cover image Bloody Okinawa: The Last Great Battle of World War II

Bloody Okinawa: The Last Great Battle of World War II

Joseph Wheelan. Da Capo, $30 (432p) ISBN 978-0-306-90322-9

Military historian Wheelan (Midnight in the Pacific) draws on U.S. and Japanese sources to deliver an encyclopedic chronicle of the April 1945 invasion of Okinawa. American forces seeking to establish a launching pad for the invasion of Japan made a “deceptively easy” beach landing, Wheelan writes, because Japanese commanders planned to mount their primary defense in the vicinity of Mount Shuri, where 10,000 soldiers occupied a network of caves and tunnels and the rocky terrain was “anathema to tanks.” Wheelan minutely details major battles, including Sugar Loaf Hill and Hacksaw Ridge, in the three-month campaign to take the island, and describes the rituals of kamikaze pilots, the use of native islanders as “human shields” by Japanese troops, and the high incidence of “battle fatigue” among U.S. soldiers and Marines. He cites death tolls of more than 100,000 Japanese troops, 120,000 civilians, and 12,000 Americans, and quotes U.S. Gen. George C. Marshall that the “‘bitter experience of Okinawa’” played a significant role in the decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Wheelan mines a wealth of source material to present a 360-degree view of the battle, and maintains a brisk pace. This exhaustive yet accessible account will appeal to WWII history buffs and general readers alike. [em](Mar.) [/em]