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Book Title: The Battle of Okinawa: The Blood and the Bomb|
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Reader ratings: 5.8
The author of the book: George Feifer
Edition: Lyons Press
Date of issue: August 1st 2001
ISBN 13: 9781585742158
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 911 KB
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A definitive book on the horrific Battle of Okinawa which was fought from April to June, 1945. My dad fought in this battle and was surprised that he survived. He didn't speak much about it, but I believe it haunted him his whole life.
George Feifer carefully researched the book. this is a nonfiction, and he presents this battle from the viewpoint of a group of people who participated in the fray, including American marines, Japanese, soldiers, and Okinawan villagers. He begins each chapter with several quotes from journals, letters, and interviews with combatants and/or Okinawan civilians. These primary sources really bring the humanity of this devastation alive.
For example, the following is from a kamikaze pilot before flying off to his death:
"When I fly the skies
What a splendid place to be buried
The top of a cloud would be "
Or this, from Thomas Hannaher, an American soldier:
"I lived through Okinawa somehow, but the great battle of the mainland (Japan) lay ahead. How long could my luck hold? Then the dropping of the A-bomb put a brand-new light in my life. I'd be going home, after all. And I did!" (I am sure my dad had the same feeling.)
One of the events in the book dealt with Army General Simon Bolivar, Buckner, Jr. He was the three-star general who commanded the US. Tenth Army, under whom my dad served. Buckner was killed on June 18, 1945 on Okinawa. (ironically, the battle was officially won on June 22, 1945 which was my dad's birthday.) I am sure it was devastating the soldiers of the Tenth Army to hear of their general's death. My dad never confirmed this with our family, but my brother's nickname is Buck. My brother was born in June, 1947. I think he honored the general and my brother by having them share the same nickname.
Obviously, this was an emotional read for me, trying to visualize the horror that my dad went through. The April 1, 1945 landing involved 1,457 ships and more than 500,000 men, with 430 of the ships serving as troopships. It was the largest assembled armada in history with "over forty carriers, eighteen battleships, scores of cruisers, and almost 150 destroyers and destroyer escorts" (eBook pg. 154) A massive bombardment preceded the landing, but did not do much damage to the Japanese who had built tunnels and connected caves in a spectacular web throughout the island.
Kamikazes sacrificed themselves for their emperor by crashing into the ships and landing LST's. In fact, the troop ship my dad was on was hit by a kamikaze.
The Japanese did not contest the landing, and Americans thought it would be an easy victory. It turned into one of the bloodiest battles ever fought. It lasted three months. Sleeplessness, poor nutrition, dysentery, typhoid and malaria were constant problems for all combatants as well as the civilian population. One of the fiercest battles was for Sugar Loaf Hill. Newsweek May 21 and 28, 1945 called it "the most crucial local battle of the war . . .the bloodiest battlefield in the world. The Japanese had taken defensive positions throughout the island. The purpose was to gain time in hope of reserves arriving. The Japanese defensive positions had to be taken out individually, exacting heavy casualties on both sides, and sadly, more than 100,000 Okinawan civilians died in the fighting. Over 12,000 Americans were killed and 50,000 wounded. Japan incurred 150,000 casualties. This was the only battle in the Pacific arena where both commanding officers died; General Buckner was killed by a Japanese shell and General Ushijima committed seppuku.
I wish Feifer would have included the experiences of American Army and Navy servicemen as well. The use of more maps would have been beneficial also. Aside from that, it was an amazing book.
I could rave on and on about the book. What I would like to impart is that the ferocity of this battle had a lot to do with the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan. Whatever your opinion on the morality of the bomb, one gets a clearer picture of the mindset of the American decision makers due to the battle. The blood bath that was Okinawa foreshadowed even worse bloodshed with an invasion of Japan.
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