A rare eyewitness account of the final battle of the Pacific war, from the vantage point of the embattled Japanese generals: Yahara was senior staff officer of the 32nd Japanese Army on Okinawa. The author describes the ancient, highly emotional code of the samurai, Bushido (the Way of the Warrior), which ruled the Japanese military psyche. He argues that this mindset suppressed more rational thinking, culminating in ``honorable'' but self- destructive banzai charges when Japanese soldiers, cornered and faced with surrender or annihilation, chose the latter option. Yahara maintains bitter feelings against Japanese leaders who started the war in China to enhance their own prestige, power, and honor, sacrificing the lives of millions of Japanese soldiers in the process. He indicates that Imperial Headquarters in Japan also considered the lives of Japanese soldiers on Okinawa expendable. His description of the US naval and air bombardments is devastating, but his narrative of Japanese cave defenses illuminates the human side of the enemy: the respect and camaraderie of high-ranking Japanese officers during the long wait for the US attack and their eventual suicides. Yahara's account is deficient in some respects: For instance, it fails to record the ruthless exploitation of native Okinawans by the Japanese, who drafted them into the army for use in combat or as slave labor and lied to them about probable American cruelty if they were captured (Yahara admits that his own treatment as a prisoner of war was fair and even kindly). He is also silent about the Japanese army's forcing women into prostitution in the caves. Yahara did not do his duty to commit hara-kiri after defeat, thus making possible this fascinating, highly intelligent glance behind the Japanese lines.
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