“War is brutish, inglorious, and a terrible waste… The only redeeming factors were my comrades’ incredible bravery and their devotion to each other. Marine Corps training taught us to kill efficiently and to try to survive. But it also taught us loyalty to each other – and love. That espirit de corps sustained us.”
“Until the millennium arrives and countries cease trying to enslave others, it will be necessary to accept one’s responsibilities and be willing to make sacrifices for one’s country – as my comrades did. As the troops used to say, “If the country is good enough to live in, it’s good enough to fight for.” With privilege goes responsibility.”
(I originally posted this at The American Catholic and I thought the history mavens of Almost Chosen People might enjoy it.)
Language and violence advisory for the above video giving a fairly sanitized Hollywood version of what the battle of Okinawa was like. Austin Bay at Strategy Page reminds us of just how bad the battle of Okinawa, raging seventy years ago, was:
On shore, some 80,000 to 100,000 Japanese manned hardened fortifications. Historians debate the total number of defenders. The Okinawan Home Guard (Boeitai) participated, but to what extent is uncertain: 500,000 civilians lived on the island. Though Tokyo’s ruling supremacists regarded Okinawans as low caste, they encouraged them to die for the Emperor, in droves.
That served the diplomatic end. With the European war drawing to a close, Japan’s rulers gambled that strategic fanaticism would convince war-wearying America that fighting Japan was too costly. Attention Missouri, New York, Texas — your soldiers will die for each inch of rock.
The Japanese decided to defend Okinawa in selected sectors. Troops would wait inland. If the kamikazes sank a few supply ships, that might slow the land attack. As U.S. troops approached, Japanese forces would attack then withdraw into the defense system, forcing a bunker-to-bunker fight. Defenders in the South might resist for months in the concentric defense surrounding the town of Shuri.
U.S. troops initially met limited opposition. By April 4, a Marine division had cut across the island. On the same day, U.S. Army units encountered in-depth defenses to the south. The kamikazes hit the fleet; Japanese in the Southern sector launched several vicious attacks. And Okinawa’s great bleeding began.
From April 12 to 14, the Japanese attacked along the entire south front. Both sides suffered casualties; the U.S. invasion stalled. On April 30, an Army division had to be withdrawn. Bunker battles had reduced the division to 30 percent strength.
Japanese attacks in early May rattled U.S. forces. However, outside their forts, the Japanese suffered heavy casualties. One assault cost the Japanese 7,000 dead. The Americans employed endless volleys of artillery and on-call air strikes.
Monsoon rains slowed operations in late May. The mud and muck reminded some of WWI’s Ypres battlefield. U.S. forces chipped away at the concentric defense. An intense artillery barrage would rake a Japanese bunker; a limited infantry assault would finish the dirty job. Behind the bunkers, GIs found more bunkers, but the defenders were less skilled. Fighting lapsed. On June 22, the Japanese commanders committed ritual suicide.
All told, Okinawa killed 12,500 Americans and wounded approximately 50,000. It was the U.S. Navy’s biggest killer, with 4,907 sailor deaths and 4,874 wounded. Japan lost an estimated 75,000 military dead. As for civilians? Estimates run from 50,000 to 110,000.
Go here to read the rest. One of the striking features of our time is that we have forgotten many lessons that prior generations knew. Okinawa is a good reminder of what a large war against a fanatical enemy is like. Looking around the globe at the present time, I would not bet money that we will not have to relearn this lesson the hard way in the near future.