A stirring narrative of World War II's final major battle—the Pacific war's largest, bloodiest, most savagely fought campaign—the last of its kind.
On Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945, more than 184,000 US troops began landing on the only Japanese home soil invaded during the Pacific war. Just 350 miles from mainland Japan, Okinawa was to serve as a forward base for Japan's invasion in the fall of 1945.
Nearly 140,000 Japanese and auxiliary soldiers fought with suicidal tenacity from hollowed-out, fortified hills and ridges. Under constant fire and in the rain and mud, the Americans battered the defenders with artillery, aerial bombing, naval gunfire, and every infantry tool. Waves of Japanese kamikaze and conventional warplanes sank 36 warships, damaged 368 others, and killed nearly 5,000 US seamen.
When the slugfest ended after 82 days, more than 125,000 enemy soldiers lay dead—along with 7,500 US ground troops. Tragically, more than 100,000 Okinawa civilians perished while trapped between the armies. The brutal campaign persuaded US leaders to drop the atomic bomb instead of invading Japan.
Utilizing accounts by US combatants and Japanese sources, author Joseph Wheelan endows this riveting story of the war's last great battle with a compelling human dimension.
Military historian Wheelan (Midnight in the Pacific) draws on U.S. and Japanese sources to deliver an encyclopedic chronicle of the April 1945 invasion of Okinawa. American forces seeking to establish a launching pad for the invasion of Japan made a "deceptively easy" beach landing, Wheelan writes, because Japanese commanders planned to mount their primary defense in the vicinity of Mount Shuri, where 10,000 soldiers occupied a network of caves and tunnels and the rocky terrain was "anathema to tanks." Wheelan minutely details major battles, including Sugar Loaf Hill and Hacksaw Ridge, in the three-month campaign to take the island, and describes the rituals of kamikaze pilots, the use of native islanders as "human shields" by Japanese troops, and the high incidence of "battle fatigue" among U.S. soldiers and Marines. He cites death tolls of more than 100,000 Japanese troops, 120,000 civilians, and 12,000 Americans, and quotes U.S. Gen. George C. Marshall that the " bitter experience of Okinawa'" played a significant role in the decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Wheelan mines a wealth of source material to present a 360-degree view of the battle, and maintains a brisk pace. This exhaustive yet accessible account will appeal to WWII history buffs and general readers alike.