Bloody Okinawa

The Last Great Battle of World War II


By Joseph Wheelan

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A stirring narrative of World War II's final major battle—the Pacific war's largest, bloodiest, most savagely fought campaign—the last of its kind.

On Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945, more than 184,000 US troops began landing on the only Japanese home soil invaded during the Pacific war. Just 350 miles from mainland Japan, Okinawa was to serve as a forward base for Japan's invasion in the fall of 1945.

Nearly 140,000 Japanese and auxiliary soldiers fought with suicidal tenacity from hollowed-out, fortified hills and ridges. Under constant fire and in the rain and mud, the Americans battered the defenders with artillery, aerial bombing, naval gunfire, and every infantry tool. Waves of Japanese kamikaze and conventional warplanes sank 36 warships, damaged 368 others, and killed nearly 5,000 US seamen.

When the slugfest ended after 82 days, more than 125,000 enemy soldiers lay dead—along with 7,500 US ground troops. Tragically, more than 100,000 Okinawa civilians perished while trapped between the armies. The brutal campaign persuaded US leaders to drop the atomic bomb instead of invading Japan.

Utilizing accounts by US combatants and Japanese sources, author Joseph Wheelan endows this riveting story of the war's last great battle with a compelling human dimension.


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List of Maps

Okinawa Area

Okinawa Landing Beaches

First Shuri Defensive Line

Kakazu Pocket

Okinawa Radar Picket Stations

Motobu Peninsula

Ie Shima

Sugar Loaf Hill Area

Oroku Peninsula

Final Battle Line


The Enemy’s Doorstep

The chips are down. No holds barred. It’s your wits, your training, your strength, your courage against the tough, tricky, resourceful little yellow bastards who were responsible for Pearl Harbor. They asked for it. Let’s give it to them.


AFTER US FORCES CAPTURED SAIPAN, Tinian, and Guam in the Mariana Islands in mid-1944, the next objective became the Philippines, conquered by the Japanese in the spring of 1942. The Philippines were indispensable to Japan’s survival, commanding the sea routes over which rubber and petroleum flowed to Japan from Borneo and Sumatra, colonial subjects of Japan’s so-called Greater Asia Cooperation Sphere.

In October, with planning in the final phases for the invasion of Leyte in the Philippines by General Walter Krueger’s two-hundred-thousand-man Sixth Army, senior US military leaders were debating what would come next. Should American forces attack Luzon, the largest Philippine island and the seat of the capital, Manila—or invade Formosa?

General Douglas MacArthur, who had escaped from the Philippines in 1942 before it fell to the Japanese, pushed for Luzon. Admiral Ernest King, the chief of naval operations, favored Formosa. Weeks of debate culminated in the San Francisco Conference, September 29 to October 1, 1944, at the Navy’s Western Sea Frontier headquarters, attended by Admirals King, Chester Nimitz, and Raymond Spruance, and Army Generals Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr. and Millard Harmon. Nimitz, commander-in-chief of the Pacific Ocean Area Forces, endorsed Luzon, pointing out that nine divisions would be needed to invade Formosa—divisions that were unavailable until after the European war ended. Spruance, Harmon, and Buckner sided with Nimitz in preferring Luzon to Formosa, whose capture, Nimitz said, would come at a price of fifty thousand US casualties.

King argued that Formosa would make an ideal base for blockading Japan, but he later came around to Luzon, which would be quickly followed by two more operations—for a total of three campaigns in less than three months. After invading Luzon on December 20, Iwo Jima and Okinawa would follow, edging US forces ever nearer to Japan.

The Fifth Fleet would cover both of these campaigns, while the Seventh Fleet would support MacArthur in the Philippines.

Nimitz submitted a memorandum outlining the campaigns. It said that Iwo Jima, a volcanic speck in the Bonin Islands, would be assaulted first on January 20. Once the sulfurous volcanic island was captured, B-29s from Saipan could use it for emergency landings, and it would also serve as a base for their fighter escorts.

The memorandum said the third target would be Okinawa, 760 miles northwest of Iwo Jima in the Ryukyu or Nansei Shoto island chain, which dangled between southern Japan and Formosa like a necklace. Just 350 miles from Japan, Okinawa could be developed into the primary air and naval base for launching the invasion of Japan’s home islands, hosting 780 medium bombers and excellent fleet anchorages. Okinawa’s invasion date was tentatively scheduled for March 1, six weeks after the Iwo Jima landing.2

On October 2, Admiral King recommended to the Joint Chiefs of Staff the invasions of Luzon, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, and the chiefs the next day ordered the operations to proceed. Once detailed planning began, the timetables for the campaigns were pushed back two to four weeks: the invasion of Luzon to begin on January 9, Iwo Jima on February 19, and Okinawa on April 1, with the hope that the strong northerly winds and gales common in the Ryukyus between October and March would have subsided. Formosa was shelved for the time being.3

The Joint Chiefs of Staff still had to decide whether the Army, under General Douglas MacArthur, or the Navy, under Admiral Chester Nimitz, would command the US land forces that would invade Japan. Under the present Pacific theater command structure, it would probably be Nimitz, because MacArthur’s South West Pacific Area realm extended only to Luzon. The Army, however, proposed consolidating all Army units under one commander and suggested that a supreme commander be named for the entire Pacific. No decision was made.4

The United States, hard-pressed to support just twenty thousand marines on Guadalcanal in 1942, was now fully mobilized, and her millions of uniformed servicemen were racking up victory after victory over two powerful enemies two oceans apart. For the three Pacific campaigns approved in October by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, more than nine hundred thousand men would be committed—more than five hundred thousand for Okinawa alone.

In just three years, America had become a world-striding goliath wielding astonishing power.

JAPAN, UNSURE OF THE ALLIES’ intentions, had vacillated between preparing for landings on Formosa and Okinawa. The Japanese understood that the capture of either island would put American bombers within 350 miles of Kyushu; Okinawa lay that distance, too, from China and Formosa. Japanese strategists recognized that Okinawa would provide generous anchorages for the US Pacific Fleet, while Formosa lacked good ports. Formosa, however, would give the Allies an oceanic pathway to China.5

Okinawa’s two east-side bays—Nakagusuku Wan and, to its north, Kimmu Wan—had helped convince American senior officers to choose it over Formosa. Nakagusuku and Kimmu would make ideal advanced naval bases for the invasion of Japan; they were deepwater and partly protected by small islands and barrier reefs on the Pacific Ocean side of the island. The two bays lay across Okinawa’s midsection from its western Hagushi beaches, which were lapped by the East China Sea.6

Antoine-Henri Jomini, who was Marshal Ney’s chief of staff during the Napoleonic Wars and later a Russian general, wrote in his classic Art of War that when an army wishes to cross a large body of water, its commanders should deceive the enemy as to the landing place and prepare the way with artillery fire. Deception and heavy preparatory gunfire were pillars of the evolving Okinawa campaign: Operation Iceberg.7

AS THEY ANALYZED POTENTIAL BEACHHEADS, Operation Iceberg’s planners initially considered “Plan Baker,” consisting of two amphibious landings two days apart. This was a possibility only because Iceberg was flush with manpower, the first Central Pacific amphibious operation that would land an actual field army of more than one hundred eighty thousand assault troops in two corps. Plan Baker proposed putting ashore III Amphibious Corps—the 1st and 6th Marine Divisions—on Okinawa’s southeast coast, between Chinen Point and Minatoga.

Two days later, XXIV Corps, the Army’s 7th and 96th Divisions, would storm the Hagushi beaches. Then, after the Marines secured the high ground behind its landing beaches, they would march north to Yonabaru on Okinawa’s east coast, unite with XXIV Corps, and drive westward across the island.

Plan Baker was rejected because there were few good beaches on Okinawa’s southeastern coast, and nearby islands might interfere with naval gunfire support. Moreover, Japanese ground forces could mass on the high ground and prevent a union of the Marine and Army units.

But Iceberg planners decided that the southeastern Okinawa coast could fulfill another purpose, one that would have pleased the clever strategist Jomini: it would serve as a point of deception. Marines would approach the coast as if to land there, but would not go ashore.8

IN THE SPRING OF 1944, the US government began interviewing scholars and specialists about the history, culture, politics, and economics of the Ryukyu Islands, anticipating an invasion in the future. An eighty-year-old conchologist, Ditlev D. Thaanum, related what he knew about the Hagushi beaches, where he had collected shells before the war. An elderly colleague of Thaanum’s, Daniel Boone Langford, described the venomous habu snakes that inhabited Okinawa.* In November 1944, the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations published two volumes, Civil Affairs Handbook: Ryukyu (Loo Choo) Islands and The Okinawans of the Loo Choo Islands—a Japanese Minority Group.9

Okinawa, with about four hundred fifty thousand civilians, would be the most populous island to be invaded during the Pacific war by the Allies. About 65 miles long from north to south, its breadth ranged from 5 to 25 miles. The island’s population density was greatest in the south: 2,700 people per square mile, four times that of Rhode Island.

The island’s history and its people’s ancestry were unique. “Liuchiu” was an ancient Chinese name for the islands that include Okinawa, which became known as the “Great Lew Chew.” Some have speculated that the name “Ryukyu” stemmed from the Japanese inability to pronounce l’s. The chain of 140 islands—30 large enough to support people—arcs 790 miles between Kyushu and Formosa and forms a boundary between the East China Sea and the Pacific.10

Due to the “Japan current” flowing from the south, Okinawa is subtropical and humid, but its climate is more temperate than any other Pacific island invaded by the United States. It receives an average of 80 inches of rainfall annually. It is located in the middle of the so-called typhoon belt of the East China Sea; three to six typhoons a year directly impact Okinawa, generally between April and October.11

Okinawans are an admixture of Chinese, Malayan, Micronesian, and Ainu—the latter ancestry shared with the Japanese. Darker and smaller than the Japanese, Okinawans raised and largely subsisted on sweet potatoes—also distilled into alcohol—as well as sugarcane, barley, beets, and cabbage. Every acre of arable soil was cultivated on terraced hills.

With the exception of the cities of Naha, Shuri, Itoman, and Yonabaru, three-fourths of Okinawans lived in southern villages of one hundred to one thousand people for the most part, connected by single-track dirt roads and trails. A narrow-gauge railroad linked Naha in the west with Yonabaru on the east coast and other towns. Okinawans lived in frame houses with red-tiled roofs, or in thatched huts, each with a garden and stone wall.

The native religion was a synthesis of indigenous Okinawa religions and Shintoism, Taoism, and Buddhism. The islanders revered their ancestors, placing urns containing their bones in large, stone burial tombs built flush against the hillsides. The distinctive tombs, which faced in the general direction of China, were a signature architectural feature of Okinawa.

From 1187 to 1879, the year that Okinawa and the Ryukyus were annexed by Japan after Japan’s Meiji Restoration, the island was ruled by five monarchical dynasties. Throughout the Middle Ages, the monarchs paid tribute to China, the Okinawans’ primary cultural ancestor. To demonstrate fealty to China, Okinawa’s ancient castles at Shuri, Zachini, and Nakagusuku, like the hillside tombs, were all built facing west.

The island people spoke a dialect called “Luchuan,” and were stoical, easygoing people known for their courtesy, gentleness, and their strong rice brew, awamori. Racially distinct from the Japanese, Okinawans were regarded as second-class Japanese citizens.

This was no anomaly; the Japanese in fact looked down upon all other races, believing that their origin was divine and that they were preordained to rule the world. This belief rested on their conviction that Emperor Hirohito was the 124th descendent of the goddess Amaterasu, the mother of Japan’s first emperor, Jimmo Tenno, whose reign began in 660 BCE.

George Orwell, who wrote World War II broadcasts for the BBC, said the Japanese had for centuries espoused “a racial theory even more extreme than that of the Germans.” For reasons of racial superiority, said Orwell, Japanese soldiers believed that it was their prerogative to slap other Asians in conquered territories, and to similarly abuse Anglo war prisoners.

By the summer of 1945, Okinawans’ problems related to their inferior status would seem trivial compared to their dreadful privations and soaring death toll, which would surpass anything seen by other Pacific islanders during the war.12

TWENTY-SIX YEARS BEFORE JAPAN ANNEXED the Ryukyu Islands in 1879, Commodore Matthew Perry’s squadron, en route to Japan to make a historic trade agreement with the isolated feudal kingdom, sailed into Naha’s harbor. Okinawans presented gifts, which were spurned by the Americans.

With a Marine escort, Perry and his party went ashore on June 6, 1853, and paraded 4 miles from Naha to the royal palace at Shuri Castle, the ancient seat of the Ryukyu king. Perry rode in a sedan chair carried by natives as bands played and American cannons boomed in an emphatic display of US power that awed islanders.

Ryukyu royalty were absent when Perry’s party reached the palace. Perry demanded that the United States be permitted to establish a coaling station at Naha, so that commercial US steamships could refuel on their way to China and Japan. When the Okinawans politely demurred, Perry threatened to forcibly seize Shuri Castle. Reluctantly, the Okinawa officials gave in to Perry’s demand and consented to permit the coaling station; to supply wood and water at reasonable prices to all US vessels entering any Ryukyu harbor; and to rescue and care for any American shipwreck victims—also a provision in the Treaty of Kanagawa that Perry would sign with Japan on March 31, 1854, that opened two Japanese ports to US vessels.

Returning to Okinawa in July 1854, Perry and the Ryukyu prince regent signed “A Compact between the United States and the Kingdom of Lewchew,” which strongly favored US interests. After being ratified by the US Senate in 1855, the Ryukyu compact was quickly forgotten. For the next ninety years, there was little or no contact between Okinawa and the United States.13

FOR THREE HUNDRED YEARS, JAPAN’S Meiji emperor had been a figurehead under the Tokugawa Shogunate. But Perry’s visit in 1853–54 kindled aspirations among progressive Japanese to break out of the straitjacket of tradition and acquire Western technology. The result was the Meiji Restoration of 1868, which returned to the emperor the ancient authority wielded for centuries by the feudal shoguns.

Both China and Japan coveted the Ryukyus—Japan’s Meiji regime for expansionist reasons, China to deny Japan use of them as stepping-stones to Korea. Relations soured between the two countries, and war threatened. In 1875, Japan invaded the Ryukyus and ordered the kingdom to break off all trade with China. Hostilities appeared to be imminent.

In 1879, former US president Ulysses S. Grant arrived in Peking during his hugely publicized around-the-world tour. Fearing that China and Okinawa officials would persuade Grant to intervene in the dispute over the Ryukyus, Japan declared the Ryukyus to be a Japanese prefecture and deposed Okinawa’s Shuri monarch. Japanese troops occupied the Shuri palace.

The last Okinawa king was exiled to Tokyo, where he was given the title of marquis. In 1894–1895, Japan defeated China in the First Sino-Japanese War and acquired Formosa. The Shuri palace, its grounds, and the mansions of Shuri noblemen—many of whom had fled to China—succumbed to disrepair and neglect.

The Japanese settled into their new role as Okinawa’s overlord. New civil administrators were sent to Okinawa for training before being moved elsewhere in Japan. Unhappy with their new status as a subject people in their own country and having to bow to Japanese soldiers, thousands of Okinawans immigrated to Hawaii.14

ALLIED AIR ATTACKS ON OKINAWA began in October 1944, days after military strategists elected to invade Iwo Jima and Okinawa instead of Formosa. Early on October 10, seventeen carriers and escort carriers, five battleships, fourteen cruisers, and fifty-eight destroyers from Admiral Marc Mitscher’s Fast Carrier Task Force arrived off Okinawa with over one thousand warplanes. Shortly after dawn, waves of carrier planes roared over the island. The first attack hit the airfields at Yontan, Kadena, Ie Shima, and Naha, destroying about eighty aircraft on the ground and cratering the runways; a score of other Japanese planes was shot out of the sky. Subsequent attacks targeted Naha’s harbor and munitions with bombs, rockets, machine guns, and torpedoes.

A total of 1,356 strikes were carried out on October 10, and more than 500 tons of bombs fell. The last sorties plastered Naha with incendiary bombs, destroying nearly 90 percent of the capital city of sixty-five thousand. Sunk were twenty cargo ships, a destroyer, a minesweeper, and scores of smaller vessels. Naha warehouses filled with millions of rounds of ammunition and three hundred thousand sacks of rice went up in flames. An estimated six hundred soldiers and civilians were killed, and another nine hundred were wounded.

“They were flying so low I could see the pilots’ faces,” said Horikawa Kyoyu, a student at Shuri. A Japanese soldier in a sea-raiding unit presciently noted in his journal, “The enemy is brazenly planning to destroy completely every last ship, cut our supply lines, and attack us.”15

In November, Army intelligence men in B-29s photographed Okinawa for the first time. More aerial photo missions followed in January, February, and March. Mitscher’s carrier task force carried out raids on Okinawa during the months preceding landing day. After one of them, a Japanese superior private wrote, “What kind of bastards are they? Bomb from 0600 to 1800!”16

ADMIRAL RAYMOND SPRUANCE, THE CENTRAL Pacific Task Force commander, was nicknamed “the electric brain” early in his career because of his grasp of electricity. But the epithet later referred to his quick, calm decision-making in times of crisis, such as his leadership during the battles of Midway and the Philippine Sea. But Spruance also had the misfortune of being a sailor prone to seasickness in heavy seas. The vulnerability had dogged him since his midshipman days, when the Naval Academy newspaper The Lucky Bag reported that Spruance was “a faithful supporter of the lee rail on all summer cruises.”

The admiral issued his operations plan for the Okinawa invasion on January 3; Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner, the Joint Expeditionary Force commander, released his on February 9; and on March 5, Admiral Chester Nimitz, commander-in-chief of the Pacific Ocean Area Forces, and his operations officer Admiral Forrest Sherman presented their Iceberg plan to the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington. The chiefs accepted the plan and agreed on a timetable for invading Japan.17

Nimitz, who undoubtedly had one of the world’s most stressful jobs, during the Guadalcanal campaign developed a tremor that his doctor said was due to nervous tension. His doctor suggested that the admiral, who had grown up in the Texas hill country hunting and fishing, take up target shooting. Nimitz set up a pistol range outside his Pearl Harbor office and practiced with a .45 automatic that had been modified to fire .22-caliber ammunition. He would balance a half-dollar on the barrel and slowly squeeze off rounds without the coin falling off. The doctor’s prescription calmed the Pacific Ocean naval commander, and the tremor vanished, but Nimitz continued to target-practice.18

In February, Nimitz proceeded with the invasion of Iwo Jima, an 8-square-mile volcanic island midway between Saipan and Japan. More than seventy thousand Marines from the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Divisions and soldiers from the Army’s 147th Regiment went ashore beginning February 19. About twenty-two thousand Japanese resisted furiously from caves and bunkers, and from inside hills honeycombed with tunnels.

The flag-raising atop 556-foot Mount Suribachi depicted in the iconic Associated Press photograph February 23 marked the completion of only the first phase of one of the bloodiest battles in Marine Corps history. The island was finally secured March 26, after 6,821 Americans had been killed in action.

As at Peleliu, no banzai attacks were made on Iwo Jima, and the initial landings met minimal opposition. General Holland Smith, the operation’s ground commander, was puzzled that “every man, every cook, baker, and candlestick maker” had not attacked the Americans on the beaches. But the Japanese were following a new strategy, first tested on Peleliu: fighting from well-prepared defenses instead of attacking the invaders at the water’s edge. Later during the Iwo Jima battle, Smith conceded, “I don’t know who he is, but the Jap general running the show is one smart bastard.”19

FIGHTING STILL RAGED ON IWO JIMA in mid-March, when seven Army and Marine divisions held rehearsals for Operation Iceberg on beaches from Guadalcanal to Leyte Gulf, and from Espiritu Santo to Saipan. The multitude of locales reflected the enormity and complexity of the Okinawa offensive, which pulled together infantry divisions, logistical assets, warships, and air squadrons from all over the Pacific.

In the Philippines, XXIV Corps commander General John Hodge and Tenth Army commander General Simon Bolivar Buckner watched the practice landings of the 7th and 96th Divisions, which had recently helped capture Leyte. Hodge lent Buckner Volume 2 of Douglas Southall Freeman’s Lee’s Lieutenants, and Buckner gave Hodge a quart of scotch.20

Also in March, the British Pacific Fleet joined hands with the Fifth Fleet. President Franklin Roosevelt, British prime minister Winston Churchill, and the Combined Chiefs of Staff had agreed at the Octagon Conference in Quebec in September 1944 that the British Fleet would participate in operations against Japan in 1945. The British Fleet, designated as Task Force 57 for Iceberg, would protect the “left flank” against threats from Formosa and the Sakishima Islands, while Admiral Mitscher’s TF-58 cruised east of Okinawa. TF-57 consisted of 4 aircraft carriers, 2 battleships, 5 cruisers, and 15 destroyers.

The British carriers carried fewer planes than American carriers, their guns did not track targets automatically, and their computers could not process information quickly. Their chief advantage was their 3-inch-thick steel flight decks, which absorbed kamikaze crashes better than American carriers’ wooden flight decks. Wooden flight decks were lighter weight and enabled the flattops to carry more planes, but were easier for kamikazes and bombs to penetrate.21

Amid these preparations for Operation Iceberg, America’s XXI Bomber Command shocked Tokyo with a massive B-29 raid during the night of March 9–10; it was without precedent in the Pacific war.

SAIPAN’S CONQUEST BY US FORCES in July 1944 marked a tectonic shift in the Pacific war. Perceptive Japanese leaders believed Saipan’s loss and the capture of Guam and Tinian, also in the Mariana Islands, assured Japan’s doom. It meant that long-range B-29s could now bomb the homeland, and that it was just a matter of time before there would be an Allied invasion of Japan, resulting in an Asian Götterdämmerung.

Prince Naruhiko Higashikuni, commander of Japan’s Home Defense Headquarters, confided to aides after Saipan’s fall, “If we cannot stop the B-29s from coming over Japan, we can do nothing. We have nothing in Japan that we can use against such a weapon.” Indeed, in March 1945 the consequences so dreaded by Japan began unfolding in a rain of incendiary bombs.22

At dusk on March 9, 334 B-29s from the XXI Bomber Command rose from the airstrips on Saipan, Tinian, and Guam for the 1,500-mile flight to Tokyo, a densely populated city of more than 4 million people. Each plane carried 184 napalm and incendiary bombs—2,000 tons in all, or ten times what the Luftwaffe dropped on London on December 29–30, 1940, during the so-called Second Great Fire of London. The B-29s’ cargo was designed to cause maximum damage and casualties: 8,519 incendiary bomb clusters would break apart and release 496,000 bomb cylinders.23

Tokyo was a tinderbox of wood-and-paper houses built inches apart that covered 200 square miles. Kerosene lamps and electricity flowing through low-hanging power lines provided lighting and heating. Meals were cooked over charcoal or natural gas that entered the homes in shallowly buried pipes. Had Tokyo been constructed for the express purpose of exploding in flames it could not have been more combustible than it was in March 1945.

Amid the residences were concrete office buildings and cinder-block factories—as well as the Ueno Park Zoo. In 1943, the city public park director had ordered the destruction of the zoo’s lions, bears, leopards, snakes, and other potentially dangerous animals as a precaution against an Allied bombing that might unleash them on the populace. Tokyo’s vulnerability to fire had been amply demonstrated in September 1923 when the 9.0-intensity Great Kantō earthquake ignited firestorms that killed nearly 100,000 people.24

This was not the first B-29 raid on the Japanese capital—there had been others beginning in November 1944—but the earlier sorties were “precision” bombing missions from 30,000 feet. While antiaircraft guns and Japanese fighters were usually unable to bring down Superfortresses flying at that high altitude, the bombers usually failed to hit their targets too. The light damage inflicted by those air strikes lulled the Japanese into a false complacency.

After an ineffective raid on March 4, General Curtis LeMay, commander of the XXI Bomber Command, announced a radical change of tactics. Bombers would henceforth strike at night from 5,000 to 8,000 feet, thereby improving accuracy, while admittedly risking higher casualties from ground fire. The bombers would carry fewer crewmen and no machine guns, so that more bombs could be loaded. Although the bombing missions would still target war industries, a secondary objective was to also sow terror in the populace.25

Code named Operation Meetinghouse, the March 9–10 raid was aimed at a 10-square-mile mixed industrial-residential area between the Sumida and Ara Rivers, where war munitions were produced and where 400,000 people lived.


  • "In Bloody Okinawa Joseph Wheelan presents us with a rich narrative tapestry of the final great battle of World War II. To cite Wheelan himself, his book's 'scenes of nearly indescribable carnage' mixed with his insightful knowledge of military history are as breathtaking as they are unforgettable. This book belongs not only on the shelves of readers World War II non-fiction, but in the library of anyone interested in the horror, bravery, and compassion that total war brings out in American fighting men."—BobDrury and Tom Clavin, bestselling authors of The Last Stand of Fox Company, Halsey's Typhoon, and The Heart of Everything That Is
  • "Bloody Okinawa puts the reader in the heart one of the war's largest battles through the eyes of the soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen who experienced the fighting firsthand. Wheelan also captures the perspective of the civilians and Japanese. Storming Japanese pill boxes and relentless kamikaze attacks punctuate a narrative that places the reader in the vortex of this enormous struggle. Gripping and harrowing, the book brings to life the battle so savage that it influenced America's decision to drop the atomic bomb."—PatrickK. O'Donnell, award-winning and bestselling author of The Unknowns: The Untold Story of American's Unknown Soldier and WWI'sMost Decorated Heroes Who Brought Him Home
  • "Wheelan mines a wealth of source material to present a 360-degree view of the battle, and maintains a brisk pace.... Exhaustive yet accessible"—Publishers Weekly
  • "A fine history of an iconic battle... Wheelan delivers excellent analyses and anecdotes and biographies of individuals from both sides."—Kirkus Reviews
  • "Wheelan's book Bloody Okinawa describes [the battle], and its subtitle--"The Last Great Battle of World War II"--is deserved."—New York Daily News
  • "Whelan does a deft job of blending ground and naval actions with the Japanese accounts of the battle, writing a gripping and timely account."—New York Journal of Books

On Sale
Apr 20, 2021
Page Count
432 pages
Hachette Books

Joseph Wheelan

About the Author

Joseph Wheelan is the author of nine previous books, including the highly-acclaimed books Terrible Swift Sword and Midnight in the Pacific. Before turning to writing books full time, Wheelan was a reporter and editor for The Associated Press for twenty-four years. He lives in Cary, North Carolina.

Learn more about this author