Worth Reading: Okinawa: Remembering who we once were
Excerpt: I have walked a dozen battlefields, from Hastings and Normandy to Marathon and Moscow, but there was something especially savage about the fighting in the Pacific Theater of Operations during the Second World War. Read Alabama-born E.B. Sledge’s classic memoir With the Old Breed and you get a glimpse of one man’s personal horror on this and other islands. Only the fighting on the Eastern Front between Germany and the Soviet Union matched it in ferocity. And while Americans quite rightly celebrate Operation Overlord (more popularly known as “D-Day”) and the subsequent liberation of Europe, the Battle of Okinawa was similar in scale, longer in duration, and saw far more casualties, but, for some unknown reason, it remains obscure in the American mind. Consider it statistically. According to historian George Feifer, 22,000 tons of matériel were delivered to Iwo Jima daily during the heat of that battle. That is only 15 percent of the total necessary to sustain soldiers on Okinawa. Moreover, the invasion force consisted of 1,457 ships covering more than thirty square miles of ocean and involved roughly half a million men. In contrast to the cross-Channel Overload invasion, forces for “Operation Iceberg,” the codename for the Okinawa invasion, were deployed from bases in San Francisco—6,200 miles away—and Pearl Harbor—more than 4,000 miles away. It was an awesome feat of logistics. By the time the Battle of Okinawa was over, 14,000 American boys—and they were, mostly, boys—had made the ultimate sacrifice.