Just to remind you, this is Memorial Day weekend–do not be alarmed if you have forgotten that it’s a weekend, let alone that it’s Memorial Day. As Professor Wikipedia might tell you, Memorial Day was instituted to remember the Northern dead of the Civil War. It then in time became a memorial encompassing the Southern dead, and eventually the dead of other wars. In the modern American imagination, it’s increasingly hard to tell the difference between Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, especially since Memorial Day is now the beginning of summer and not at all a time of reverent memory for the fallen.
But given the purpose of Memorial Day, it seems an especially appropriate time to post this conversation about the Battle of Okinawa. If war is hell, then Okinawa is the name of one of Hell’s most infernal levels.
On April 1, 1945—not only April Fool’s Day that year but Easter Sunday as well—an invasion force of American and British ships landed an army of four United States Army divisions and three United States Marine Corps divisions on the island of Okinawa. These 180,000 men would fight to gain control of the island, the first of the Japanese islands to be invaded, until June 22. It was the bloodiest battle of the Pacific, a battle that in its cruelty and ferocity was akin to a battle on the Eastern Front or to the most vicious combat of the First World War.
With me to discuss the Battle of Okinawa and its effects is Saul David. He is Professor of Military History at the University of Buckingham; author of numerous works of history, as well as of fiction; and a broadcaster. His most recent book is Crucible of Hell, which is the subject of our conversation today, and which Amazon has designated as a “History Book of the Month” for May 2020.
- The story of the picture: Davis T. Hargraves and Gabriel Chavarria at Wana Ridge, 18 May, 1945
- The Final Campaign: Marines in the Victory on Okinawa
- Saul David on the Battle for Okinawa in the BBC History Magazine
Recent Books by Saul David:
- Operation Thunderbolt: Flight 139 and the Raid on Entebbe Airport
- The Force: The Legendary Special Ops Unit and WWII”s Mission Impossible
For more about Saul David and his work: