OKINAWA by Robert Leckie


The Last Battle of World War II
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 This sketchy account attempts to tell the US Marines' version of the story of the Battle of Okinawa. The highly strategic island of Okinawa (only 375 miles from the home islands of Japan) was the locus of a cataclysmic bloodletting of young Americans, Japanese, and Okinawans that, oddly enough, is still little known by the public. Leckie (From Sea to Shining Sea, 1993, etc.) writes of an awesome force of 1,600 US ships carrying 545,000 GIs and Marines with 12,000 aircraft that hit the island on April 1, 1945. He claims this force, in terms of troops, firepower, and tonnage, was larger than the more famous D- Day landing in Normandy. The author relates main incidents of the four-month battle in brief sketches enlivened by anecdotes about GIs, marines, and sailors, and glimpses of Japanese generals planning impregnable networks of caves and tactics designed to repel the American invaders. The campaign brought fierce Army- Marine rivalry to a head as Marine General H.M. ``Howlin' Mad'' Smith relieved the more deliberate Army General Ralph Smith of his command of the 27th Army Division. Leckie, a Marine veteran of WW II, has disinterred a story of the supposed poor performance of the 27th, and contrasts the Army division with the glorious ``gung-ho'' tactics of the Marines. Professional historians have long repudiated this self-serving Marine account and have concluded that the 27th was almost always understrength because its casualties were proportionally the highest in the campaign; indeed, its assigned terrain was much more difficult than that assigned the Marines. Marine General Smith was later reprimanded by an official military body because of his unfair treatment of the 27th, but Leckie omits this fact. Leckie's flawed account hardly does justice to this climactic Pacific battle that warned Allied strategists that an invasion of Japan could cause a bloodbath many times worse. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-670-84716-X
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1995


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