By: Akhil Kapur
On June 22, 1945, after 82 consecutive days of war and death, World War II’s Battle of Okinawa ended.
The Battle of Okinawa was actually a series of battles fought in the Japanese Ryukyu Islands and featured the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific theatre during World War II: the April 1, 1945 invasion of Okinawa.
After a long military campaign of island-hopping, the Allies approached Japan and planned to use Okinawa, a large island located only 340 miles away from mainland Japan, as an air operations base. Fighting soon erupted. All told, four divisions of the U.S. 10th Army and two Marine divisions fought in Okinawa, and were supported by naval, amphibious and tactical air forces.
The Battle of Okinawa was one of the bloodiest battles of World War II. There was an estimated total of over 82,000 direct casualties on both sides: 14,009 Allied deaths (including over 12,500 Americans who were killed or went missing) and 77,166 Japanese soldiers (excluding those who died from their injuries after the battle concluded). Allied grave registration forces counted 110,071 dead bodies.
The Battle of Okinawa is infamous for a number of reasons. For one thing, this was the first time that the Japanese navy and army mounted mass air attacks by planes on one-way “suicide” missions. While not especially sophisticated, the “special attack” kamikaze tactics utilized by the Japanese forces were perhaps the most challenging obstacles the Allied forces faced during their Pacific campaign.
The severity of the losses sustained during the Battle of Okinawa dissuaded the United States from invading the Japanese mainland and was one of the motivating factors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which academics have credited with facilitating Japan's surrender.
The battle is a reminder of the great loss of life that war can bring, not just to those fighting but also to innocents. An estimated 42,000 to 150,000 local civilians died that day—a significant portion of the estimated pre-war 300,000 local population—because they committed suicide, were killed or went missing.