A memoir of World War II’s last great battle by an officer who is now 99.
Shaw was a field artillery unit commander already bloodied by the 1944 invasion of the Philippines when his unit landed on Okinawa on April 1, 1945. The immense invasion, the most expansive amphibious assault of the Pacific War (1,500 Allied ships and 1.5 million soldiers), came ashore meeting no resistance, which was the result of deceiving the Japanese, according to the author. In fact, the Japanese had given up defending beaches—as they had abandoned mass banzai charges—because it didn’t work. They had deeply fortified part of the island and prepared to fight to the death. Moving inland, the troops encountered resistance after a few days, and here the narrative records nearly three months of brutal combat that killed more than 100,000 Japanese soldiers, 10,000 Americans, and far more Okinawan civilians. Shaw often scouted ahead of his battery, observing frontline infantry in action. His purported duty was to direct artillery fire, but readers expecting to learn the experiences of a WWII forward observer will discover that this is mostly a literary device. In the text, co-written by Wise, Shaw is the omniscient observer describing the murderous battles of his division down to company and platoon level across the island. The author also offers his eyewitness account of the suicides of the defeated Japanese generals and descriptions of regular trips to the rear to record deliberations of the senior commanders and chat with his men. The result is a docudrama with invented dialogue and action that must be at least partly fictionalized because it’s unlikely Shaw could have witnessed so much, not to mention remember it.
A vivid re-creation of a campaign so vicious that the soldiers involved rejoiced when they heard about Hiroshima.