The Battle of Okinawa

IMG_9856Okinawa has a mixed heart. It is a land of happy and relaxed island people that value relationships with family and friends on a level much higher and more defining than one’s occupation. It is a place where people stay up late into the warm nights, talking and laughing together, enjoying life because it can be. But it is one of those places where when you visit, there seems to be a fog in the air, a fog of some sort of dark pervading history that cannot be removed, and lingers on as a reality into the present.

During WWII, Okinawa was the last major battle fought between US and Japanese forces. The home island of these nice people was located in a strategic position close to mainland Japan, and once captured, the war would be as good as over for the Japanese. Desperate and trying to buy time for the mainland, a relentless and bloody battle or attrition was fought for 82 days. Over 240,000 people lost their lives in this battle. 240,000. 

What many do not realize however, is that the people of Okinawa had never considered themselves to be Japanese. These people were used for battle, standing in the crossfire between two nations in a battle they largely had nothing to do with. More than twice as many Okinawan men woman and children died in this fighting than the American and Japanese forces combined. 

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Himeyuri Memorial. Pictured above is an opening to a cave where 96 Okinawan schoolgirls and their teachers hid from the invading forces. An American soldier tossed a chemical grenade into this opening and 87 of these lives were ripped away. No English wikipedia page exists for this memorial or the death of these schoolgirls.

 
 
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Tunnels dug by Japanese soldiers

 

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Underground Japanese HQ command center. In this room, upon defeat, an order was called out and 4,000 Japanese soldiers took their lives in these tunnels in an act of mass suicide.

 

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Time moves forward and the past slithers away. Thousands of US military forces are still stationed on these islands to this day, however, and as long as this is the case, it seems that the past can only escape so far. 

 

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