【The Battle of Okinawa】
In 1944, 183,000 American ground combat corps of took part in the Battle of Okinawa. At its peak, including support troops, the total number would reach 550,000, which exceeded the entire Okinawan population (450,000) at that time. The intercepting Japanese army numbered only 100,000, and one third of these were Okinawan, recruited locally to the Home Guard and Student Corps.
US forces were overwhelmingly superior, with 1500 warships, tanks, submarines, and aircraft. It is said that the US capability was 10 times greater than that of Japan. The British also provided significant air and naval power, and carried out an air raid on Miyako and Yaeyama islands.
On March 26, US forces arrived at the Kerama islands, south of the main island of Okinawa. On April 1st, they landed on Yomitan village in the middle of of Okinawa island. The Japanese army avoided confrontation at the landing point, barricading themselves in underground bunkers for a protracted war. US forces were then sent north and south to take the island.
With the North of Okinawa designated as evacuation site for Okinawan residents, only a small percentage of Japanese troops were deployed there; US troops reached Cape Hedo, the northernmost tip of the island, by mid-April. Meanwhile, the largest airport in Asia (at the time) had been constructed by Japanese army on Ie island. Ie Island experienced heavy fighting, with many residents losing their lives.
The US troops deployed to the South encountered stiff opposition from the Japanese army. Fierce combat continued for over 40 days. On May 11th, US troops started a full-on assault of Shuri. At the end of May, the Japanese army suddenly drew off to the southern part and Shuri, including Shuri castle was occupied by American forces.
Japanese forces lost 60,000 soldiers in the fighting to resist US troops’ advance from Yomitan to Shuri. At this point, the southernmost area of Okinawa became a battlefield of chaos, with routed Japanese soldiers and local Okinawan refugees jumbled together, and US air raids relentless; the US bombing campaign was later called the “typhoon of steel”, as its power was so fierce that it changed the physical landscape of the island.
The battle ended on June 23rd (with other theories arguing for the 22nd), when Japanese general Ushijima’s committed suicide. Yet because the Japanese military had not yet officially surrendered, a mopping-up operation was continued until July 2nd, when US forces declared the end of the Battle of Okinawa.
What is most significant about the Battle of Okinawa is the massive civilian loss of life. Far more civilians died than soldiers. As the combat escalated, local Okinawans became victims of not only US and UK indiscriminate artillery bombing, but also of random slaughter by Japanese forces. Others died due to famine, and still others were killed by other residents, while some were sent to US camps. Okinawan people had no way to escape. It was absolute hell on earth. In all, more than 200,000 were killed in the battle including 120,000 Okinawan civilians (94,000) and locally recruited Okinawans.
【About the video of Testimony of the Battle of Okinawa】
The Battle of Okinawa shows the lives of innocent people who were forcefully involved in a battle between two major world powers, wherein they experienced a majority of the violence and suffering. To remember and share the reality and senselessness of war, Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum has documented the testimonies the war survivors from the time of its establishment. Today, the fires of conflict continue to burn around the world. We believe it is important to share these testimonies to people not only within Okinawa and Japan, but also with the world, as a means to inspire them to think about the preciousness of peace and the need for ongoing peace building. Therefore, we have translated this film into multiple languages, and releases those videos here.
【The Philosophy of the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Museum’s Establishment】
In late March 1945, a fierce battle such as has rarely been seen in the history took place on these islands. The "Typhoon of Steel" that lasted for 90 days change the landscape, destroyed much of the cultural heritages, and robbed the precious lives of 200,000 people. The Battle of Okinawa was the only ground war in Japan ordered full mobilization of the Okinawan civilians and also one of the largest combat in the Asia-Pacific War. A significant aspect of the Battle of Okinawa is the massive civilian loss of life. More than 100,000 civilian died outnumbered the soldiers. Some were blown to bits, some were driven and forced to commit suicide, some starved to death, some succumbed to malaria, while other fell victim to the retreating Japanese soldiers. Under the most desperate and unimaginable circumstances. We Okinawans experienced the absurdity of the war and atrocities it inevitably brings about. This war experience became the starting point of what is popularly called the "Okinawan Heart” now, we have developed it even in the struggles against the US military occupation for over decades after the war.The “Okinawan Heart” respects human dignity more than anything, denies any act related to war, seeks for peace, and values culture which express humanity.
In order to contribute for establishing a lasting peace, we mourn for all those who died during the war, pass on this historical lesson of the Battle of Okinawa correctly to next generation, send our message to the people around the world, display the whole range of the individual war experiences of Okinawa and establish the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum
1975 (partially revised April 1, 2000) Okinawa Prefecture