5 Things You Didn't Know About the Battle of Okinawa

On June 22, 1945, the World War II battle for Okinawa ended after about 81 long, harrowing days of fighting for control of the island. Here are five interesting facts you didn't know about the last major battle of World War II...

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It Was the Pacific Theater’s Biggest Amphibious Assault The initial invasion of Okinawa on April 1, 1945, was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific Theater of World War II. More than 60,000 soldiers and US Marines of the US Tenth Army stormed ashore at Okinawa. Possession of Okinawa would give the United States a base large enough for an invasion of mainland Japan. There were more than 100,000 Japanese defenders on the island, but most were deeply entrenched in the island’s densely forested interior. The Battle of Okinawa, codenamed Operation Iceberg, was vital to the Japanese because of its proximity to mainland Japan, and conquering this island was essential for America.

Japanese Middle School Students "Volunteered" As Soldiers The Imperial Japanese Army mobilized 1,780 middle school boys aged 14–17 years into front-line service. This mobilization was conducted by an ordinance of the Ministry of the Army. The ordinances mobilized the students as volunteer soldiers, but in reality, the military authorities ordered schools to force almost all students to "volunteer" as soldiers; sometimes they counterfeited the necessary documents. .Among the 21 male and female secondary schools that made up these student corps, 2,000 students would die on the battlefield.

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Corporal Desmond Doss Was a Hero at the Battle of Hacksaw Ridge Desmond Doss is credited with saving 75 soldiers during one of the bloodiest battles of World War II in the Pacific — and he did it without ever carrying a weapon. The battle at Hacksaw Ridge, on the island of Okinawa, was a close combat fight with heavy weaponry. All Americans who fought in the Battle of Okinawa were heroic, but one soldier at the escarpment stood out—Corporal Desmond T. Doss. He was a pacifist and army medic who refused to carry or use a weapon or firearm of any kind. He remained on the after his commanding officers ordered a retreat. Surrounded by enemy soldiers, he went alone into the battle fray and rescued 75 of his wounded comrades. His heroic story was brought to life on the big screen in 2016 in the film Hacksaw Ridge and he was decorated with a Medal of Honor for his bravery during the Battle of Okinawa.

Kamikaze Pilots Caused Many Casualties Suicide pilots, called kamikazes by the Japanese, were well-trained and prepared to die for their country. Although American sailors attempted to shoot down their planes, it was difficult when the Japanese flyers were bent on suicide to cause the most damage possible, at times flying at 500 mph into the Allied ships below. By the end of the campaign, Japan would launch almost 2,000 suicide attacks. Of the 36 Allied ships lost, most were destroyed by the Japanese pilots who gave up their lives in kamikaze missions.

The Death Toll on Both Sides Was Massive The Battle of Okinawa resulted in huge losses, including 12,520 fatalities and more than 49,000 casualties on the American side. Among the dead was the Tenth Army’s commander, Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr., killed on June 18 by a sniper during the final offensive. He was the highest-ranking American general killed in action during World War II. About 90,000 Japanese combatants died in the fighting, but deaths among Okinawan civilians may have reached 150,000.