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.
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.