formosa) is established. 1951San Francisco Peace Treaty puts Okinawa under American administration. 1960The Okinawan Reversion Council is formed. 1969Japan and the U.S. issue a joint declaration that, by mutual consent, Okinawa will be reverted to Japan on May 15, 1972. 1972Administration of Okinawa reverts from U.S. to Japan on May 15th. 1975The first International Ocean Expo opens on Okinawa's Motobu Peninsula.

Malcolm Murfett

War books are an extraordinary breed of literature. They have an enduring popularity with readers drawn from a vast array of classes and occupations. There is no Brexit here, no division between the haves and the have-nots, no political distinction to separate one from the other. War sells and it always has done. Look at the shelves of your local Waterstones or WHSmith check the array of titles on offer in airport departure lounges or at train stations go online to Amazon and other book sellers: books on military themes dominate the history offerings, and among them a bewildering number still deal with the two world wars.

Heroism and excitement, danger and adventure, personal glory and redemption, incompetence and destruction: war has it all. Stories about remarkable acts of bravery and endurance can be both graphic and compelling, and those virtues are to be found in abundance in this new study of the battle for the island of Okinawa in 1945. Mind you, it isn’t an easy read. How could it be? The battle proved to be a dreadful experience for both the Americans and the Japanese: so much death and destruction, so many talented and courageous victims.

Crucible of Hell is aptly titled. Written with verve and style, Saul David, a professor of military history at the University of Buckingham, has plundered letters, diaries, memoirs and interviews and brings a host of personal stories and anecdotes into his study of this frightful episode. He deserves credit for

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In 1429, the Ryukyu Kingdom was established by Sho Hashi, the founder of the First Sho Dynasty, by uniting the three dominant kingdoms of Nanzan, Chuzan and Hokuzan, by conquest. The first Sho Dynasty lasted for only seven generations, with Kanamaru (later Sho En) later taking over the throne and starting the Second Sho Dynasty. This period of history for Okinawa is known as the "golden age of trading," during which time the Ryukyu Kingdom actively traded with China, Japan and other Asian countries, prospered as a maritime kingdom, and became recognized by even European nations. The unique culture of the Ryukyus is largely attributed to the wide variety of foreign goods and cultures brought through trading during the Second Sho Dynasty.

In the early 17th century however, the Ryukyu Kingdom was incorporated into the Japanese feudal system under the shogunate, and later annexed by Japan with the birth of the Meiji government. This marked the end of the 500-year history of the Ryukyu Kingdom and the establishment of Okinawa Prefecture.

Bookshop: Battle of Okinawa - History

Penguin delivers you to the front lines of The Pacific Theater with the real-life stories behind the HBO miniseries.

Former Marine and Pacific War veteran Robert Leckie tells the story of the invasion of Okinawa, the closing battle of World War II. Leckie is a skilled military historian, mixing battle strategy and analysis with portraits of the men who fought on both sides to give the reader a complete account of the invasion. Lasting 83 days and surpassing D-Day in both troops and material used, the Battle of Okinawa was a decisive victory for the Allies, and a huge blow to Japan. In this stirring and readable account, Leckie provides a complete picture of the battle and its context in the larger war.

Robert Leckie (1920-2001) was the author of more than 30 works of military history as well as Marines!, a collection of short stories, and Lord, What a Family!, a memoir. Raised in Rutherford, New Jersey, he started writing professionally at age 16, covering sports for the Bergen Evening Record of Hackensack, New Jersey. Leckie enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on the day following the attack on Pearl Harbor, going on to serve as a machine gunner and as an intelligence scout and participating in all 1st Marine Division campaigns except Okinawa. He was awarded five battle stars, the Naval Commendation Medal with Combat V, and the Purple Heart. Helmet for My Pillow was his first book it received the USMC Combat Correspondents Association Award upon publication.

Reviews for Okinawa: The Last Battle of World War II

Leckie's smooth narrative deals with all aspects of the Okinawa battle. and his style adds some nice touches, including autobiographical flashes that go back as far as Guadalcanal. -Washington Post Book World

Bookshop: Battle of Okinawa - History

Assault on Shuri

The 7th Marines was an experienced outfit and well commanded by Guadalcanal and Bougainville veteran Colonel Edward W. Snedeker. "I was especially fortunate at Okinawa," he said, "in that each of my battalion commanders had fought at Peleliu." Nevertheless, the regiment had its hands full with Dakeshi Ridge. "It was our most difficult mission," said Snedeker. After a day of intense fighting, Lieutenant Colonel John J. Gormley's 1/7 fought its way to the crest of Dakeshi, but had to withdraw under swarming Japanese counterattacks. The next day, Lieutenant Colonel Spencer S. Berger's 2/7 regained the crest and cut down the counterattackers emerging from their reverse-slope bunkers. The 7th Marines were on Dakeshi to stay, another significant breakthrough.

"The Old Breed" Marines enjoyed only a brief elation at this achievement because from Dakeshi they could glimpse the difficulties yet to come. In fact, the next 1,200 yards of their advance would eat up 18 days of fighting. In this case, seizing Wana Ridge would be tough, but the most formidable obstacle would be steep, twisted Wana Draw that rambled just to the south, a deadly killing ground, surrounded by towering cliffs pocked with caves, with every possible approach strewn with mines and covered by interlocking fire. "Wana Draw proved to be the toughest assignment the 1st Division was to encounter," reported General Oliver P. Smith. The remnants of the 62d Infantry Division would defend Wana to their deaths.

Because the 6th Marine Division's celebrated assault on Sugar Loaf Hill occurred during the same period, historians have not paid as much attention to the 1st Division's parallel efforts against the Wana defenses. But Wana turned out to be almost as deadly a "mankiller" as Sugar Loaf and its bloody environs. The 1st Marines, now led by Colonel Arthur T. Mason, began the assault on the Wana complex on 12 May. In time, all three infantry regiments would take their turn attacking the narrow gorge to the south. The division continued to make full use of its tank battalion. The Sherman medium tanks and attached Army flame tanks were indispensable in both their assault and direct fire support roles (see sidebar). On 16 May, as an indicator, the 1st Tank Battalion fired nearly 5,000 rounds of 75mm and 173,000 rounds of .30-caliber ammunition, plus 600 gallons of napalm.

Crossing the floor of the gorge continued to be a heart-stopping race against a gauntlet of enemy fire, however, and progress came extremely slowly. Typical of the fighting was the division's summary for its aggregate progress on 18 May: "Gains were measured by yards won, lost, then won again." On 20 May, Lieutenant Colonel Stephen V. Sabol's 3/1 improvised a different method of dislodging Japanese defenders from their reverse-slope positions in Wana Draw. In five hours of muddy, back breaking work, troops manhandled several drums of napalm up the north side of the ridge. There the Marines split the barrels open, tumbled them down into the gorge, and set them ablaze by dropping white phosphorous grenades in their wake. But each small success seemed to be undermined by the Japanese ability to reinforce and resupply their positions during darkness, usually screened by mortar barrages or small-unit counterattacks. The fighting in such close quarters was vicious and deadly. General del Valle watched in alarm as his casualties mounted daily. The 7th Marines, which lost 700 men taking Dakeshi, lost 500 more in its first five days fighting for the Wana complex. During 16-19 May, Lieutenant Colonel E. Hunter Hurst's 3/7 lost 12 officers among the rifle companies. The other regiments suffered proportionately. Throughout the period 11-30 May, the division would lose 200 Marines for every 100 yards advanced.

Heavy rains resumed on 22 May and continued for the next ten days. The 1st Marine Division's sector contained no roads. With his LVTs committed to delivering ammunition and extracting casualties, del Valle resorted to using his replacement drafts to hand-carry food and water to the front lines. This proved less than satisfactory. "You can't move it all on foot," noted del Valle. Marine torpedo bombers flying out of Yontan began air-dropping supplies by parachute, even though low ceilings, heavy rains, and enemy fire made for hazardous duty. The division commander did everything in his power to keep his troops supplied, supported, reinforced, and motivated — but conditions were extremely grim.

To the west, the neighboring 6th Marine Division's advance south below the Asa River collided against a trio of low hills dominating the open country leading up to Shuri Ridge. The first of these hills — steep but unassuming — became known as Sugar Loaf. To the southeast lay Half Moon Hill, to the southwest Horseshoe Hill and the village of Takamotoji. The three hills represented a singular defensive complex in fact they were the western anchor of the Shuri Line. So sophisticated were the mutually supporting defenses of the three hills that an attack on one would prove futile unless the others were simultaneously invested. Colonel Seiko Mita and his 15th Independent Mixed Regiment defended this sector. Its mortars and antitank guns were particularly well sited on Horseshoe. The western slopes of Half Moon contained some of the most effective machine gun nests the Marines had yet encountered. Sugar Loaf itself contained elaborate concrete-reinforced reverse-slope positions. And all approaches to the complex fell within the beaten zone of heavy artillery from Shuri Ridge which dominated the battlefield.

Sugar Loaf, western anchor of the Shuri defenses, and objective of the 22d Marines, is seen from a point directly north. Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 124745

Battlefield contour maps indicate Sugar Loaf had a modest elevation of 230 feet Half Moon, 220 Horseshoe, 190. In relative terms, Sugar Loaf, though steep, only rose about 50 feet above the northern approaches. This was no Mount Suribachi its significance lay in the ingenuity of its defensive fortifications and the ferocity with which General Ushijima would counterattack each U.S. penetration. In this regard, the Sugar Loaf complex more closely resembled a smaller version of Iwo Jima's Turkey Knob/Amphitheater sector. As a tactical objective, Sugar Loaf itself lacked the physical dimensions to accommodate anything larger than a rifle company. But eight days of fighting for the small ridge would chew up a series of very good companies from two regiments.

Of all the contestants, American or Japanese, who survived the struggle for Sugar Loaf, Corporal James L. Day, a squad leader from Weapons Company, 2/22, had indisputably the "best seat in the house" to observe the battle. In a little-known aspect of this epic story, Day spent four days and three nights isolated in a shell hole on Sugar Loaf's western shoulder. This proved to be an awesome but unenviable experience.

Corporal Day received orders on 12 May to recross the Asa River and support the assault of Company G, 2/22, against the small ridge. Day and his squad arrived too late to do much more than cover the fighting withdrawal of the remnants from the summit. The company lost half its number in the day-long assault, including its plucky commander, Captain Owen T. Stebbins, shot in both legs by a Japanese Nambu machine-gunner. Day described Stebbins as "a brave man whose tactical plan for assaulting Sugar Loaf became the pattern for successive units to follow." Concerned about the unrestricted fire from the Half Moon Hill region, Major Henry A. Courtney, Jr., battalion executive officer, took Corporal Day with him on the 13th on a hazardous trek to the 29th Marines to coordinate the forthcoming attacks. With the 29th then committed to protecting 2/22's left flank, Courtney assigned Day and his squad in support of Company F for the next day's assault.

Day's rifle squad consisted of seven Marines by that time. On the 14th, they joined Fox Company's assault, reached the hill, scampered up the left shoulder ("you could get to the top in 15 seconds"). Day then received orders to take his squad back around the hill to take up a defensive position on the right (western) shoulder. This took some doing. By late afternoon, Fox Company had been driven off its exposed position on the left shoulder, leaving Day with just two surviving squad-mates occupying a large shell hole on the opposite shoulder.

Amtracs, such as these, were pressed into service in the difficult terrain to resupply the Marines on Sugar Loaf and to evacuate the wounded, all the while under fire. Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 123218

During the evening, unknown to Day, Major Courtney gathered 45 volunteers from George and Fox companies and led them back up the left shoulder of Sugar Loaf. In hours of desperate, close-in fighting, the Japanese killed Major Courtney and half his improvised force. "We didn't know who they were," recalled Day, "because even though they were only 50 yards away, they were on the opposite side of the crest. Out of visual contact. But we knew they were Marines and we knew they were in trouble. We did our part by shooting and grenading every [Japanese] we saw moving in their direction." Day and his two men then heard the sounds of the remnants of Courtney's force being evacuated down the hill and knew they were again alone on Sugar Loaf.

Representing in effect an advance combat outpost on the contested ridge did not particularly bother the 19-year-old corporal. Day's biggest concerns were letting other Marines know they were up there and replenishing their ammo and grenades. "Before dawn I went back down the hill. A couple of LVTs had been trying to deliver critical supplies to the folks who'd made the earlier penetration. Both had been knocked out just north of the hill. I was able to raid those disabled vehicles several times for grenades, ammo, and rations. We were fine."

On 15 May, Day and his men watched another Marine assault develop from the northeast. Again there were Marines on the eastern crest of the hill, but fully exposed to raking fire from Half Moon and mortars from Horseshoe. Day's Marines directed well-aimed rifle fire into a column of Japanese running towards Sugar Loaf from Horseshoe, "but we really needed a machine gun." Good fortune provided a .30-caliber, air-cooled M1919A4 in the wake of the retreating Marines. But as soon as Day's gunner placed the weapon in action on the forward parapet of the hole, a Japanese 47mm crew opened up from Horseshoe, killing the Marine and destroying the gun. Now there were just two riflemen on the ridgetop.

Tragedy also struck the 1st Battalion, 22d Marines, on the 15th. A withering Japanese bombardment caught the command group assembled at their observation post planning the next assault. Shellfire killed the commander, Major Thomas J. Myers, and wounded every company commander, as well as the CO and XO of the supporting tank company. Of the death of Major Myers, General Shepherd exclaimed, "It's the greatest single loss the Division has sustained. Myers was an outstanding leader." Major Earl J. Cook, battalion executive officer, took command and continued attack preparations. The division staff released this doleful warning that midnight: "Because of the commanding ground which he occupies the enemy is able to accurately locate our OPs and CPs. The dangerous practice of permitting unnecessary crowding and exposure in such areas has already had serious consequences." The warning was meaningless. Commanders had to observe the action in order to command. Exposure to interdictive fire was the cost of doing business as an infantry battalion commander. The next afternoon, Lieutenant Colonel Jean W. Moreau, commanding 1/29, received a serious wound when a Japanese shell hit his observation post squarely. Major Robert P. Neuffer, Moreau's exec, assumed command. Several hours later a Japanese shell wounded Major Malcolm "O" Donohoo, commanding 3/22. Major George B. Kantner, his exec, took over. The battle continued.

The night of 15-16 seemed endless to Corporal Day and his surviving squadmate, Private First Class Dale Bertoli. "The Japs knew we were the only ones up there and gave us their full attention. We had plenty of grenades and ammo, but it got pretty hairy." The south slope of Sugar Loaf is the steepest. The Japanese would emerge from their reverse slope caves, but they faced a difficult ascent to get to the Marines on the military crest. Hearing them scramble up the rocks alerted Day and Bertoli to greet them with grenades. Those of the enemy who survived this mini-barrage would find themselves backlit by flares as they struggled over the crest. Day and Bertoli, back to back against the dark side of the crater, shot them readily.

Tanks evacuate the wounded as men of the 29th Marines press the fight to capture Sugar Loaf. The casualties were rushed to aid stations behind the front lines. Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 122421

"The 16th was the day I thought Sugar Loaf would fall," said Day. He and Bertoli hunkered down as Marine tanks, artillery, and mortars pounded the ridge and its supporting bastions. "We looked back and see the whole battle shaping up, a great panorama." This was the turn of 1/3/22, well supported by tanks. But Day could also see that the Japanese fires had not slackened at all. "The real danger at Sugar Loaf was not the hill itself, where we were, but in a 300-yard by 300-yard killing zone which the Marines had to cross to approach the hill from our lines to the north . . . . It was a dismal sight, men falling, tanks getting knocked out . . . . the division probably suffered 600 casualties that day. In retrospect, the 6th Marine Division considered 16 May to be "the bitterest day of the entire campaign."

By then the 22d Marines was down to 40 percent effectiveness and General Shepherd relieved it with the 29th Marines. He also decided to install fresh leadership in the regiment, replacing the commander and executive officer with the team of Colonel Harold C. Roberts and Lieutenant Colonel August C. Larson.

The weather cleared enough during the late afternoon of the 16th to enable Day and Bertoli to see well past Horseshoe Hill, "all the way to the Asato River." The view was not encouraging. Steady columns of Japanese reinforcements streamed northward, through Takamotoji village, towards the contested battlefield. "We kept firing on them from 500 yards away," still maintaining the small but persistent thorn in the flesh of the Japanese defenses. Their rifle fire attracted considerable attention from prowling squads of Japanese raiders that night. "They came at us from 2130 on," recalled Day, "and all we could do was keep tossing grenades and firing our M-1s." Concerned Marines north of Sugar Loaf, hearing the nocturnal ruckus, tried to assist with mortar fire. "This helped, but it came a little too close." Both Day and Bertoli were wounded by Japanese shrapnel and burned by "friendly" white phosphorous.

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Early on the 17th a runner from the 29th Marines scrambled up to the shell-pocked crater with orders for the two Marines to "get the hell out." A massive bombardment by air, naval gunfire, and artillery would soon saturate the ridge in preparation of a fresh assault. Day and Bertoli readily complied. Exhausted, reeking, and partially deafened, they stumbled back to safety and an intense series of debriefings by staff officers. Meanwhile, a thundering bombardment crashed down on the three hills.

The 17th of May marked the fifth day of the battle for Sugar Loaf. Now it was the turn of Easy Company, 2/29, to assault the complex of defenses. No unit displayed greater valor, yet Easy Company's four separate assaults fared little better than their many predecessors. At midpoint of these desperate assaults, the 29th Marines reported to division, "E Co. moved to top of ridge and had 30 men south of Sugar Loaf sustained two close-in charges killed a hell of a lot of Nips moved back to base to reform and are going again will take it." But Sugar Loaf would not fall this day. At dusk, after prevailing in one more melee of bayonets, flashing knives, and bare hands against a particularly vicious counterattack, the company had to withdraw. It had lost 160 men.

The difficult and shell-pocked terrain of Okinawa is seen here in a view from the crest of Sugar Loaf toward Crescent Hill and southeast beyond the Kokuba River. This photograph also illustrates the extent to which Sugar Loaf Hill dominated the Asato corridor running from Naha to Shuri and demonstrates why the Japanese defended the area so tenaciously. Department of Defense (USMC) 124747

The 18th of May marked the beginning of seemingly endless rains. Into the start of this soupy mess attacked Dog Company, 2/29, this time supported by more tanks which braved the minefields on both shoulders of Sugar Loaf to penetrate the no-man's land just to the south. When the Japanese poured out of their reverse-slope holes for yet another counterattack, the waiting tanks surprised and riddled them. Dog Company earned the distinction of becoming the first rifle company to hold Sugar Loaf overnight. The Marines would not relinquish that costly ground.

But now the 29th Marines were pretty much shot up, and still Half Moon, Horseshoe, and Shuri remained to be assaulted. General Geiger adjusted the tactical boundaries slightly westward to allow the 1st Marine Division a shot at the eastern spur of Horseshoe, and he also released the 4th Marines from Corps reserve. General Shepherd deployed the fresh regiment into the battle on the 19th. The battle still raged. The 4th Marines sustained 70 casualties just in conducting the relief of lines with the 29th Marines. But with Sugar Loaf now in friendly hands, the momentum of the fight began to change. On 20 May, Lieutenant Colonel Reynolds H. Hayden's 1/4 and Lieutenant Colonel Bruno A. Hochmuth's 3/4 made impressive gains on either flank. By day's end, 2/4 held much of Half Moon, while 3/4 had seized a good portion of Horseshoe. As Corporal Day had warned, most Japanese reinforcements funneled into the fight from the southwest, so 3/4 prepared for nocturnal visitors at Horseshoe. These arrived in massive numbers, up to 700 Japanese soldiers and sailors, and surged against 3/4 much of the night. Hochmuth had a wealth of supporting arms: six artillery battalions in direct support at the onset of the attack, and up to 15 battalions at the height of the fighting. Throughout the crisis on Horseshoe, Hochmuth maintained a direct radio link with Lieutenant Colonel Bruce T. Hemphill, commanding 4/15, one of the support artillery firing battalions. This close exchange between commanders reduced the number of short rounds which might have otherwise decimated the defenders and allowed the 15th Marines to provide uncommonly accurate fire on the Japanese. The rain of shells blew great holes in the ranks of every Japanese advance Marine riflemen met those who survived at bayonet point. The counterattackers died to the man.

"Buck Rogers" rocket Marines load projectiles into the racks of a mobile launcher in preparation for laying down a barrage on Japanese positions during the Tenth Army drive to the south of Okinawa. Such barrages were very effective. Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 181768

Even with Hochmuth's victory the protracted battle of Sugar Loaf lacked a climactic finish. There would be no celebration ceremony here. Shuri Ridge loomed ahead, as did the sniper-infested ruins of Naha. Elements of the 1st Marine Division began bypassing the last of the Wana defenses to the east. The 6th Division slipped westward. Colonel Shapley's 4th Marines crossed the Asa River, now chest-high from the heavy rain fall, on 23 May. The III Amphibious Corps stood poised on the outskirts of Okinawa's capital city.

The Army divisions in XXIV Corps matched the Marines' break throughs. On the east coast, the 96th Division seized Conical Hill, the Shuri Line's opposite anchor from Sugar Loaf, after weeks of bitter fighting. The 7th Division, in relief, seized Yonabaru on 22 May. Suddenly, the Thirty-second Army faced the threat of being cut off from both flanks. This time General Ushijima listened to Colonel Yahara's advice. Instead of fighting to the death at Shuri Castle, the army would take advantage of the awful weather and retreat southward to their final line of prepared defenses in the Kiyamu Peninsula. Ushijima executed this withdrawal masterfully. While American aviators spotted and interdicted the south-bound columns, they also reported other columns moving north. General Buckner assumed the enemy was simply rotating units still defending the Shuri defenses. But these northbound troops were ragtag units as signed to conduct a do-or-die rear guard. At this, they were eminently successful.

Men of Company G, 2d Battalion, 22d Marines, found themselves fighting in an urban environment in their house-to-house attack against the Japanese in Naha. Department of Defense (USMC) 122390

This was the situation encountered by the 1st Marine Division in its unexpectedly easy advance to Shuri Ridge on 29 May as described in the opening paragraphs. The 5th Marines suddenly possessed the abandoned castle. While General del Valle tried to placate the indignation of the 77th Division commander at the Marines' "intrusion" into his zone, he got another angry call from the Tenth Army. It seems that that the Company A, 1/5 company commander, a South Carolinian, had raised the Stars and Bars of the Confederacy over Shuri Castle instead of the Stars and Stripes. "Every damned outpost and O.P. that could see this started telephoning me," said del Valle, adding, "I had one hell of a hullabaloo converging on my telephone." Del Valle agreed to erect a proper flag, but it took him two days to get one through the intermittent fire of Ushijima's surviving rear guards. Lieutenant Colonel Richard P. Ross, commanding the 3d Battalion, 1st Marines, raised this flag in the rain on the last day of May, then took cover. Unlike Sugar Loaf, Shuri Castle could be seen from all over southern Okinawa, and every Japanese gunner within range opened up on the hated colors.

The Stars and Stripes fluttered over Shuri Castle, and the fearsome Yonabaru-Shuri-Naha defensive masterpiece had been decisively breached. But the Thirty-second Army remained as deadly a fighting force as ever. It was an army that would die hard defending the final eight miles of shell-pocked, rain-soaked southern Okinawa.

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