It began on April Fool's Day, 1945, which was also Easter Sunday. It lasted eighty-four days. In that time the United States lost its commander in chief, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and at the site of the battle itself, lost its most beloved war correspondent, Ernie Pyle. In that time Germany was finally defeated, but when GIs on the island heard the news, they snorted in contempt - "So what?" For these men were fighting for their own lives against a tenacious Japanese force whose goal was to "bleed all over" the Americans and thus drown them in Japanese blood. To achieve final victory over Japan, Okinawa had to be seized; it would be a catapult for the planned invasion of Japan itself. And so the U.S. Marines and Army attacked Okinawa with 540,000 men and 1,600 seagoing ships, eclipsing even D-Day in troops, tonnage, and firepower. But Japanese troops were hunkered down in a honeycomb of caves and terrain that the U.S. Tenth Army commander, Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner, called the most formidable fixed position in the history of warfare. And General Buckner asked his men to employ "corkscrew and blowtorch" - explosives and flame - to conquer the island. What he didn't need to ask for was individual heroism. For the last battle of World War II was full of acts of valor that went far beyond the call of duty. At the end, American casualties totaled almost 50,000. But the Japanese were left with 100,000 dead. And Nippon's navy was crushed, 7,800 of its planes lost, many in the last frenzied kamikaze attacks of the war.
Military historian Leckie covers the fierce battle between American and Japanese troops for the island of Okinawa throughout the spring of 1945.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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January 25, 2010
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