Next Sunday is Fathers Day, and many of us will reflect on what our dads accomplished during WWII, earning them the term, “the greatest generation”. My dad served on a destroyer that took part in the Battle of Okinawa, a battle which has lost its place in history because of the events a few months later in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
But this was a battle not forgotten as 1 out of 7 naval casualties in the entire war resulted from the Battle of Okinawa. Only the battle for Stalingrad had greater civilian casualties. The U.S. Navy lost 36 ships out of about 1500, with over 350 damaged. It was an armada greater than that which took place in the Normandy invasion. The Navy lost almost 5,000 men, with a similar amount wounded-the greatest loss of life in any one battle. Many were killed when the Japanese began their kamikaze suicide raids on our ships. Eight carriers were hit, but all survived. In the end, over 3,500 kamikaze planes were destroyed.
The commanders on Okinawa, General Mitsuri Ushijima and General Simon B. Buckner, were the two highest ranking officers to die during WWII (Joseph Alexander, The Final Campaign: Marine in the Victory on Okinawa.) This fact alone will attest to the life and death struggle taking place both on Okinawa and on the seas surrounding it.
Sixty-five years ago yesterday, June 12, Japanese troops on Okinawa began committing mass suicide when it became clear to them that a U.S. Marine victory on the island was a certainty. Sixty-five years ago today the U.S. 24th Corps attacked Japanese-held caves on Okinawa with flamethrowers. And sixty-five years ago tomorrow, the U.S. military leadership in the Pacific received orders from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to prepare for the invasion and occupation of Japan. On June 21, 1945 the Sixth Marine Division raised the U.S. flag on the southern end of the island, as they had earlier on the northern end, and the Battle for Okinawa was over.
But we will never forget. The character and courage shown by some of our greatest generation will never be forgotten, even if today’s media choose to do so.