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The Battle for Okinawa [Hardcover]

Hiromichi Yahara
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

18 Sep 1995
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 view of the Japanese command." ––Dallas Morning News

COLONEL HIROMICHI YAHARA was the senior staff officer of the 32nd Japanese Army at Okinawa.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 246 pages
  • Publisher: John Wiley & Sons (18 Sep 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471120413
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471120414
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 16 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,721,760 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

From the Back Cover

THE BATTLE FOR OKINAWA

The small island of Okinawa was the scene of the final, bloody showdown between the Japanese and American armies in the long and brutal war in the Pacific. The Japanese army, beleaguered and knowing that Okinawa was the Americans′ last stepping–stone to their homeland, dug in against the largest amphibious force of the Pacific campaign.

The Battle for Okinawa is a unique account of this critical engagement. Hiromichi Yahara was Senior Staff Officer of the 32nd Army and the highest–ranking Japanese officer to leave Okinawa alive. His personal record of the fateful conflict is a story that could be told by no one else, a gripping account of the battle and an eye–opening look inside the Japanese high command.

Yahara′s military perspective placed him at odds with many of his fellow officers. He had spent two years in America as an exchange officer, spoke some English, and did not share the romantic, samurai–influenced ideals of his superiors. He was a rational and practical strategist. From the outset, it was Yahara′s belief that the poorly supplied and outgunned Japanese were doomed to defeat at Okinawa. His plan was to abandon the aggressive, attack–oriented warfare the Japanese had typically engaged in for a defensive war of attrition, inflicting maximum casualties and buying the Imperial Army precious time to prepare for the defense of the mainland. Ignored at first, his strategy was eventually adopted after a disastrous counteroffensive left the Japanese too weak to pursue any alternative.

As Yahara predicted, the Americans were victorious, but at a great cost. The land was wooded and hilly, and the Japanese, entrenched in caves and dugouts that honeycombed the island, were almost impossible to dislodge despite the constant aerial and artillery bombardment unleashed upon them. For over three months they held on, spurning the chance to surrender and choosing to fight to the last man.

The terrible battle claimed the lives of more than 12,500 American soldiers and over ten times that many Japanese and Okinawans.

Yahara, the highest–ranking officer to escape death on the battlefield at Okinawa and not commit hara–kiri, was accused of dishonor and betrayal. He wrote this book twenty–seven years later to set the record straight. Editor and Japan expert Frank B. Gibney, an intelligence specialist attached to the 10th Army in Okinawa who interrogated Yahara following his capture, has written an introduction and commentary that provide both a historical context and a personal counterpoint to Yahara′s narrative.

Hiromichi Yahara′s account is the first available in English from the Japanese perspective. It is an extraordinary document.

"Powerful...poignant..."–The New York Times Book Review

Colonel Hiromichi Yahara was one of the best of the Imperial Army′s strategists. He had the classic staff officer′s cool, analytic approach to warfare. The "charge the foe"offensive tactics, which characterized most Japanese Army operations in the Pacific, were not his style. The ultimate test of his skill and vision was at Okinawa, in the last campaign of World War II.

Yahara′s remarkable memoir tells the story of the Imperial Army in the process of dissolution, of thousands of soldiers locked in the desperate attempt to escape or die fighting. Never before available in English, it movingly chronicles Yahara′s personal story of conflict between rational plans and emotional patriotism, and presents an illuminating window into the final anguish of the Japanese high command.

About the Author

COLONEL HIROMICHI YAHARA was the senior staff officer of the 32nd Japanese Army at Okinawa.

FRANK B. GIBNEY is President of the Pacific Basin Institute. He is a former correspondent, writer, and editor for Time, Newsweek, and Life, and the author of numerous books, including Japan: The Fragile Superpower and The Pacific Century.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars So So 5 Mar 1999
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This book is to say the least a slim volume. The text by Colonel Hiromichi Yahara is perhaps 180 pages of double spaced text. The book is padded out by 30 pages of after battle interrogation and some commentary and explanation by Frank Gibney.
The parts which are written by Yarhara are interesting but in no way could be called a history of the battle. They are more a memoir of his memories of it. His role was that of a staff officer. He spent most of the battle behind the lines in various command caves. The book is a description of his arguments with other officers about the proposed strategy for the defense of Okinawa. He believed in a slow defense of attrition. Other commanders advocated heroic but suicidal attacks.
In the end after the failure of a number of suicide attacks which compromised the ability of the Japanese garrison to fight a campaign of attrition Yahara was able to run things his way. The battle ended as it could only have done in a Japanese defeat. The cost for the American invaders was high. The success of Yahara's strategy was such that it probably contributed to the decision of the Americans to use nuclear weapons against Japan.
The book is interesting as it gives an insight into the Japanese command system but is in no way a history of the battle for Okinawa. Yahara had little idea of what was happening on the American side and no idea of the progress of Kamikaze raids on the American fleet. While interesting it is in no way a good introduction to the campaign for the general reader.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent assessment from the other side! 8 Sep 1998
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Having never had access to anything but the "western" accounts of the Battle for Okinawa, I found that Yahara presented a splendid account from the other side's point of view.
Chillingly accurate were his predictions and sadly detailed were the final events before the fall of the Japanese 32nd Army. Having spent more than 2 years in the United States, in the 1930's as an exchange officer, Colonel Yahara knew how the American military leaders thought and was privy to some of the strategies and general American military principles. Unfortunately for the Imperial Army, Yahara's expertise and gut hunches were mostly brushed aside and the Samurai mentality of offensive warfare prevailed.
Only after senior commanders, LtGen Ushijima and LtGen Cho realized that they were fighting a hopeless losing battle was Yahara finally given the reins - but it was too late. The 32nd Army had already lost too many troops and too much equipment. Imperial Headquarters in Tokyo, for reasons that are still arguable to this day, offered little more than pats on the back and lips service in the name of the mighty Empire.
Soon after Colonel Yahara was given authority to call the shots, it strikes me that his mission became two-fold: Hold off defeat for as long as possible in order to delay invasion of the homeland (mainland Japan) and, two, on a personal note, how to survive after the fall of Okinawa into American hands. He understood how foolish was the Japanese propaganda telling of how Japanese would be treated if they were taken prisoner.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A JAPANESE VIEW OF MASSIVE U.S. INVASION 30 Nov 1998
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
In this book, Col. Yahara is a senior staff office of the Japanese Army defending Okanawa, and he describes the invasion and assault by the overpowering American forces, as well as his strategy to prevent rapid defeat, which already was a given. This book is quite good, in that: 1) it presents the view of the beseiged Japanese; 2) it is fast moving and gripping; 3) and it presents many of those "little facts" that are missing in history books, such as: how was it in the caves, what did they eat, how did they escape, did they do stupid things, what did they think of the Americans, what was it like to be around so many dead Japanese bodies, what was it like to be captured, were there Japanese POW's and how did they react; did they help the American M.P.'s. - This book is quite good and easy to read, plus has plenty of historical detail and maps. (The maps are hard to read though...) But overall, the book has value to the reader of light material as well as to the student of the Pacific War. - NOTE: the first page of Yahara's account is spellbinding: the Japanese Army hiding in caves up in the mountains, with Yahara looking down and reflecting at the hundreds of gray American Navy ships offshore, and the Marines pouring ashore completely uncontested. It's almost like reading the glorious acceptance of death in Yahara's mind; a strong impression of an inevitable death sentence which the Japanese defenders accepted unhesitatingly and proudly.
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By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
While I enjoyed the book I cannot totally endorse it. If you are looking for a book that focuses on what the Japanese High Command on Okinawa was thinking and doing this is the book. What this book is not is a detailed description of the fighting from the Japanese infantry soldier's perspective.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent assessment from the other side! 8 Sep 1998
By Stephen Mcclary - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Having never had access to anything but the "western" accounts of the Battle for Okinawa, I found that Yahara presented a splendid account from the other side's point of view.
Chillingly accurate were his predictions and sadly detailed were the final events before the fall of the Japanese 32nd Army. Having spent more than 2 years in the United States, in the 1930's as an exchange officer, Colonel Yahara knew how the American military leaders thought and was privy to some of the strategies and general American military principles. Unfortunately for the Imperial Army, Yahara's expertise and gut hunches were mostly brushed aside and the Samurai mentality of offensive warfare prevailed.
Only after senior commanders, LtGen Ushijima and LtGen Cho realized that they were fighting a hopeless losing battle was Yahara finally given the reins - but it was too late. The 32nd Army had already lost too many troops and too much equipment. Imperial Headquarters in Tokyo, for reasons that are still arguable to this day, offered little more than pats on the back and lips service in the name of the mighty Empire.
Soon after Colonel Yahara was given authority to call the shots, it strikes me that his mission became two-fold: Hold off defeat for as long as possible in order to delay invasion of the homeland (mainland Japan) and, two, on a personal note, how to survive after the fall of Okinawa into American hands. He understood how foolish was the Japanese propaganda telling of how Japanese would be treated if they were taken prisoner.
I think that, in writing this book Colonel Yahara truly wanted to set the record straight but he had another motive - to relieve himself of the guilt and the condemnation of his peers that he felt as a result of surviving the campaign when his commanders had ended their fate in traditional seppuku - the taking of their own lives.
I also believe that Yahara saw the writing as a way to let the Japanese people know that he was loyal, intelligent and not a disgrace to his country.
It is interesting to note that the book was first publsihed and released in Japan in 1973. Not until the past decade have the school children of Japan been taught about the Okinawa Battle. Even the Okinawan children had long been deprived of our side of the story. The book should serve well to help the young Okinawans to understand why their land and their people were so clearly abused and wasted!
Well written and fairly well validated by editorial counter-point provided by Gibney. Any fan of the Pacific War owes it to himself to read this book!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A JAPANESE VIEW OF MASSIVE U.S. INVASION 30 Nov 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In this book, Col. Yahara is a senior staff office of the Japanese Army defending Okanawa, and he describes the invasion and assault by the overpowering American forces, as well as his strategy to prevent rapid defeat, which already was a given. This book is quite good, in that: 1) it presents the view of the beseiged Japanese; 2) it is fast moving and gripping; 3) and it presents many of those "little facts" that are missing in history books, such as: how was it in the caves, what did they eat, how did they escape, did they do stupid things, what did they think of the Americans, what was it like to be around so many dead Japanese bodies, what was it like to be captured, were there Japanese POW's and how did they react; did they help the American M.P.'s. - This book is quite good and easy to read, plus has plenty of historical detail and maps. (The maps are hard to read though...) But overall, the book has value to the reader of light material as well as to the student of the Pacific War. - NOTE: the first page of Yahara's account is spellbinding: the Japanese Army hiding in caves up in the mountains, with Yahara looking down and reflecting at the hundreds of gray American Navy ships offshore, and the Marines pouring ashore completely uncontested. It's almost like reading the glorious acceptance of death in Yahara's mind; a strong impression of an inevitable death sentence which the Japanese defenders accepted unhesitatingly and proudly.
14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars So So 5 Mar 1999
By Tom Munro - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is to say the least a slim volume. The text by Colonel Hiromichi Yahara is perhaps 180 pages of double spaced text. The book is padded out by 30 pages of after battle interrogation and some commentary and explanation by Frank Gibney.
The parts which are written by Yarhara are interesting but in no way could be called a history of the battle. They are more a memoir of his memories of it. His role was that of a staff officer. He spent most of the battle behind the lines in various command caves. The book is a description of his arguments with other officers about the proposed strategy for the defense of Okinawa. He believed in a slow defense of attrition. Other commanders advocated heroic but suicidal attacks.
In the end after the failure of a number of suicide attacks which compromised the ability of the Japanese garrison to fight a campaign of attrition Yahara was able to run things his way. The battle ended as it could only have done in a Japanese defeat. The cost for the American invaders was high. The success of Yahara's strategy was such that it probably contributed to the decision of the Americans to use nuclear weapons against Japan.
The book is interesting as it gives an insight into the Japanese command system but is in no way a history of the battle for Okinawa. Yahara had little idea of what was happening on the American side and no idea of the progress of Kamikaze raids on the American fleet. While interesting it is in no way a good introduction to the campaign for the general reader.
4.0 out of 5 stars A Rare WWII Perspective: A Key Surviving Japanese Officer's Account of the Battle 13 Nov 2013
By Bill Twain - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is historical. Written by the planner of the battle on the Japanese Imperial Army war planning staff; a highly credible source. The writing is at times stiff; likely due to the conceptual and structured way in which some of the original Japanese was written. The basic contents and flow of ideas is classic staff officer style and indicative of the mindset of the author and his generation of Japanese leaders. Well worth the read from an historical perspective.
5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars For those looking for combat detail, forget it. 4 Mar 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
While I enjoyed the book I cannot totally endorse it. If you are looking for a book that focuses on what the Japanese High Command on Okinawa was thinking and doing this is the book. What this book is not is a detailed description of the fighting from the Japanese infantry soldier's perspective.
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