An Oral History: The Sixth Marine Division on Okinawa
252 pages. Two sections of black-and-white photos. Index, notes, and selected bibliography.
This book is an oral history, compiled from interviews with around 40 veterans of the Sixth Marine Division. This book is not so much a history of the Battle of Okinawa (although a brief history is provided), but a exploration of what veterans remember from that experience. Thus, it is often more about what war is like from an individual perspective, rather than the battle narratives found in other books.
The first chapter - 13 pages - provides a pocket history of the battle. The second chapter - five pages - discusses the value of veterans' memories to the historian.
From this point on, the book is primarily composed of brief quotes from the veterans, organized by chapter, with brief introductory material by the author:
- Their War Begins
- Covering enlistment and training.
- Love Day
- First day of Battle of Okinawa.
- War Becomes Real
- This long chapter (almost a third of the book) is divided into sub-sections covering the Okinawan civilians, perceptions of the Japanese soldiers, chaos of combat, the brutality of war, pests and pestilence, wounds, and combat fatigue.
- The Attractions of War
- Comradery in the Marines, rivalry with the Army, and heroes.
- The Bomb
- Reactions to news of the atomic bombing and the end of the war.
- Adjustments to life back in the States.
- War's Wisdom
- Advice to a younger generation of Marines.
- Sea Stories
- Assorted tales involving an organ, a guitar, and the discovery of a Japanese HQ bunker network.
Given the nature of this book, there is little here that the wargamer could turn into a scenario. On the other hand, there is a lot here to help gamers better appreciate the sacrifices made on Okinawa, and much material for the game designer to ponder.
ManellYou can see pictures in the papers... you see pictures at the movies or on television but they can't possibly... the maggots, the smell, the terrible stench... like a flame-thrower hits a person it smells like a lot of burnt hair. An ugly smell. Guys have been lying around in the sun for a couple weeks. These things you can't possibly get across...
The veterans have also been honest on the subject of brutality in war, including such topics as "dentists" (troops that collected teeth as souvenirs), taking prisoners, and dealing with Okinawan civilians intermixed with the Japanese in the bunkers and crossing the battle lines.
Terry F/2/29...That was the rainy night that I spent in that water-filled hole all alone. Water above my waist... no sleep that night at all. That was the night I saw a head pop up in front of me. I blew it away, and the next morning I found to my dismay it was a little boy with a surrender ticket in his hand. I have to tell you that has bothered me all my life, however, I know there is nothing I can do. Had I known that was a little boy, I would have pulled him into that shell hole with me and protected him. To have to live with that has been some little bit of hell.
Warning: This is not a book for younger readers. The veterans' recollections include descriptions of war-time violence, occasional brutality, and things not for the squeamish (such as one man's horrible experience recovering decaying bodies from the battlefield).
A very moving book. Recommended.
Reviewed by Editor in Chief Bill .