"A gritty, first-person account. ... One can hear Shaw’s voice as if he were sitting beside you." —Wall Street Journal
An unforgettable soldier’s-eye view of the Pacific War’s bloodiest battle, by the first American officer ashore Okinawa.
On Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945, 1.5 million men gathered aboard 1,500 Allied ships off the coast of the Japanese island of Okinawa. The men were there to launch the largest amphibious assault on the Pacific Theater. War planners expected an 80 percent casualty rate.
The first American officer ashore was then-Major Art Shaw (1920-2020), a unit commander in the U.S. Army’s 361st Field Artillery Battalion of the 96th Infantry Division, nicknamed the Deadeyes. For the next three months, Shaw and his men served near the front lines of the Pacific’s costliest battle, their artillery proving decisive against a phantom enemy who had entrenched itself in the rugged, craggy island.
Over eighty-two days, the Allies fought the Japanese army in a campaign that would claim more than 150,000 human lives. When the final calculations were made, the Deadeyes were estimated to have killed 37,763 of the enemy. The 361st Field Artillery Battalion had played a crucial role in the victory. The campaign would be the last major battle of World War II and a key pivot point leading to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and to the Japanese surrender in August, two months after the siege’s end.
Filled with extraordinary details, Shaw’s gripping account gives lasting testimony to the courage and bravery displayed by so many on the hills of Okinawa.
The retired Shaw, a former unit commander in the U.S. Army's 361st Artillery Battalion, debuts with a comprehensive and action-packed memoir of the Battle of Okinawa. Considered the last stepping stone for the Allied invasion of the Japanese home islands, Okinawa hosted nearly 100,000 Japanese ground troops and local draftees. Shaw claims to have been "the first actual fighting man" to set foot on the island, on April 1, 1945; the next morning, the 96th Infantry and eight other army and marine infantry divisions came ashore. The initial beach landings were unopposed, but as Shaw's field artillery unit and the 96th Infantry advanced further inland, they encountered stiff resistance from Japanese forces dug into heavily fortified positions. Shaw served as his unit's reconnaissance officer and visited the front lines regularly, where he witnessed fierce hand-to-hand combat and nighttime ambushes by Japanese fighters. As a unit commander, he also took part in the strategic planning behind the Allies' advance. This dual perspective gives the book a wide-angled view that's unusual in a soldier's battle memoir. Though the reconstructed dialogue occasionally rings false (" Hara-kiri is an ancient form of the ultimate surrender in the Japanese art of war,' I said"), this account gives a satisfying presentation of the bloodiest battle in the Pacific Theater of WWII.