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Okinawa….the last and biggest of the Pacific island hopping campaign during World War II which started on April 1st 1945 and ended June 22 1945. US Marines and US Soldiers battled the 130,000 soldiers of the Japanese Thirty-second Army. On the island were air base that were key for the projected invasion of Japan. By the end of the 82 day battle, Japan had more than 77,000 KIA and the Allies had suffered more than 65,000 casualties including 14,000 dead.
The Battle for Okinawa was a brutal slug fest and the Japanese intended to hold at all cost. Well dug in Japanese had prepared for the allied landings with a series of defense lines across the island, both north and south of the American landing beaches. Using pillboxes and strong points, caves, and even some ancient castles, the Japanese defense positions supported one another and often resisted even the most determined artillery fire or air strikes. Caves or pillboxes often had to be destroyed individually with dynamite charges. This battle took place in an environment much more heavily populated than most Pacific islands, with civilian casualties of almost 100,000 and equally heavy losses for the Japanese army. “It was a scene straight out of hell. There is no other way to describe it,” recalls Higa Tomiko, then a seven-year-old girl, who survived the battle.
The commanding generals on both sides died in the course of this battle: American General Simon B. Buckner by artillery fire, Japanese General Ushijima Mitsuru by suicide. Other U.S. losses in ground combat included 7,374 killed, 31,807 wounded, and 239 missing in action. The navy suffered 4,907 killed or missing aboard 34 ships sunk and 368 damaged; 763 aircraft were lost. At sea and in the air, the Japanese expended roughly 2,800 aircraft, plus a battleship, a light cruiser, and four destroyers, with losses that can be estimated at upwards of 10,000.