Naha – Okinawa on Thursday marked the 77th anniversary of the end of a major World War II ground battle between Japanese and U.S. troops, with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida the first Japanese leader in three years to attend the memorial service due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions.
In a peace declaration, Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine evoked memories of the conflict in the prefecture while pledging to “continue efforts to abolish nuclear weapons and renounce war, so that Okinawa will never become a battlefield again.”
The 1945 battle, during the final phase of World War II, claimed the lives of over 200,000 civilians and soldiers from the ranks of Japanese and American troops. Fighting took place from March through June of that year.
Tamaki stressed the burden Okinawa bears from hosting the bulk of U.S. military facilities in the country, a role that continues to this day. On May 15, the island marked 50 years since its reversion to Japan from U.S. rule.
Tamaki also called for the central government to abandon the controversial ongoing project to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan to another location in Okinawa.
Kishida said that “little by little, we will gather visible evidence of reducing the burden of the bases.”
The prefecture constitutes around 0.6% of Japan’s total land area but hosts 70.3% of U.S. military installations in the country by acreage.
The event, held at the Peace Memorial Park in Itoman, the site of the final stage of the battle, was downsized for the third consecutive year due to the pandemic and was attended by 327 people, including guests and organizers.
“Thinking of that time brings tears to my eyes,” said Seiko Akamine, an 83-year-old resident of the prefectural capital Naha, who said his father was killed in action during the battle and that his sister was killed in front of him when she was hit by a shell.
The Battle of Okinawa was a fierce ground fight that took a heavy toll on the local civilian population, with 1 in 4 of the prefecture’s residents dying.
The names of 55 people were added to the list of the war dead inscribed on the Cornerstone of Peace in the Itoman park this year, bringing the total to 241,686. The list covers all the war dead, irrespective of nationality or their civilian or military status.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.