He got close enough to swing the charge into the entrance of the tomb. The Jap was between me and my rifle so he could have easily picked it up and shot me. Maybe he was in a daze from all the earlier shelling — or maybe he was on drugs or sake. On April 21, having taken all of Tombstone Ridge, the depleted platoon faced a company strength counterattack. A bullet had grazed both my legs and my face was peppered with small grenade fragments.
But the next day, the decimated 96th unit was sent back for a rest. Laz was promoted to sergeant and replacement troops arrived. Old friendship could be snuffed out in an instant and the closer the friendship the harder to face the loss. Zebra Hill sits between Item and Harriet hills, on the way to Dick. Early in the week, in the parking lot of the Seventh Day Adventist Hospital, we had been on one side of Zebra, but could not see the spot where my father saw his last action on Okinawa, May 12, On Sunday evening, June 25, , we approach it from the south.
Under the new expressway, off the road by the gas station, we start around the western face of Zebra, by the sugar cane fields and corrugated barns, on a little pockmarked macadam road. Guided by year-old military maps, we wind around toward the top surrounded by Okinawan tombs. Over the next three days, there would be several frontal assaults on Item Hill.
One was led by Lt. Seymour Terry, who would be awarded a Medal of Honor — posthumously. Jim Peters, would be seriously wounded in the leg.
My best friend was gone — the war was over for him — and I was now in charge of his squad, which was already dawn to seven men. On May 12, the order to move out comes again, with Laz in the lead. I realized that a very good marksman had me in his sights. Bullets were whining around me and crackling over my head.
The shot knocked me down and my rifle flew out of my grasp. My entire left side was numb and my arm I limp. Fifty years later, we are near again. A mile away is Conical Hill. This is still undeveloped property and, except for new tombs, it looks much as it did then, covered in high grass. This is it. My father steps away; overcome by emotion. He shakes it off. We do not talk. Three men here. The Landings. Moving Inland. Supplying and Developing the Beachhead. Japanese Commanders. Japanese Weapons. Kamikaze Attacks. Sinking of the Yamato.
East Coast Battles. Kakazu West. Kakazu Gorge.
Tombstone Ridge Area. Fire Bombing. Pushing to Yae-Take. Ie Shima. Rockets Over Ie Shima. Invasion of Ie Shima. Fighting Toward Ie. Death of Ernie Pyle. Ie and the Southern Beaches. Typical Defense System. Attack on Bloody Ridge. Government House Hill. Strategic Area of Southern Okinawa. Opening Action, 19 April. Battle for Tombstone Ridge. Death of a Tank. West End of Urasoe-Mura Escarpment. Item Pocket Area. Heart of Item Pocket.
Skyline Ridge. Rocky Crags. Nishibaru Escarpment Area. The Pinnacles. Urasoe-Mura Escarpment. Kakazu Village and Kakazu Pocket. Japanese Fortifications. Naval Fire and Air Support. Blowtorch and Corkscrew. Southern Coast Line. Asa River Area. Kochi Area. Maeda Escarpment and Tank-Infantry Attacks. Maeda Escarpment Strong Points.
Okinawa: The Final Battle Revisited
Japanese Sea and Air Attack. Japanese Position at Tanabaru Escarpment, May. Japanese Land Offensive. Tanabaru Escarpment. Attacks on Hill American Advance Down the Center. West Flank Zone. Sugar Loaf and Horseshoe Hills. Fighting at Sugar Loaf and Crescent Hills. Dakeshi Ridge. Reverse Slope of Wana Ridge. Ishimmi Ridge. Chocolate Drop Hill. Dick Hills and Flattop. Advance Around Dick Hills and Flattop. In American youth was isolationist and pacifist. Some of us later found fighting rather different from what had been advertised. Yet in combat these men risked their lives - and often lost them - in hope of winning medals.
There is an old soldier's saying: ''A man won't sell you his life, but he'll give it to you for a piece of colored ribbon. Most of the men who hit the beaches came to scorn eloquence. They preferred the year-old ''Word of Cambronne. Pierre Cambronne, commander of the Old Guard. His position, they pointed out, was hopeless, and they suggested he capitulate. Every French textbook reports his reply as ''The Old Guard dies but never surrenders. If you mention this incident to members of the U. Anthony C.
McAuliffe's answer to the Nazi demand that he hoist a white flag over Bastogne. Instead, he quoted Cambronne. In the beginning they were limited to hand weapons - clubs, rocks, swords, lances. At the Battle of Camlann in , England's Arthur - a great warrior, not a king - led a charge that slew Saxons, including their leader. It is important to grasp the fact that those men were not killed by snipers, grenades or shells. The dead were bludgeoned or stabbed to death, and we have a pretty good idea how this was done.
One of the facts withheld from civilians during World War II was that Kabar fighting knives, with seven-inch blades honed to such precision that you could shave with them, were issued to Marines and that we were taught to use them. You never cut downward. You drove the point of your blade into a man's lower belly and ripped upward. In the process, you yourself became soaked in the other man's gore. After that charge at Camlann, Arthur must have been half-drowned in blood. The Battle of Agincourt, fought nearly 1, years later, represented a slight technical advance: crossbows and longbows had appeared.
All the same, Arthur would have recognized the battle. Like all engagements of the time, this one was short. Killing by hand is hard work, and hot work. It is so exhausting that even men in peak condition collapse once the issue of triumph or defeat is settled. And Henry V's spear carriers and archers were drawn from social classes that had been undernourished for as long as anyone could remember. The duration of medieval battles could have been measured in hours, even minutes.
The Battle of Waterloo, fought exactly years later, is another matter. By , the Industrial Revolution had begun cranking out appliances of death, primitive by today's standards, but revolutionary for infantrymen of that time. And Napoleon had formed mass armies, pressing every available man into service.
Battle of Okinawa in Color | Smithsonian Channel
It was a long step toward total war, and its impact was immense. Infantrymen on both sides fought with single-missile weapons - muskets or rifles - and were supported by and were the target of artillery firing cannonballs. The fighting at Waterloo continued for three days; for a given regiment, however, it usually lasted one full day, much longer than medieval warfare. A half-century later, Gettysburg lasted three days and cost 43, men. Then came the marathon slaughters of , lasting as long as 10 months Verdun and producing hundreds of thousands of corpses lying, as F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote afterward, ''like a million bloody rugs.
In the densest combat of World War I, battalion frontage - the length of the line into which the 1,odd men were squeezed - had been yards. On Okinawa, on the Japanese fortified line, it was less than yards - about 18 inches per man. We were there and deadlocked for more than a week in the relentless rain. During those weeks we lost nearly 4, men. And now it is time to set down what this modern battlefield was like.
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All greenery had vanished; as far as one could see, heavy shellfire had denuded the scene of shrubbery. What was left resembled a cratered moonscape. But the craters were vanishing, because the rain had transformed the earth into a thin porridge -too thin even to dig foxholes. At night you lay on a poncho as a precaution against drowning during the barrages. All night, every night, shells erupted close enough to shake the mud beneath you at the rate of five or six a minute.
You could hear the cries of the dying but could do nothing. Japanese infiltration was always imminent, so the order was to stay put. Any man who stood up was cut in half by machine guns manned by fellow Marines. By day, the mud was hip-deep; no vehicles could reach us.
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As you moved up the slope of the hill, artillery and mortar shells were bursting all around you, and, if you were fortunate enough to reach the top, you encountered the Japanese defenders, almost face to face, a few feet away. To me, they looked like badly wrapped brown paper parcels someone had soaked in a tub. Their eyes seemed glazed. So, I suppose, did ours. Japanese bayonets were fixed; ours weren't. We used the knives, or, in my case, a.
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The mud beneath our feet was deeply veined with blood. It was slippery. Blood is very slippery. So you skidded around, in deep shock, fighting as best you could until one side outnumbered the other. The outnumbered side would withdraw for reinforcements and then counterattack. During those 10 days I ate half a candy bar. I couldn't keep anything down. If you put more than a quarter million men in a line for three weeks, with no facilities for the disposal of human waste, you are going to confront a disgusting problem.
We were fighting and sleeping in one vast cesspool. Mingled with that stench was another - the corrupt and corrupting odor of rotting human flesh. My luck ran out on June 5, more than two weeks after we had taken Sugar Loaf Hill and killed the 7, Japanese soldiers defending it. I had suffered a slight gunshot wound above the right knee on June 2, and had rejoined my regiment to make an amphibious landing on Oroku Peninsula behind enemy lines. The next morning several of us were standing in a stone enclosure outside some Okinawan tombs when a six-inch rocket mortar shell landed among us.
The best man in my section was blown to pieces, and the slime of his viscera enveloped me.