Critical acclaim for The Battle for Okinawa"An indispensable account of the fighting and of Okinawa's role in the Japanese defense of the home islands." --The Wall Street Journal"A fascinating, highly intelligent glance behind the Japanese lines." --Kirkus Reviews"The most interesting of the 'last battle of the war' books." --The Washington Post."A fascinating insider's viCritical acclaim for The Battle for Okinawa"An indispensable account of the fighting and of Okinawa's role in the Japanese defense of the home islands." --The Wall Street Journal"A fascinating, highly intelligent glance behind the Japanese lines." --Kirkus Reviews"The most interesting of the 'last battle of the war' books." --The Washington Post."A fascinating insider's view of the Japanese command." --Dallas Morning NewsCOLONEL HIROMICHI YAHARA was the senior staff officer of the 32nd Japanese Army at Okinawa.A Military Book Club Main Selection...
|Title||:||The Battle for Okinawa|
|Number of Pages||:||272 Pages|
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The Battle for Okinawa Reviews
The battle for the island of Okinawa was the bloodiest of the whole Pacific War. From the opening bombardment in April through to July, much of the island became an inferno of fire, explosive and steel, in which both sides took staggering casualties, and the Japanese Thirty-Second Army was destroyed. The battle saw the first widespread use of Kamikaze tactics, and was the also the first time that Japanese soldiers were taken prisoner in any sort of numbers.One of those prisoners was the author of this book. Col. Yahara was not just any prisoner, he was a senior staff officer of the Thirty-Second Army, so his views on the battle are worth having - and we so nearly didn't have them at all. Not only did he survive the fighting - his commanding officer denied him the right to commit suicide by ordering him to report to Tokyo - he got captured trying to escape the island. He went through a crisis once in custody, but, through his realization that the government wasted the lives of all those on Okinawa and was going to do the same in Japan, he decided that the Empire was not worth dying for after all.This refusal to succumb to that prevailing ethos damaged Yahara's post-war life and career, and he didn't write this book until 1973, near the end of his life. It was his attempt to set the record straight after years of myth-making by both sides.The book as we have it here consists of two sections: the first dealing with the creation of the Thirty-Second Army and preparations for the battle, and the second dealing with the last phase of the battle, Yahara's attempted escape and eventual capture.Yahara was a clear-sighted and rational man, and so knew even before he set about planning the defence of Okinawa that the Japanese would lose the battle. He knew that, despite the regime's trumpeting of the indomitable will of the Japanese soldier, the Allies overwhelming superiority of men and material meant that there could only be one outcome. Yahara did, however, believe his superiors when they told him that the invasion force would be met with a heavy air response in the initial hours and days. Therefore he developed a battle plan that focused on attritional warfare, with troops well dug in to fortified positions, instructed to wait for the Americans to come on to them.Yahara's strategy was probably the correct one, but he was overtaken by events, and his superiors. The envisaged air attack on the landing never eventuated, and, his superior officers being of the old school, many troops were wasted in futile frontal attacks. When Yahara picks up the story again in the second half of the book, the troops are retreating to their final positions, and are running low on food and ammunition. This section of the book becomes hard to read, as more and more people are sacrificed for no reason, as the following extract demonstrates - "Our new infantry units were poorly trained. For want of antitank weapons, we had to use Okinawan conscripts armed with bamboo spears. They were all destroyed in one day....It was frustrating to see our men being killed by a well-equipped enemy, while we had nothing left to fight with."There is no thought of surrendering, even when General Buckner asks them to - it was not the way of the Samurai. Yahara had a more nuanced view of such a proposal - he had spent time in the USA in the thirties, and knew the horror stories spread by high command about the treatment of prisoners by the Americans were not true. He expands somewhat on this in his text: "Indeed, it is a high ideal to fight to the end to maintain national morale. But were our leaders worth the sacrifice of an entire people? With the end of the war in sight, they shout at us: " Millions of people must die for our nation." Why? ...It was foolish to force everyone to die, simply because Japan had never before loast a war."At the time Yahara could not bring himself to espouse this view, and the battle raged on until nearly all the Japanese were dead. Yahara stayed on in the headquarters cave until his superiors committed Seppuku, and then got into civilian clothes and tried to escape. He caught up with a group of other civilians hiding in a cave, and helped them surrender to the Americans rather than get killed. He then tried to get to the north of the island to find a ship to Japan, but was betrayed by another Japanese soldier.The book has insertions from Frank Gibney, who was in Okinawa working for US Army intelligence. He sets the scene for readers of the book, and includes a transcript of Yahara's interrogation, which took place in August (on the day of the Hiroshima bombing), and focussed more on preparations for the invasion of Japan, which is fascinating in itself.While the first half of Yahara's book covers the poor preparation for the invasion of Okinawa - not enough munitions, the inability of the navy and air force to get troops to the island without being shot down or sunk - his idea to run a battle of attrition had a big effect on US strategy. The enormous losses suffered by the US on Okinawa, combined with the fact that the main islands of Japan only offered a few places to mount an invasion, led the Army to predict a million casualties from such a landing.Faced with this horrendous prediction, the new President, Truman, made the fateful decision to use the atomic bomb, which led to a quick surrender by the Japanese.A fascinating read, this book is one for aficionados.Check out my other reviews at http://aviewoverthebell.blogspot.com.au/
I have read a couple of books by American soldiers about the bloody battle for Okinawa in WWII that many suggest was the catalyst for dropping atomic bombs on Japan to prevent a contracted war of attrition in Japan after invasion. So it was an interesting to get the perspective of a high ranking Japanese officer who was leading the Japanese forces in the battle of Okinawa in The Battle For Okinawa (1995 originally written in Japanese in 1972) by Colonel Hiromichi Yahara with an introduction and commentary by Frank B. Gibney (a former WWII POW interrogator). In many ways the memoir is self-serving, Yahara has an agenda to set two things straight: 1) that he was not a coward for not killing himself and allowing himself to be captured and 2) that he was one of the few commanding officers who rejected the banzai attack offensives and wait for air power approach to save the day strategy. Furthermore, he was correct in thinking that Okinawa would probably be the next target rather than Taiwan as many of his peers thought. The defeat in that the the strategic defensive (attrition warfare) and all-out offensive (direct confrontation) plans constantly collided leaving them without a consistent war plan. Some other trends appear throughout the memoir, the utter disregard for the lives of Okinawans: "For want of antitank weapons, we had to use Okinawan conscripts armed with bamboo spears. They were destroyed in one day." Yahara didn't seem to lose much sleep over civilian causalities or deaths of comfort women and nurses that he witnessed. In fact he mentions that he had studied in America for two years and found the propaganda spread among the Okinawans about the brutal nature of their enemy would result in widespread rape, torture, and death. A policy that hey sometimes enforced with force. He knew it was absurd but did nothing to stop the spread of such nonsense. Here's a sample of the mentality of the high command, when the commanding General Cho wrote his last orders he added this postscript: "Do not suffer shame of being taken prisoner. You will live for eternity." Yahara saw the folly of such an order and muses about this concept and ask serious questions such as: must one hundred soldiers die because of this tradition of avoiding shame? He suggests that their leaders only seemed to care about preservation of their own status, prestige, and honor. All in all a fascinating account of one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific theater in WWII.
It was interesting to see the battle from the perspective of one of the few high ranking officers who survived. The insightful thoughts about how and why the Japanese fought a war of attrition, as opposed to a suicide charge was laid out for the reader. A great read for those looking to balance out what they know from most American leaning sources.
I see this as an essential book for someone who wants to know about the Battle of Okinawa, as it is one of the few books available that tells the story of the battle from the side if the Japanese. The edition with a few notes of commentary written by one of Col. Yahara's interregators is even more interesting, as it allows an instant look back and forth between what the Japanese saw and thought and what the Americans were doing in the other side if the Shuri Line. Yahara's progressive (for a Colonel in the Japanese military) viewpoint on things is very interesting, and he writes very beautifully. That being said, it is a lot of detail about troop movements and the like, so this would not be a good first introduction into the Battle. And what is it about WWII books with few or only very rudimentary maps? Strange.
Always interesting to read about a war from the other side, this one is written by the Japanese Operations Officer (equivalent to a J-3 or G-3 for the US). My only complaint is the lack of readable maps. This book could be much better simply by adding numerous maps to help the reader follow the various troop movements and locations of defensive positions. Several maps were included that were so badly printed and had such miniscule type that even with a magnifying glass I couldn't even make out what they were attempting to portray.
This book provides a fascinating insight into the Japanese mindset, however it is very sanitized and lacks the visceral horror that E B Sledge provides in his classic "With the old breed: at Peleliu and Okinawa", thus I only gave it 4 stars
A really intriguing account of the battle for Okinawa from the point of view of one of the main Japanese Army officers. Having just been to Okinawa and seeing some of the very locations mentioned in the book really made this come alive for me. I'll be reading more books on that crucial battle.
Great reviews on the book jacket raised my hopes, but in the end it is short on details, long on commentary, and too much Imperial Army back-stabbing decades after the war.
It provided a greater understanding by examining both sides