By Phil Nelson April 1, 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of:
- The largest amphibious invasion the world has ever seen.
- The deadliest amphibious invasion America has ever seen.
- A pivotal event in bringing World War II to an end.
- An invasion that began on Easter Sunday.
- A battle that saw almost 5,000 Navy men die, more than any other battle in WWII. Navy losses were double the 2,403 deaths at Pearl Harbor.
If you’re like almost every American, you have no idea what I’m talking about.
I’m referring to the Invasion of Okinawa, April 1, 1945. It was the largest amphibious assault of WWII, and one of the most significant events of WWII, and yet you will be hard-pressed to find any commemoration of this event. Last year I visited a major book seller and noted 66 different cover stories on magazines and periodicals commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Recently I visited the same store one month before the 75th anniversary of L-Day and found not one cover story. In fact I couldn’t even find a story noting the 75th anniversary of L-Day.
The war in Europe was over on May 8, 1945, known as V-E Day (Victory in Europe). Roughly 11 months earlier, on June 6, 1944, the most famous and celebrated invasion, D-Day, took place. While people celebrated V-E Day, here and abroad, marines on Okinawa were not yet halfway through Operation Iceberg (the code name for the Okinawa Invasion), intensely fighting an entrenched enemy determined to take so much human life that the US would decide against invading Japan. There were 24 Medals of Honor awarded to US soldiers for their gallantry at Okinawa. The movie “Hacksaw Ridge” tells the story of one of those Medal of Honor recipients, Pfc Desmond Doss. The total deaths (attackers, defenders and civilian), associated with the battle for Okinawa is approximately 267,000. Approximately 53,000 deaths are attributed to attackers, defenders and civilians at Normandy. One more fact to help put the appalling number of deaths associated with the Okinawa invasion into perspective is the total deaths, including delayed radiation deaths, attributed to both atomic bombs (combined) which is approximately 130,000, or less than half of the deaths at Okinawa.