Ruínas do Castelo de Shuri, Okinawa

Ruínas do Castelo de Shuri, Okinawa


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Ruínas do Castelo de Shuri, Okinawa

Aqui, vemos dois fuzileiros navais americanos abrindo caminho pelas ruínas do Castelo de Shuri em Okinawa. Foi destruído durante os combates em Okinawa, mas reconstruído durante a década de 1990.


Investigadores inspecionam castelo em ruínas de Okinawa por causa do incêndio

TÓQUIO - Investigadores de bombeiros e policiais inspecionaram as ruínas incendiadas do Castelo de Shuri em Okinawa na sexta-feira para determinar a causa do incêndio que quase destruiu o símbolo do patrimônio cultural da ilha japonesa e sua história de luta.

O incêndio de quinta-feira queimou os três corredores principais e quatro estruturas próximas no castelo na capital da província de Okinawa, Naha. Os bombeiros demoraram 11 horas para extinguir o incêndio.

Mais de 130 investigadores inspecionaram o local na sexta-feira, de acordo com autoridades locais. Eles acreditam que o incêndio começou dentro do Seiden, a peça central do castelo, por volta das 2h30, quando não havia ninguém por perto.

A hora tardia e o desenho do castelo, com um espaçoso salão principal de madeira conectado a outros prédios principais por corredores, podem ter permitido que o fogo se espalhasse rapidamente.

O Castelo de Shuri é um Patrimônio Mundial da UNESCO que data da era do Reino Ryukyu de 1429-1879. O castelo, incendiado durante a Segunda Guerra Mundial, foi amplamente restaurado em 1992 para o 20º aniversário da reversão de Okinawa ao Japão, que encerrou a ocupação americana de 27 anos da ilha. Historiadores e outros especialistas continuaram os esforços de restauração até recentemente.

Muitos okinawanos expressaram profunda tristeza pelos danos ao castelo, que é um símbolo de suas raízes culturais e também da história de sua luta desde a anexação de 1879 pelo Japão.

O governador de Okinawa, Denny Tamaki, disse que seu coração estava partido, mas expressou sua determinação em reconstruir o castelo. Tamaki, que interrompeu uma viagem à Coreia do Sul e retornou a Naha na quinta-feira, estava em Tóquio na sexta-feira se reunindo com autoridades do governo central para buscar seu apoio.

O secretário-chefe de gabinete, Yoshihide Suga, expressou sua solidariedade aos okinawanos, acrescentando que o governo está disposto a fazer tudo o que puder para ajudar na reconstrução do castelo.

Os investigadores estavam se concentrando nas ruínas do salão Seiden. Vídeo na televisão pública NHK, tirado de um helicóptero, mostrou dezenas de oficiais em uniformes e capacetes brancos vasculhando entulhos carbonizados, colocando pedaços em baldes para exames adicionais.

O destino de centenas de artes e ofícios históricos de Ryukyu também era incerto. Os bombeiros disseram acreditar que os tesouros exibidos no castelo eram, em sua maioria, réplicas de originais mantidos em segurança em outro lugar, mas estavam tentando confirmar seu paradeiro.

A Fundação Okinawa Churashima, que supervisionou o castelo, disse que não pode confirmar imediatamente o status de uma coleção de artefatos históricos mantidos no castelo. Segundo a agência, mais de 1.500 itens, incluindo pergaminhos de caligrafia, laca e pinturas, foram armazenados lá, e cerca de 400 deles podem estar em prédios que pegaram fogo, informou o Kyodo News. Ele disse que a maioria dos itens foram armazenados em armazéns resistentes ao calor no castelo e podem ter sido salvos, mas suas condições não puderam ser examinadas imediatamente devido às altas temperaturas.

O castelo tinha hidrantes, alarmes, extintores portáteis e água fora dos edifícios. Mas não havia sprinklers instalados dentro dos prédios, disse o oficial do corpo de bombeiros de Naha, Ryo Kotani.

O incêndio foi detectado quando um segurança ouviu um alarme, disse Kotani. O incêndio envolveu o salão e se espalhou para estruturas próximas quando os bombeiros chegaram cerca de 20 minutos depois.

Esta história corrige a grafia do nome da organização que supervisiona o castelo de Churashima em vez de Churashma.


Em 31 de outubro de 2019, um grande incêndio atingiu o Castelo de Shuri, Patrimônio Mundial da UNESCO, em Okinawa, gerando uma reação global e comparações com o incêndio devastador em Notre Dame, outro local do Patrimônio Mundial. O New York Times e outros meios de comunicação informaram que as autoridades japonesas expressaram alarme e preocupação sobre a vulnerabilidade de locais domésticos como o Castelo de Shuri após o incêndio em Paris em abril de 2019. Nos últimos anos, ameaças a sítios do Patrimônio Mundial decorrentes de conflitos, desenvolvimento, e as mudanças ambientais receberam ampla cobertura e respostas imediatas de todo o mundo. Essas respostas também foram controversas, como no caso de Notre Dame, com a atenção da mídia global e o apoio de celebridades para a arrecadação de fundos em contraste com a percepção da falta de cobertura para desastres humanitários ocorrendo em outros lugares. Outra controvérsia diz respeito ao próprio local, pois os comentaristas apontaram que grande parte da aparência de Notre Dame foi resultado de adições modernas do arquiteto Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc no século XIX, ao invés de ser um patrimônio “medieval”.

Imagem: O Salão Principal do Castelo de Shuri antes do incêndio. Foto cedida por Wikimedia Commons

No Japão, a destruição do Castelo de Shuri levanta questões semelhantes, mas também gera debates muito mais complexos. Felizmente, como Notre Dame, o incêndio no Castelo de Shuri não resultou em nenhuma vítima. Como Notre Dame, a resposta imediata foi que o local seria reconstruído. Além disso, embora as manchetes internacionais se concentrassem no "local do patrimônio mundial de 500 anos" e no "complexo do Castelo de Shuri de 600 anos", eles também mencionaram que o castelo foi essencialmente reconstruído em 1992 antes de ser declarado Patrimônio Mundial em 2000 O foco da cobertura geralmente tem sido o papel do Castelo de Shuri como o símbolo do antigo Reino Ryukyu, que conquistou e governou várias partes das Ilhas Ryukyu, a partir do século XV. O Castelo de Shuri é um local importante para muitos okinawanos, e mais de dez milhões de dólares para a reconstrução foram arrecadados no primeiro mês após o incêndio.

Depois que Shuri assumiu o controle das ilhas vizinhas, foi por sua vez conquistado pelas forças japonesas, que efetivamente controlaram o Reino de Ryukyu desde o início do século XVII e formalmente o incorporaram como Prefeitura de Okinawa em 1879. Shuri, portanto, também tinha uma relação difícil e ambivalente com o Japão como com várias ilhas que compunham o reino. A identidade de Okinawa agora simbolizada por Shuri, possivelmente formada a partir do final do século XIX como uma resposta aos esforços do Japão para integrar as ilhas. Os habitantes de Okinawa costumavam ser vítimas de discriminação, uma tendência que culminou na Batalha de Okinawa em 1945. Centenas de milhares de okinawanos foram mortos no conflito, inclusive nas mãos de tropas japonesas que impunham uma política de “suicídio em massa obrigatório”.

Fuzileiros navais dos EUA hasteando a bandeira no topo das ruínas do Castelo de Shuri após a Batalha de Okinawa. Imagem cortesia de Wikimedia Commons

Com Okinawa em ruínas, o Japão se rendeu antes que os Aliados avançassem para as principais ilhas japonesas. Após a guerra, Okinawa permaneceu ocupada pelos Estados Unidos até 1971, levando a mais ressentimentos entre os okinawanos de que estavam sendo sacrificados por Tóquio. Mesmo após a reversão de Okinawa para o Japão, os Estados Unidos mantiveram uma presença militar exagerada nas ilhas. Embora Okinawa ocupe menos de 1 por cento do território do Japão, abriga cerca de metade dos 54.000 soldados americanos estacionados no Japão. Isso resultou em grandes tensões entre os habitantes de Okinawa e os militares dos EUA, já que soldados e civis vivem nas proximidades. Acidentes, crimes e agressões sexuais por americanos contra okinawanos são questões proeminentes e contribuem para um senso generalizado de vitimização em Okinawa, uma vez que carregam um fardo excessivo da presença militar dos EUA em relação ao resto do Japão.

Nesta situação complexa, o Castelo de Shuri é um local altamente significativo. Para muitos okinawanos, a reconstrução do castelo e seu reconhecimento pela UNESCO foram grandes fontes de orgulho de seu patrimônio. Ao mesmo tempo, esse processo apagou muito da história problemática do Castelo de Shuri e de Okinawa como um todo. No final do século XIX, como dezenas de outros castelos em todo o Japão, o Castelo de Shuri tornou-se um local militar. O castelo foi posteriormente transformado em um santuário na década de 1920 como parte de um esforço para preservar os edifícios decadentes. Assim como os castelos no continente, no entanto, o Exército Imperial Japonês retomou o Castelo de Shuri, transformando-o em seu bunker de quartel-general. Como resultado, Shuri se tornou um dos principais locais da Batalha de Okinawa e foi quase completamente destruída em maio de 1945.

Como outros castelos, o Castelo de Shuri foi desmilitarizado após a guerra, e a transição para uma nova era foi simbolizada pelo estabelecimento da Universidade Ryukyu nas ruínas do castelo em 1950. Muitos outros castelos no Japão foram transformados de forma semelhante de locais militares em locais de cultura e educação, hospedando universidades, museus, parques e instalações esportivas.

Como em outras partes do Japão, o desejo de apagar o passado militar moderno e recuperar a herança pré-imperial era forte em Okinawa, e na década de 1980 foi acordado remover a Universidade Ryukyu para outro local e reconstruir o Castelo Shuri original usando técnicas tradicionais e materiais. O foco no Castelo de Shuri foi colocado diretamente em sua herança Ryukyuan mais antiga, antes da turbulência do período moderno. A mensagem do castelo foi resumida pelo Shureimon & # 8211 o portão da cortesia que aparece na nota de 2.000 ienes. A herança Ryukyuan foi apresentada como pacífica, encobrindo a longa história do domínio de Shuri sobre outras ilhas de Okinawa (afinal, Shuri era um castelo fortemente fortificado). As cicatrizes de batalha da Segunda Guerra Mundial também foram amplamente apagadas junto com a universidade.

Universidade Ryukyu no Castelo de Shuri na década de 1960. Imagem cortesia de Wikimedia Commons

A reconstrução de Shuri foi concluída em 1992, mesmo ano em que o castelo mais famoso do Japão, o Castelo de Himeji, se tornou um dos dois primeiros locais do Patrimônio Mundial da UNESCO do país. O Castelo de Himeji também serviu como uma importante base militar até 1945, e esse legado também foi amplamente apagado, pois a história pública do local se concentra quase inteiramente no período pré-moderno. Outra antiga base militar, o Castelo de Hiroshima, também removeu a maioria dos vestígios do exército moderno, e seu foco é uma reconstrução em concreto da torre de menagem do castelo que foi destruída pela bomba atômica.

Castelo de Himeji no início de 2018. O grande campo aberto abaixo da torre de menagem continha quartéis do Exército Imperial Japonês até o final da Segunda Guerra Mundial. Foto do autor.

As questões de autenticidade discutidas no caso de Notre Dame também são importantes no caso dos castelos japoneses, mas são agravadas pela história moderna carregada desses locais muito proeminentes. A grande torre de menagem do Castelo de Nagoya, a maior do Japão antes de ser destruída pelas bombas americanas, foi reconstruída com concreto no final da década de 1950, e essa estrutura está sendo demolida para dar lugar a uma reconstrução "autêntica" de madeira a ser concluída até 2022 a um custo de mais de 500 milhões de dólares americanos. Ao mesmo tempo, sua história moderna foi em grande parte apagada, já que o Castelo de Nagoya também serviu como uma importante guarnição até 1945. O mesmo é verdade para o Palácio Imperial de Tóquio, que foi o local central das cerimônias de sucessão imperial que marcaram o início do período Reiwa em maio de 2019. O legado do local como o Castelo Imperial e guarnição da Guarda Imperial durante a Segunda Guerra Mundial está em grande parte obscurecido. O Castelo de Osaka, outra antiga base militar, renovou sua popular fortaleza de concreto no final da década de 1990, e o primeiro-ministro Abe Shinzo foi severamente criticado por zombar da presença de elevadores no castelo durante a Cúpula do G20 em junho de 2019. Essa controvérsia reflete tensões entre autenticidade e acessibilidades que também estão surgindo em Nagoya.

O concreto do Castelo de Nagoya mantém em janeiro de 2018, pouco antes de ser fechado para reconstrução em madeira. Foto do autor.

Imagem: O concreto do Castelo de Nagoya mantém em janeiro de 2018, pouco antes de ser fechado para reconstrução em madeira. Foto do autor.

O importante papel simbólico dos castelos pode ser visto em Kumamoto, outro antigo local de guarnição com uma torre de menagem de concreto da década de 1950 e poucas evidências de seu passado militar. Quando a região foi atingida por grandes terremotos em 2016, grande parte do foco do público estava no castelo, com imagens de drones da torre danificada transmitidas para todo o mundo. Pelo menos 50 pessoas morreram e milhares ficaram feridas, mas o castelo se tornou a imagem mais reconhecível do desastre e sua reconstrução simboliza os esforços de Kumamoto para se recuperar. O recente incêndio do Castelo de Shuri trouxe lembranças da Notre Dame no exterior, mas no Japão também trouxe lembranças de imagens da destruição do Castelo de Shuri, do Castelo de Nagoya e de outros importantes patrimônios históricos durante a guerra.

Os ciclos de destruição e reconstrução do Castelo de Shuri devem ser vistos no contexto de desenvolvimentos mais amplos relativos aos castelos no Japão moderno, que discutimos em nosso livro recente, Castelos do Japão: Citadelas da Modernidade na Guerra e na Paz. À medida que as atenções se voltam para a reconstrução das estruturas perdidas em outubro de 2019, velhas e novas controvérsias sobre o local podem vir à tona. As preocupações com a autenticidade podem ser deixadas de lado por debates maiores sobre as questões humanitárias, políticas e simbólicas que cercam a turbulenta e trágica história moderna do Castelo de Shuri.

Castelos do Japão: Citadelas da Modernidade na Guerra e Paz, de Oleg Benesch e Ran Zwigenberg


Conteúdo

Edição Aliada

Ao todo, o Exército dos EUA tinha mais de 103.000 soldados (destes, mais de 38.000 eram artilharia não divisional, apoio de combate e tropas de QG, com mais 9.000 tropas de serviço), [22]: 39 mais de 88.000 fuzileiros navais e 18.000 membros da Marinha (principalmente Seabees e pessoal médico). [22]: 40 No início da Batalha de Okinawa, o 10º Exército dos EUA tinha 182.821 militares sob seu comando. [22]: 40 Foi planejado que o tenente-general Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr. se reportaria ao vice-almirante Richmond K. Turner até que a fase anfíbia fosse concluída, após o que ele se reportaria diretamente ao almirante Raymond A. Spruance. O total de aeronaves da Marinha americana, da Marinha e da Força Aérea do Exército ultrapassou 3.000 ao longo da batalha, incluindo caças, aeronaves de ataque, aviões de reconhecimento, bombardeiros e bombardeiros de mergulho. A invasão foi apoiada por uma frota composta por 18 navios de guerra, 27 cruzadores, 177 contratorpedeiros / escoltas de contratorpedeiros, 39 porta-aviões (11 porta-aviões, 6 porta-aviões leves e 22 porta-aviões de escolta) e vários navios de apoio e transporte de tropas. [23]

O contingente naval britânico acompanhou 251 aeronaves navais britânicas e incluiu uma frota da Commonwealth britânica com navios e pessoal australiano, neozelandês e canadense. [24]

Edição Japonesa

A campanha terrestre japonesa (principalmente defensiva) foi conduzida pelo 32º Exército regular (77.000 de acordo com algumas fontes) e cerca de 9.000 soldados da Marinha Imperial Japonesa (IJN) na Base Naval de Oroku (apenas algumas centenas dos quais haviam sido treinados e equipado para combate terrestre), apoiado por 39.000 pessoas convocadas para Ryukyuan locais (incluindo 24.000 milícias de retaguarda convocadas às pressas Boeitai e 15.000 trabalhadores não uniformizados). Os japoneses usaram Kamikaze táticas desde a Batalha do Golfo de Leyte, mas pela primeira vez, eles se tornaram uma parte importante da defesa. Entre o desembarque americano em 1º de abril e 25 de maio, sete grandes Kamikaze ataques foram tentados, envolvendo mais de 1.500 aviões.

O 32º Exército consistia inicialmente nas 9ª, 24ª e 62ª Divisões e na 44ª Brigada Mista Independente. A 9ª Divisão foi transferida para Taiwan antes da invasão, resultando no embaralhamento dos planos defensivos japoneses. A resistência primária seria liderada no sul pelo tenente-general Mitsuru Ushijima, seu chefe de gabinete, tenente-general Isamu Chō e seu chefe de operações, o coronel Hiromichi Yahara. Yahara defendeu uma estratégia defensiva, enquanto Chō defendeu uma ofensiva.

No norte, o coronel Takehido Udo estava no comando. As tropas do IJN eram lideradas pelo Contra-Almirante Minoru Ōta. Eles esperavam que os americanos desembarcassem de 6 a 10 divisões contra a guarnição japonesa de duas divisões e meia. O estado-maior calculou que a qualidade e o número de armas superiores davam a cada divisão dos Estados Unidos cinco ou seis vezes o poder de fogo de uma divisão japonesa. A isso, se somaria o abundante poder de fogo naval e aéreo dos americanos.

Soldados japoneses chegando em Okinawa

Garotas japonesas do ensino médio se despedem de um Kamikaze piloto partindo para Okinawa

Um diagrama militar dos EUA de túneis e instalações defensivas em colinas japonesas típicas

Uma arma japonesa Tipo 89 150 mm escondida dentro de um sistema defensivo de caverna

Um mapa dos campos de aviação de Okinawa, 1945

Uso militar de crianças Editar

Em Okinawa, os meninos do ensino médio foram organizados no serviço de linha de frente Tekketsu Kinnōtai, enquanto os alunos Himeyuri foram organizados em uma unidade de enfermagem. [21]

O Exército Imperial Japonês mobilizou 1.780 meninos do ensino médio com idades entre 14 e 17 anos para o serviço na linha de frente. Eles foram nomeados Tekketsu Kinnōtai (ja: 鉄 血 勤 皇 隊, "Corpo Imperial de Ferro e Sangue"). Essa mobilização foi realizada por portaria do Ministério do Exército, não por lei. As ordenanças mobilizaram os alunos como soldados voluntários pelo bem da forma. Na realidade, as autoridades militares ordenaram que as escolas obrigassem quase todos os alunos a "se apresentarem" como soldados, às vezes falsificavam os documentos necessários. Cerca de metade do Tekketsu Kinnōtai foram mortos, inclusive em ataques suicidas contra tanques e em operações de guerrilha.

Entre as 21 escolas secundárias masculinas e femininas que compunham esse corpo estudantil, 2.000 alunos morreriam no campo de batalha. Mesmo com as alunas atuando principalmente como enfermeiras para os soldados japoneses, elas ainda estariam expostas às duras condições da guerra. [25]

Vice-almirante C.R. Brown, Marinha dos EUA [26]: 711

A Força Tarefa 58 da Marinha dos Estados Unidos, desdobrada para o leste de Okinawa com um grupo de piquetes de 6 a 8 contratorpedeiros, manteve 13 porta-aviões (7 CVs e 6 CVLs) em serviço de 23 de março a 27 de abril e um número menor depois disso. Até 27 de abril, um mínimo de 14 e até 18 transportadores de escolta (CVEs) estiveram na área em todos os momentos. Até 20 de abril, a Força-Tarefa Britânica 57, com 4 grandes e 6 porta-aviões de escolta, permaneceu fora das Ilhas Sakishima para proteger o flanco sul. [12]: 97

A duração prolongada da campanha sob condições estressantes forçou o almirante Chester W. Nimitz a dar um passo sem precedentes de aliviar os principais comandantes navais para descansar e se recuperar. Seguindo a prática de mudar a designação da frota com a mudança de comandantes, as forças navais dos EUA começaram a campanha como a 5ª Frota dos EUA sob o almirante Raymond Spruance, mas a encerraram como a 3ª Frota sob o almirante William Halsey.

A oposição aérea japonesa tinha sido relativamente leve durante os primeiros dias após os pousos. No entanto, em 6 de abril, a esperada reação aérea começou com um ataque de 400 aviões de Kyushu. Ataques aéreos pesados ​​periódicos continuaram durante abril. Durante o período de 26 de março a 30 de abril, vinte navios americanos foram afundados e 157 danificados pela ação inimiga. Por sua vez, em 30 de abril, os japoneses haviam perdido mais de 1.100 aviões apenas para as forças navais aliadas. [12]: 102

Entre 6 de abril e 22 de junho, os japoneses voaram 1.465 Kamikaze aeronaves em ataques em grande escala de Kyushu, 185 indivíduos Kamikaze surtidas de Kyushu, e 250 indivíduos Kamikaze surtidas de Formosa. Enquanto a inteligência dos EUA estimava que havia 89 aviões em Formosa, os japoneses na verdade tinham cerca de 700, desmontados ou bem camuflados e dispersos em aldeias e cidades espalhadas pela Quinta Força Aérea dos EUA contestou as reivindicações da Marinha. Kamikaze vindo de Formosa. [27] [ esclarecimento necessário ]

Os navios perdidos eram embarcações menores, principalmente os contratorpedeiros dos piquetes de radar, bem como as escoltas de contratorpedeiros e navios de desembarque. Embora nenhum navio de guerra aliado importante tenha sido perdido, vários porta-aviões foram severamente danificados. Barcos a motor suicidas da classe Shin'yō baseados em terra também foram usados ​​nos ataques suicidas japoneses, embora o Ushijima tenha dissolvido a maioria dos batalhões de barcos suicidas antes da batalha devido à esperada baixa eficácia contra um inimigo superior. As tripulações dos barcos foram reformadas em três batalhões de infantaria adicionais. [28]

O super encouraçado Yamato explode após ataques persistentes de aeronaves dos EUA.

Porta-aviões americano USS Bunker Hill queima após ser atingido por dois Kamikaze aviões em 30 segundos.

Edição da Operação Ten-Go

Operação Ten-Go (Ten-gō sakusen) foi a tentativa de ataque por uma força de ataque de 10 navios de superfície japoneses, liderados por Yamato e comandado pelo almirante Seiichi Itō. Essa pequena força-tarefa recebeu ordens de lutar por meio das forças navais inimigas e, em seguida, encalhar Yamato e lutar da costa, usando suas armas como artilharia costeira e sua tripulação como infantaria naval. o Ten-Go A força foi detectada por submarinos logo depois de deixar as águas domésticas japonesas e foi interceptada por porta-aviões dos EUA.

Sob ataque de mais de 300 aeronaves em um período de duas horas, o maior navio de guerra do mundo naufragou em 7 de abril de 1945, após uma batalha unilateral, muito antes de chegar a Okinawa. (Os torpedeiros norte-americanos foram instruídos a mirar apenas em um lado para evitar uma contra-inundação eficaz pela tripulação do navio de guerra e mirar na proa ou na popa, onde a armadura era considerada a mais fina.) Yamato a força de blindagem, o cruzador leve Yahagi e 4 dos 8 destruidores também foram afundados. A Marinha Imperial Japonesa perdeu cerca de 3.700 marinheiros, incluindo o almirante Itō, ao custo de 10 aeronaves americanas e 12 aviadores.

Editar Frota Britânica do Pacífico

A Frota Britânica do Pacífico, participando como Força Tarefa 57, foi incumbida da tarefa de neutralizar os aeródromos japoneses nas Ilhas Sakishima, o que fez com sucesso de 26 de março a 10 de abril.

Em 10 de abril, sua atenção foi transferida para os campos de aviação no norte de Formosa. A força retirou-se para a baía de San Pedro em 23 de abril.

Em 1o de maio, a Frota Britânica do Pacífico voltou à ação, subjugando os campos de aviação como antes, desta vez com bombardeios navais e também com aeronaves. Diversos Kamikaze os ataques causaram danos significativos, mas como os porta-aviões da Marinha Real tinham decks de voo blindados, eles experimentaram apenas uma breve interrupção nas operações de suas forças. [29] [30]

Avengers, Seafires e Fireflies da Frota da Marinha Real no HMS Implacável aqueça seus motores antes de decolar.

HMS Formidável em chamas depois de um Kamikaze ataque em 4 de maio. O navio ficou fora de ação por cinquenta minutos.

A batalha terrestre durou cerca de 81 dias, começando em 1º de abril de 1945. Os primeiros americanos em terra foram soldados da 77ª Divisão de Infantaria, que desembarcaram nas ilhas Kerama, 15 mi (24 km) a oeste de Okinawa em 26 de março. Seguiram-se os desembarques subsidiários e o grupo Kerama foi assegurado durante os cinco dias seguintes. Nessas operações preliminares, a 77ª Divisão de Infantaria sofreu 27 mortos e 81 feridos, enquanto os japoneses mortos e capturados somaram mais de 650. A operação forneceu um ancoradouro protegido para a frota e eliminou a ameaça de barcos suicidas. [12]: 50-60

Em 31 de março, os fuzileiros navais do Batalhão de Reconhecimento Anfíbio desembarcaram sem oposição em Keise Shima, quatro ilhotas a apenas 13 km a oeste da capital de Okinawa, Naha. Um grupo de peças de artilharia "Long Tom" de 155 mm (6,1 pol.) Desembarcou nas ilhotas para cobrir as operações em Okinawa. [12]: 57

Edição do norte de Okinawa

O desembarque principal foi feito pelo XXIV Corpo de exército e o III Corpo de Anfíbios nas praias de Hagushi, na costa oeste de Okinawa, no Dia L, 1º de abril. A 2ª Divisão da Marinha conduziu uma demonstração nas praias de Minatoga, na costa sudeste, para enganar os japoneses sobre as intenções americanas e atrasar o movimento das reservas de lá. [12]: 68-74

O 10º Exército varreu a parte centro-sul da ilha com relativa facilidade, capturando as bases aéreas de Kadena e Yomitan horas após o pouso. [15]: 67–9 [12]: 74–5 À luz da fraca oposição, o General Buckner decidiu prosseguir imediatamente com a Fase II de seu plano, a tomada do norte de Okinawa. A 6ª Divisão de Fuzileiros Navais encabeçou o Istmo Ishikawa e, em 7 de abril, isolou a Península de Motobu. [12]: 138-41

Seis dias depois, em 13 de abril, o 2º Batalhão, 22º Regimento de Fuzileiros Navais, alcançou o Ponto Hedo (Hedo-misaki) no extremo norte da ilha. Neste ponto, a maior parte das forças japonesas no norte (codinome Udo Force) foram encurralados na Península de Motobu. Aqui, o terreno era montanhoso e arborizado, com as defesas japonesas concentradas em Yae-Dake, uma massa retorcida de cristas rochosas e ravinas no centro da península. Houve combates pesados ​​antes que os fuzileiros navais finalmente liberassem Yae-Dake em 18 de abril. [12]: 141–8 No entanto, este não foi o fim do combate terrestre no norte de Okinawa. Em 24 de maio, os japoneses montaram a Operação Gi-gou: uma empresa de Giretsu Kuteitai comandos foram levados de helicóptero em um ataque suicida em Yomitan. Eles destruíram 70.000 galões americanos (260.000 l) de combustível e nove aviões antes de serem mortos pelos defensores, que perderam dois homens.

Enquanto isso, a 77ª Divisão de Infantaria atacou a Ilha Ie (Ie Shima), uma pequena ilha na extremidade oeste da península, em 16 de abril. Além dos perigos convencionais, a 77ª Divisão de Infantaria encontrou Kamikaze ataques e até mulheres locais armadas com lanças. Houve combates intensos antes que a área fosse declarada segura em 21 de abril e se tornasse outra base aérea para operações contra o Japão. [12]: 149-83

Edição do sul de Okinawa

Enquanto a 6ª Divisão de Fuzileiros Navais limpava o norte de Okinawa, as 96ª e 7ª Divisões de Infantaria do Exército dos EUA giraram para o sul ao longo da estreita cintura de Okinawa. A 96ª Divisão de Infantaria começou a encontrar resistência feroz no centro-oeste de Okinawa de tropas japonesas que mantinham posições fortificadas a leste da Rodovia No. 1 e cerca de 8 km a noroeste de Shuri, do que veio a ser conhecido como Cactus Ridge. [12]: 104–5 A 7ª Divisão de Infantaria encontrou oposição japonesa igualmente feroz de um pináculo rochoso localizado a cerca de 1.000 jardas (910 m) a sudoeste de Arakachi (mais tarde apelidado de "O Pináculo"). Na noite de 8 de abril, as tropas americanas limparam essas e várias outras posições fortemente fortificadas. Eles sofreram mais de 1.500 baixas em batalha no processo, enquanto matavam ou capturavam cerca de 4.500 japoneses. No entanto, a batalha havia apenas começado, pois agora se percebeu que "esses eram apenas postos avançados", guardando a Linha Shuri. [12]: 105-8

Enquanto o ataque americano contra Kakazu Ridge empacava, o Tenente General Ushijima - influenciado pelo General Chō - decidiu tomar a ofensiva. Na noite de 12 de abril, o 32º Exército atacou as posições americanas em toda a frente. O ataque japonês foi pesado, sustentado e bem organizado. Após feroz combate corpo a corpo, os atacantes recuaram, apenas para repetir a ofensiva na noite seguinte. Um ataque final em 14 de abril foi novamente repelido. O esforço levou o estado-maior do 32º Exército a concluir que os americanos eram vulneráveis ​​às táticas de infiltração noturna, mas que seu poder de fogo superior tornava qualquer concentração de tropas japonesas ofensiva extremamente perigosa, e eles voltaram à estratégia defensiva. [12]: 130-7

A 27ª Divisão de Infantaria, que havia pousado em 9 de abril, assumiu à direita, ao longo da costa oeste de Okinawa. O general John R. Hodge agora tinha três divisões na linha, com a 96ª no meio e a 7ª a leste, com cada divisão segurando uma frente de apenas cerca de 2,4 km. Hodge lançou uma nova ofensiva em 19 de abril com uma enxurrada de 324 armas, a maior já ocorrida no Pacific Ocean Theatre. Encouraçados, cruzadores e contratorpedeiros juntaram-se ao bombardeio, seguido por 650 aviões da Marinha e dos Fuzileiros Navais que atacaram as posições japonesas com napalm, foguetes, bombas e metralhadoras. As defesas japonesas estavam localizadas em encostas reversas, onde os defensores esperavam a barragem de artilharia e o ataque aéreo em relativa segurança, emergindo das cavernas para chover projéteis de morteiros e granadas sobre os americanos avançando encosta adiante. [12]: 184-94

Um ataque de tanque para alcançar o avanço flanqueando a crista Kakazu falhou em se conectar com seu apoio de infantaria na tentativa de cruzar a crista e, portanto, falhou com a perda de 22 tanques. Embora os tanques de fogo tenham eliminado muitas defesas da caverna, não houve nenhum avanço e o XXIV Corpo de exército sofreu 720 baixas. As perdas poderiam ter sido maiores, exceto pelo fato de que os japoneses tinham praticamente todas as suas reservas de infantaria amarradas mais ao sul, mantidas lá por outra finta nas praias de Minatoga pela 2ª Divisão de Fuzileiros Navais que coincidiu com o ataque. [12]: 196–207

No final de abril, depois que as forças do Exército avançaram pela linha defensiva de Machinato, [31] a 1ª Divisão de Fuzileiros Navais substituiu a 27ª Divisão de Infantaria e a 77ª Divisão de Infantaria substituiu a 96ª. Quando a 6ª Divisão de Fuzileiros Navais chegou, o III Corpo de Anfíbios assumiu o flanco direito e o 10º Exército assumiu o controle da batalha. [12]: 265

Em 4 de maio, o 32º Exército lançou outra contra-ofensiva. Desta vez, Ushijima tentou fazer ataques anfíbios nas costas atrás das linhas americanas. Para apoiar sua ofensiva, a artilharia japonesa avançou para o campo aberto. Ao fazer isso, eles foram capazes de disparar 13.000 tiros de apoio, mas o fogo de contra-bateria americano eficaz destruiu dezenas de peças de artilharia japonesa. O ataque falhou. [12]: 283–302

No final de maio, as chuvas de monções que transformaram colinas e estradas contestadas em um pântano exacerbaram as situações táticas e médicas. O avanço terrestre começou a se assemelhar a um campo de batalha da Primeira Guerra Mundial, à medida que as tropas ficavam atoladas na lama e as estradas inundadas inibiam enormemente a evacuação de feridos para a retaguarda. As tropas viviam em um campo encharcado pela chuva, parte lixão e parte cemitério. Corpos de japoneses e americanos insepultos apodreceram, afundaram na lama e tornaram-se parte de um ensopado nocivo. Qualquer um que deslize pelas encostas gordurosas pode facilmente encontrar seus bolsos cheios de vermes no final da jornada. [32] [12]: 364-70

De 24 a 27 de maio, a 6ª Divisão de Fuzileiros Navais ocupou cautelosamente as ruínas de Naha, a maior cidade da ilha, encontrando-a em grande parte deserta. [12]: 372-7

Em 26 de maio, observadores aéreos viram grandes movimentos de tropas logo abaixo de Shuri. Em 28 de maio, patrulhas da Marinha encontraram posições recentemente abandonadas a oeste de Shuri. Em 30 de maio, o consenso entre a inteligência do Exército e da Marinha era que a maioria das forças japonesas havia se retirado da Linha Shuri. [12]: 391–2 Em 29 de maio, o 1º Batalhão, 5º Fuzileiros Navais ocuparam terreno elevado a 700 jardas (640 m) a leste do Castelo de Shuri e relataram que o castelo parecia indefeso. Às 10:15 da Companhia A, 1/5 dos fuzileiros navais ocuparam o castelo [12]: 395-6

O Castelo de Shuri foi bombardeado pelo encouraçado USS Mississippi por três dias antes desse avanço. [33] Devido a isso, o 32º Exército retirou-se para o sul e, portanto, os fuzileiros navais tiveram uma tarefa fácil de proteger o Castelo de Shuri. [33] [34] The castle, however, was outside the 1st Marine Division's assigned zone and only frantic efforts by the commander and staff of the 77th Infantry Division prevented an American airstrike and artillery bombardment which would have resulted in many casualties due to friendly fire. [12] : 396

The Japanese retreat, although harassed by artillery fire, was conducted with great skill at night and aided by the monsoon storms. The 32nd Army was able to move nearly 30,000 personnel into its last defense line on the Kiyan Peninsula, which ultimately led to the greatest slaughter on Okinawa in the latter stages of the battle, including the deaths of thousands of civilians. In addition, there were 9,000 IJN troops supported by 1,100 militia, with approximately 4,000 holed up at the underground headquarters on the hillside overlooking the Okinawa Naval Base in the Oroku Peninsula, east of the airfield. [12] : 392–4

On 4 June, elements of the 6th Marine Division launched an amphibious assault on the peninsula. The 4,000 Japanese sailors, including Admiral Ōta, all committed suicide within the hand-built tunnels of the underground naval headquarters on 13 June. [12] : 427–34

By 17 June, the remnants of Ushijima's shattered 32nd Army were pushed into a small pocket in the far south of the island to the southeast of Itoman. [12] : 455–61

On 18 June, General Buckner was killed by Japanese artillery fire while monitoring the progress of his troops from a forward observation post. Buckner was replaced by Major general Roy Geiger. Upon assuming command, Geiger became the only US Marine to command a numbered army of the US Army in combat he was relieved five days later by General Joseph Stilwell. On 19 June, General Claudius Miller Easley, the commander of the 96th Infantry Division, was killed by Japanese machine-gun fire, also while checking on the progress of his troops at the front. [12] : 461

The last remnants of Japanese resistance ended on 21 June, although some Japanese continued hiding, including the future governor of Okinawa Prefecture, Masahide Ōta. [35] Ushijima and Chō committed suicide by seppuku in their command headquarters on Hill 89 in the closing hours of the battle. [12] : 468–71 Colonel Yahara had asked Ushijima for permission to commit suicide, but the general refused his request, saying: "If you die there will be no one left who knows the truth about the battle of Okinawa. Bear the temporary shame but endure it. This is an order from your army Commander." [26] : 723 Yahara was the most senior officer to have survived the battle on the island, and he later authored a book titled The Battle for Okinawa. On 22 June Tenth Army held a flag-arising ceremony to mark the end of organized resistance on Okinawa. On 23 June a mopping-up operation commenced, which concluded on 30 June. [12] : 471–3

On 15 August 1945, Admiral Matome Ugaki was killed while part of a kamikaze raid on Iheyajima island. The official surrender ceremony was held on 7 September, near the Kadena airfield.

Okinawa was the bloodiest battle of the Pacific War. [36] [37] The most complete tally of deaths during the battle is at the Cornerstone of Peace monument at the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum, which identifies the names of each individual who died at Okinawa in World War II. As of 2010, the monument lists 240,931 names, including 149,193 Okinawan civilians, 77,166 Imperial Japanese soldiers, 14,009 American soldiers, and smaller numbers of people from South Korea (365), the United Kingdom (82), North Korea (82) and Taiwan (34). [6]

The numbers correspond to recorded deaths during the Battle of Okinawa from the time of the American landings in the Kerama Islands on 26 March 1945, to the signing of the Japanese surrender on 2 September 1945, in addition to all Okinawan casualties in the Pacific War in the 15 years from the Manchurian Incident, along with those who died in Okinawa from war-related events in the year before the battle and the year after the surrender. [38] 234,183 names were inscribed by the time of unveiling and new names are added each year. [39] [40] [41] 40,000 of the Okinawan civilians killed had been drafted or impressed by the Japanese army and are often counted as combat deaths.

Military losses Edit

American Edit

The Americans suffered over 75,000 – 82,000 casualties, including non-battle casualties (psychiatric, injuries, illnesses), of whom over 20,195 were dead (12,500 were killed in action, 7,700 died of wounds or non-combat deaths). Killed in action were 4,907 Navy, 4,675 Army, and 2,938 Marine Corps personnel. [9] The several thousand personnel who died indirectly (from wounds and other causes) at a later date are not included in the total.

The most famous American casualty was Lieutenant General Buckner, whose decision to attack the Japanese defenses head-on, although extremely costly in American lives, was ultimately successful. Four days from the closing of the campaign, Buckner was killed by Japanese artillery fire, which blew lethal slivers of coral into his body, while inspecting his troops at the front line. He was the highest-ranking US officer to be killed by enemy fire during the Second World War. The day after Buckner was killed, Brigadier General Easley was killed by Japanese machine gunfire. The famous war correspondent Ernie Pyle was also killed by Japanese machine-gun fire on Ie Shima, a small island just off of northwestern Okinawa. [42]

Aircraft losses over the three-month period were 768 US planes, including those bombing the Kyushu airfields launching Kamikazes. Combat losses were 458, and the other 310 were operational accidents. At sea, 368 Allied ships—including 120 amphibious craft—were damaged while another 36—including 15 amphibious ships and 12 destroyers—were sunk during the Okinawa campaign. The US Navy's dead exceeded its wounded, with 4,907 killed and 4,874 wounded, primarily from Kamikaze ataques. [43]

American personnel casualties included thousands of cases of mental breakdown. According to the account of the battle presented in Marine Corps Gazette:

More mental health issues arose from the Battle of Okinawa than any other battle in the Pacific during World War II. The constant bombardment from artillery and mortars coupled with the high casualty rates led to a great deal of personnel coming down with combat fatigue. Additionally, the rains caused mud that prevented tanks from moving and tracks from pulling out the dead, forcing Marines (who pride themselves on burying their dead in a proper and honorable manner) to leave their comrades where they lay. This, coupled with thousands of bodies both friend and foe littering the entire island, created a scent you could nearly taste. Morale was dangerously low by May and the state of discipline on a moral basis had a new low barometer for acceptable behavior. The ruthless atrocities by the Japanese throughout the war had already brought on an altered behavior (deemed so by traditional standards) by many Americans resulting in the desecration of Japanese remains, but the Japanese tactic of using the Okinawan people as human shields brought about a new aspect of terror and torment to the psychological capacity of the Americans. [13]

Medal of Honor recipients from Okinawa are:

    – 13 April – 16 April – 2 May – 14–15 May – 31 May – 14–17 May – 29 April – 21 May – 7 May – 2 May – 15 April – 10 May – 7 May – 14 May – 4 May – 8 June – 19–21 April – 10–11 June – 7 June – 19 June – 9 April – 15–16 May – 28 April – 7 May – 11 May

Japanese losses Edit

The US military estimates that 110,071 Japanese soldiers were killed during the battle. This total includes conscripted Okinawan civilians.

A total of 7,401 Japanese regulars and 3,400 Okinawan conscripts surrendered or were captured during the battle. Additional Japanese and renegade Okinawans were captured or surrendered over the next few months, bringing the total to 16,346. [12] : 489 This was the first battle in the Pacific War in which thousands of Japanese soldiers surrendered or were captured. Many of the prisoners were native Okinawans who had been pressed into service shortly before the battle and were less imbued with the Imperial Japanese Army's no-surrender doctrine. [21] When the American forces occupied the island, many Japanese soldiers put on Okinawan clothing to avoid capture, and some Okinawans would come to the Americans' aid by offering to identify these mainland Japanese.

The Japanese lost 16 combat vessels, including the super battleship Yamato. Early claims of Japanese aircraft losses put the total at 7,800, [12] : 474 however later examination of Japanese records revealed that Japanese aircraft losses at Okinawa were far below often-repeated US estimates for the campaign. [14] The number of conventional and kamikaze aircraft actually lost or expended by the 3rd, 5th, and 10th Air Fleets, combined with about 500 lost or expended by the Imperial Army at Okinawa, was roughly 1,430. [14] The Allies destroyed 27 Japanese tanks and 743 artillery pieces (including mortars, anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns), some of them eliminated by the naval and air bombardments but most knocked out by American counter-battery fire.

Civilian losses, suicides, and atrocities Edit

Some of the other islands that saw major battles in World War II, such as Iwo Jima, were uninhabited or had been evacuated. Okinawa, by contrast, had a large indigenous civilian population US Army records from the planning phase of the operation make the assumption that Okinawa was home to about 300,000 civilians. According to various estimates, between a tenth and a third of them died during the battle, [32] or between 30,000 and 100,000 people. The official US Tenth Army count for the 82-day campaign is a total of 142,058 recovered enemy bodies (including those civilians pressed into service by the Imperial Japanese Army), with the deduction made that about 42,000 were non-uniformed civilians who had been killed in the crossfire. Okinawa Prefecture's estimate is over 100,000 losses, [44]

During the battle, American forces found it difficult to distinguish civilians from soldiers. It became common for them to shoot at Okinawan houses, as one infantryman wrote:

There was some return fire from a few of the houses, but the others were probably occupied by civilians – and we didn't care. It was a terrible thing not to distinguish between the enemy and women and children. Americans always had great compassion, especially for children. Now we fired indiscriminately. [45]

In its history of the war, the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum [44] presents Okinawa as being caught between Japan and the United States. During the 1945 battle, the Imperial Japanese Army showed indifference to Okinawans' safety, and its soldiers even used civilians as human shields or just outright murdered them. The Japanese military also confiscated food from the Okinawans and executed those who hid it, leading to mass starvation, and forced civilians out of their shelters. Japanese soldiers also killed about 1,000 people who spoke in the Okinawan language to suppress spying. [46] The museum writes that "some were blown apart by [artillery] shells, some finding themselves in a hopeless situation were driven to suicide, some died of starvation, some succumbed to malaria, while others fell victim to the retreating Japanese troops." [44]

With the impending Japanese defeat, civilians often committed mass suicide, urged on by the Japanese soldiers who told locals that victorious American soldiers would go on a rampage of killing and raping. Ryūkyū Shimpō, one of the two major Okinawan newspapers, wrote in 2007: "There are many Okinawans who have testified that the Japanese Army directed them to commit suicide. There are also people who have testified that they were handed grenades by Japanese soldiers" to blow themselves up. [47] Thousands of civilians, having been induced by Japanese propaganda to believe that American soldiers were barbarians who committed horrible atrocities, killed their families and themselves to avoid capture at the hands of the Americans. Some of them threw themselves and their family members from the southern cliffs where the Peace Museum now resides. [48] Okinawans "were often surprised at the comparatively humane treatment they received from the American enemy". [49] [50] Islands of Discontent: Okinawan Responses to Japanese and American Power by Mark Selden alleges that the Americans "did not pursue a policy of torture, rape, and murder of civilians as Japanese military officials had warned". [51] American Military Intelligence Corps [52] combat translators such as Teruto Tsubota managed to convince many civilians not to kill themselves. [53] Survivors of the mass suicides blamed also the indoctrination of their education system of the time, in which the Okinawans were taught to become "more Japanese than the Japanese", and were expected to prove it. [54]

Witnesses and historians claim that soldiers, mainly Japanese troops, raped Okinawan women during the battle. Rape by Japanese troops reportedly "became common" [ attribution needed ] in June, after it became clear that the Imperial Japanese Army had been defeated. [21] [12] : 462 Marine Corps officials in Okinawa and Washington have said that they knew of no rapes by American personnel in Okinawa at the end of the war. [55] There are, however, numerous credible testimony accounts which note that a large number of rapes were committed by American forces during the battle. This includes stories of rape after trading sexual favors or even marrying Americans, [56] such as the alleged incident in the village of Katsuyama, where civilians said they had formed a vigilante group to ambush and kill three black American soldiers who they claimed would frequently rape the local girls there. [57]

MEXT textbook controversy Edit

There is ongoing disagreement between Okinawa's local government and Japan's national government over the role of the Japanese military in civilian mass suicides during the battle. In March 2007, the national Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) advised textbook publishers to reword descriptions that the embattled Imperial Japanese Army forced civilians to kill themselves in the war to avoid being taken prisoner. MEXT preferred descriptions that just say that civilians received hand grenades from the Japanese military. This move sparked widespread protests among Okinawans. In June 2007, the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly adopted a resolution stating, "We strongly call on the (national) government to retract the instruction and to immediately restore the description in the textbooks so the truth of the Battle of Okinawa will be handed down correctly and a tragic war will never happen again." [58] [59]

On 29 September 2007, about 110,000 people held the biggest political rally in the history of Okinawa to demand that MEXT retract its order to textbook publishers regarding revising the account of the civilian suicides. The resolution stated, "It is an undeniable fact that the 'multiple suicides' would not have occurred without the involvement of the Japanese military and any deletion of or revision to (the descriptions) is a denial and distortion of the many testimonies by those people who survived the incidents." [60] In December 2007, MEXT partially admitted the role of the Japanese military in civilian mass suicides. [61] The ministry's Textbook Authorization Council allowed the publishers to reinstate the reference that civilians "were forced into mass suicides by the Japanese military", on condition it is placed in sufficient context. The council report stated, "It can be said that from the viewpoint of the Okinawa residents, they were forced into the mass suicides." [62] That was not enough for the survivors who said it is important for children today to know what really happened. [63]

The Nobel Prize-winning author Kenzaburō Ōe wrote a booklet that states that the mass suicide order was given by the military during the battle. [64] He was sued by revisionists, including a wartime commander during the battle, who disputed this and wanted to stop publication of the booklet. At a court hearing, Ōe testified "Mass suicides were forced on Okinawa islanders under Japan's hierarchical social structure that ran through the state of Japan, the Japanese armed forces and local garrisons." [65] In March 2008, the Osaka Prefecture Court ruled in favor of Ōe, stating, "It can be said the military was deeply involved in the mass suicides." The court recognized the military's involvement in the mass suicides and murder-suicides, citing the testimony about the distribution of grenades for suicide by soldiers and the fact that mass suicides were not recorded on islands where the military was not stationed. [66]

In 2012, Korean-Japanese director Pak Su-nam announced her work on the documentary Nuchigafu (Okinawan for "only if one is alive") collecting living survivors' accounts to show "the truth of history to many people", alleging that "there were two types of orders for 'honorable deaths'—one for residents to kill each other and the other for the military to kill all residents". [67] In March 2013, Japanese textbook publisher Shimizu Shoin was permitted by MEXT to publish the statements that "Orders from Japanese soldiers led to Okinawans committing group suicide" and "The [Japanese] army caused many tragedies in Okinawa, killing local civilians and forcing them to commit mass suicide." [68]


Japan gov't vows to rebuild Okinawa's Shuri Castle in wake of devastating fire

TOKYO -- The Japanese government will do its best to rebuild the World Heritage-listed Shuri Castle in Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, after the historical landmark including its main hall burned down early on Oct. 31, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.

"It is part of the Okinawa Commemorative National Government Park. The government will do its best to rebuild the castle," Suga told a news conference on the morning of Oct. 31. He added that the cause of the fire is being investigated.

The castle complex, restored after World War II, "is situated on the site of the original Shuri Castle, which was listed in 2000 as a World Heritage site. We recognize it's an extremely important symbol of Okinawa," Suga said. "I express my sympathy to residents of Okinawa Prefecture from the bottom my heart. The incident is heartbreaking."


Okinawa is home to many castle ruins

Katsuren Castle is on the Katsuren Peninsula, overlooking both the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The 15th-century castle site is listed as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations.

By Chiyomi Sumida | Stars and Stripes March 12, 2006

Okinawa is an island of castle ruins, the remains of a time when regional kings fought a series of wars that eventually led to a united Kingdom of the Ryukyus.

On Okinawa, castles are often called gusuku and, except for the reconstructed Shuri Castle, most now are but mere stone walls. At some sites, little is visible, yet their existence has a strong impact on today’s Okinawa.

“Gusuku still plays an important role in Okinawan society,” said Tohru Kinjo, a historian with the Okinawa Board of Education. “The places where gusuku stand are regarded as sacred sites.”

Kinjo, who is in charge of preservation and restoration of Okinawa’s cultural properties, said there are about 500 gusuku sites throughout the Ryukyu island chain. All are regarded as sacred and are used as sites of worship by the local residents.

Most gusuku origin dates are unknown, but other pieces of their history were well recorded.

Those led by powerful chieftains grew in stature, looming over lesser kingdoms and developing into strong fortresses, Kinjo said.

Three of the most famous chieftains in Okinawan history are Lord Amawari of Katsuren, Lord Gosamaru of Zakimi and Nakagusuku, and Lord Hananchi of Nakijin, all on the main island of Okinawa.

Archaeological excavations at these castle sites uncovered numerous pieces of valuable artifacts, proof that the chieftains enjoyed power and wealth by independently engaging in sea trade with China and other Southeast Asian countries.

Those three castles, together with Shuri Castle, which became Okinawa’s chief capital in the 1400s, were registered as World Heritage Sites in 2000 by UNESCO.

The castle sites sit atop spectacular hills that offers magnificent panoramic views of the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean.

One of the most popular sites among visitors is Katsuren Castle on Okinawa’s central eastern shore. Its walls once were the scene of royal intrigue. According to legend and historical accounts, King Sho Hashi considered a regional chieftain named Lord Amawari of Katsuren a powerful rival, so he sent his daughter, matchless beauty Momoto Fumiagari, to marry the young lord. The king then moved his faithful disciple Lord Gosamaru, from Zakimi Castle in the north, to Nakagusuku, just south of Katsuren, to keep a watchful eye on his ambitious son-in-law.

Amawari, whose dream was to unify the island under his control, eventually attacked and killed Gosamaru before an attempt to overthrow King Sho, but he was defeated and killed by the king’s men in 1458.

People in today’s Katsuren, however, read the history differently.

Amawari, who was capable and popular among his people, was a great threat to the king, according to Shinichi Miyagi, a historian for Uruma City’s Board of Education.

“He is remembered as a lord who is compassionate to his people,” Miyagi said.

Over the past decade, the people of Katsuren, who still revere Amawari as their great leader and hero, have begun to take steps to restore the dignity of their lord.

In 1997, a theatrical group of local high school students performed a musical entitled “Amawari.” The plot, based on Okinawa’s oldest chronicles, the Omorososhi, portrayed Amawari as a compassionate lord and a man with enterprising spirit, not as the traitor he is often portrayed as in traditional Okinawa plays.

The performance was well received, and since then, the group, called “Amawari Roman,” has performed it throughout Okinawa, said cast member Sayaka Nakachi. The musical has helped to change the image of Amawari from a traitor to a hero, she said.

“Many of us did not like our hometown until we started performing this musical,” said Natsumi Moriya, Nakachi’s sister and also a cast member. “But, now we are very proud of having the great man as our ancestor.”

A renewed interest in the past also is strong in other Okinawa communities, such as Hananchi in Nakijin, home of the lord of the island’s northern region until King Sho Hashi’s army defeated him in 1416. Today, all that’s left of his once impregnable citadel is a milelong section of gracefully curved stone walls.


Nakagusuku Castle Ruins will transport you back in time to around 14th or 15th century Okinawa while providing amazing views of the main island’s east coast.

For many, Shuri Castle might be at the top of the Okinawa bucket list, but add a stop to explore Nakagusuku, another UNESCO World Heritage site. This majestic location boasts both beauty and history.

Construction on the castle started in the 14th century and was completed in the mid-15th century as overseen by Gosmaru, a lord appointed as governor of the district by the Ryukyu Kingdom.

Gosamaru was known for his great fortification skills. His expertise is well reflected in some structures of the castle, many of which retain their original form, including the smooth curves that the stone walls and arches draw, as well as the methodical way each stone is stacked. Even Commodore Matthew Perry’s crews were impressed by the construction when they made a port call in 1853, according to the ruins website.

Although Gosamaru’s authority would come to a tragic end as accusations of treason led him to commit suicide in 1458, he is still fondly remembered and associated with this architectural masterpiece.

Just like other castle ruins in Okinawa, Nakagusuku Castle Ruins is composed of several flatlands called kuruwa. The castle ruins have six: south, west, north, first, second, and third kuruwa.

The south kuruwa served as a sanctuary while west kuruwa was used to train troops and horses. The first kuruwa, located at the center of the castle, is the biggest among the six and is considered a location for the main temple. The second kuruwa is known for its beautiful surrounding stone walls, and it has a place of worship. While these four kuruwa were constructed in the 14th century, the remaining two, the north and third kuruwa were constructed later by Gosamaru in the 15 century.

If you look closely at the walls of the third kuruwa, you would note that stones stack up differently from those of the original four kuruwa. The north kuruwa’s back gate was compared to an “Egyptian style” arch by Perry’s crew, according to a brochure. The north kuruwa also has a water well, which you can take a close look at by going down some stairs.

These six kuruwa amount to 14,473 ㎡ (the site itself is 110,473㎡ in total).

In December of 2000, Nakagusuku Castle Ruins were certified as a UNESCO World Heritage site along with other castle ruins and related properties in Okinawa.

Visiting this historical location is only a 10-minute drive from Camp Foster. Check it out for a brisk walk, great views and some history.

Nakagusuku Castle Ruins

GPS Coordinates: N 26.285650, E 127.803283

Admission: 400 yen for adult, 300 yen for mid and high school student, 200 yen for elementary school student

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Investigators inspect ruins of Japan’s Shuri Castle to determine cause of fire

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Investigators gather at the site of a fire at the historic Shuri Castle, in Naha, Okinawa, southern Japan, on Nov. 1, 2019.

Fire and police investigators inspected the burned-out ruins of Shuri Castle on Okinawa on Friday to determine the cause of the fire that nearly destroyed the symbol of the Japanese island’s cultural heritage and history of struggle.

The fire Thursday burned down the three main halls and four nearby structures at the castle in Okinawa’s prefectural capital of Naha. It took firefighters 11 hours to extinguish the blaze.

More than 130 investigators inspected the site on Friday, according to local officials. They believe the blaze started inside the Seiden, the castle’s centrepiece, around 2:30 a.m. when no one was around.

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The late hour and the castle’s design, with a spacious wooden main hall connected to other main buildings by hallways, might have allowed the fire to spread quickly.

Shuri Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage site which dates from the 1429-1879 Ryukyu Kingdom era. The castle, burned down during the Second World War, was largely restored in 1992 for the 20th anniversary of Okinawa’s reversion to Japan that ended the island’s 27-year U.S. occupation. Historians and other experts had continued the restoration efforts until recently.

Many Okinawans expressed deep sorrow over the damage to the castle, which is a symbol of their cultural roots as well as the history of their struggle since the 1879 annexation by Japan.

Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki said his heart was broken, but expressed his determination to reconstruct the castle. Mr. Tamaki, who cut short a trip to South Korea and returned to Naha on Thursday, was in Tokyo on Friday meeting central government officials to seek their support.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga expressed his sympathy to the Okinawans, adding that the government is willing to do everything it can to help the castle’s reconstruction.

Investigators were focusing on the ruins of the Seiden hall. Video on NHK public television, taken from a helicopter, showed dozens of officials in uniforms and white helmets searching through charred debris, putting pieces into buckets for further examination.

The fate of hundreds of historic Ryukyu arts and crafts also was uncertain. Fire officials said they believe treasures displayed at the castle were mostly replicas of originals kept in safe storage elsewhere, but were trying to confirm their whereabouts.


Investigators inspect ruined Okinawan castle for fire cause

TOKYO (AP) — Fire and police investigators inspected the burned-out ruins of Shuri Castle on Okinawa on Friday to determine the cause of the fire that nearly destroyed the symbol of the Japanese island's cultural heritage and history of struggle.

The fire Thursday burned down the three main halls and four nearby structures at the castle in Okinawa's prefectural capital of Naha. It took firefighters 11 hours to extinguish the blaze.

More than 130 investigators inspected the site Friday, according to local officials. They believe the blaze started inside the Seiden, the castle's centerpiece, around 2:30 a.m. when no one was around.

The late hour and the castle's design, with a spacious wooden main hall connected to other main buildings by hallways, might have allowed the fire to spread quickly.

Shuri Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage site which dates from the 1429-1879 Ryukyu Kingdom era. The castle, burned down during World War II, was largely restored in 1992 for the 20th anniversary of Okinawa's reversion to Japan that ended the island's 27-year U.S. occupation. Historians and other experts had continued the restoration efforts until recently.

Many Okinawans expressed deep sorrow over the damage to the castle, which is a symbol of their cultural roots as well as the history of their struggle since the 1879 annexation by Japan.

Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki said his heart was broken, but expressed his determination to reconstruct the castle. Tamaki, who cut short a trip to South Korea and returned to Naha on Thursday, was in Tokyo on Friday meeting central government officials to seek their support.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga expressed his sympathy to the Okinawans, adding that the government is willing to do everything it can to help the castle's reconstruction.

Investigators were focusing on the ruins of the Seiden hall. Video on NHK public television, taken from a helicopter, showed dozens of officials in uniforms and white helmets searching through charred debris, putting pieces into buckets for further examination.

The fate of hundreds of historic Ryukyu arts and crafts also was uncertain. Fire officials said they believe treasures displayed at the castle were mostly replicas of originals kept in safe storage elsewhere, but were trying to confirm their whereabouts.

Okinawa Churashima Foundation, which oversaw the castle, said it could not immediately confirm the status of a collection of historical artifacts kept at the castle. It said more than 1,500 items including calligraphy scrolls, lacquerware and paintings were stored there, and about 400 of them may have been in buildings that burned down, Kyodo News reported. It said most of the items were stored in heat-resistant warehouses at the castle and may have been saved, but their condition could not be examined immediately due to high temperatures.

The castle had hydrants, alarms, portable extinguishers and water outside the buildings. But there were no sprinklers installed inside the buildings, Naha fire department official Ryo Kotani said.

The fire was detected when a security guard heard an alarm, Kotani said. The blaze had engulfed the hall and spread to nearby structures when firefighters arrived about 20 minutes later.

This story corrects spelling of the name of the organization overseeing the castle to Churashima instead of Churashma.


Shuri Castle in Okinawa: One Year Later, on the Fast Track to Reconstruction

Talks of rebuilding Okinawa’s Shuri Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, began soon after the castle burned down on October 31, 2019. It was perhaps the best way to cope with the grief of losing such an essential piece of Ryukyuan history. While grieving for the tremendous loss, the people of Okinawa knew from experience that they had to act fast. The devastating incident on that October night wasn’t the first time the castle complex had been damaged — it was burned down (and rebuilt) in 1453, 1660, 1709 and it suffered its most significant devastation in the war in 1945.

In 2020, restoration efforts are underway, bolstered by sizable donations and a plan to restore the castle’s former glory by 2026.

Shuri Castle after the 2019 fire. Photo taken in January 2020

Marking the First Anniversary from the Fire

On the first anniversary of the fire, Okinawa chose to mark the incident by focusing on the castle’s reconstruction. A night reception at Shuri Castle was held on October 29, 2020, tied with the then-ongoing Tourism Expo Japan in Naha. Present at the event were mostly travel professionals and ambassadors, who were greeted by the newly chosen King and Queen, characters played by locals, and the Governor of Okinawa Prefecture, Denny Tamaki.

Governor of Okinawa, Denny Tamaki (center) with the newly appointed Ryukyu King and Queen characters at the “Night Reception in Shurijo Castle” event in October 2020.

In his welcome speech, Tamaki thanked the government and everyone who had made donations and had supported the reconstruction project. The entire cost of the reconstruction has not been calculated yet, but so far, donations have reached 5 billion yen.

The outdoor event also included a tour of the reconstruction site, traditional performances and projection mapping on the Kankaimon Gate walls. For a limited time from September through November, visitors could also try VR and augmented reality to ‘see’ Shuri Castle in its previous glory before the Main Hall burned down.

In central Naha, from October 28 through November 15, the famed Kokusai Dori street, a light installation outlining the burned down Shuri Castle Main Hall to signify the hope of its restoration.

Shuri Castle Reconstruction Efforts and Issues

The Governor of Okinawa announced that the reconstruction of Shuri Castle is planned to be the fastest one yet, projected to be completed by 2026. With a slogan, “Reconstruction on display,” all stages of the reconstruction will be showcased. The castle complex became open to the public soon after the fire and visitors were invited to see part of the damage and the cleaning process.

On display behind glass walls is part of the original foundations of the now burned down Seiden (Main Hall). These ancient stone foundations are part of the World Heritage registration and they show the signs of previous destruction and reconstruction of the Main Hall. This area was opened to the public on June 12, 2020.

After cleaning the rubble, one of the first on-site activities was salvaging and cleaning red kawara roof tiles from the burned buildings, for which volunteers were recruited in March 2020. After the fire, the Okinawa Prefecture Ryukyu Red Tile Stucco Construction Cooperative issued a request for the preservation and reuse of as many red tiles from the fire as possible. They said that these unique Okinawan tiles are precious, and there is a tradition of reusing them. Above all, they feared that making the estimated 25,000 tiles needed would slow down the reconstruction. Currently, Okinawan artisans are producing brand new tiles, and there is an ongoing call for more volunteers to help with roof tile cleaning until December 24, 2020.

In addition to roof tiles, wood procurement has also posed a challenge. The reconstruction calls for 175 logs for main pillars for the Seiden alone, and the amount of all necessary wood is yet to be determined. In the last Shuri Castle reconstruction, special import permission was issued to Taiwanese cypress could be imported, the same type of wood used for castle repairs in the 20s and 30s. Okinawa Times reports for this reconstruction Japanese cypress is to be used, sourced from Okinawa and other parts of Japan. However, there are concerns about whether enough wood can be sourced within the time limit without causing environmental damage.

In history circles, there is an ongoing debate about the placement of the dragon pillars that survived the fire with some damage. Reconstructing the castle as it was, means the dragon pillars in front of the Main Hall will be facing each other. However, some people believe this is a chance to place them facing forward, as they were in the Shuri Castle before it was destroyed in World War II.

However, historians believe that this was a mistaken placement during the Meiji period. Travis Seifman, a postdoctoral researcher at the Historiographical Institute at the University of Tokyo, explains that most scholars believe that the dragons should be facing each other as per surviving Ryukyu Kingdom records and drawings. However, some locals remember the pre-war misplacement of them facing forward, in addition to feeling that position is more natural, just like Shisa lions and Komainu dogs are placed facing forward. The work on the massive dragon pillars is ongoing and can be observed behind the glass windows.

The final improvement on the agenda, to prevent future disasters, is installing fire sprinklers and other fire prevention gear on the castle premises.

How to help

Even a visit to Shuri Castle counts as support, seeing the ongoing reconstruction and keeping the tourist site lively. Despite the fire damage, the outer walls and famous castle gates are intact. The exterior walls called ‘gusuku,’ built in a Ryukyuan architectural style that differs from Japanese castles, are worth a visit alone.

If you want to contribute to the castle’s reconstruction efforts, there are donation funds you can pay into. More information here.

If you want to volunteer for the roof tile cleaning, you need to be at least 15 years old and able. There are more details about how to apply at the Shuri Castle website.


Remembering the Battle of Okinawa

In the spring of 1945, U.S. troops in the Pacific were nearing the final stages of their “island-hopping” campaign, a strategy designed to capture smaller islands in the Pacific and set up military bases in preparation for an invasion of Japan. Though the campaign was proving successful so far, it was also extremely costly: The 36-day Battle of Iwo Jima in February and March cost the United States more than 6,000 men (Japan lost 20,000).

Okinawa, located 350 miles from Japan’s southernmost island, Kyushu, was the main island in the Ryuku chain. Much of the island, which measured some 70 miles long and seven miles wide, with 463 square miles of area, was heavily cultivated with cane fields and rice paddies. Home to some 450,000 people, Okinawa boasted a larger population than other Pacific islands. Japan had annexed the island in 1879 and attempted to “Japanize” its inhabitants, who were viewed as second-class citizens by many Japanese, including soldiers in the Imperial Army. Okinawans were ethnically diverse, with different cultures, traditions and dialect than their Japanese neighbors. In the period leading up to the U.S. invasion, some civilians were evacuated from Okinawa, but most stayed put.

On April 1�ster Sunday�ter six days of bombardment, the troops of the U.S. 10th Army, commanded by General Simon B. Buckner, began their amphibious invasion of Okinawa. General Mitsuro Ushijima, leader of the more than 100,000 Japanese forces on Okinawa, made his headquarters in the 15th-century citadel of Shuri, at the southern end of the island. Determined to defend the southern, most heavily populated section of the island, he left the shoreline relatively undefended, waiting for the Americans to come to him.

It wasn’t until a few days into the invasion that the advancing U.S. soldiers realized the true nature of the battle they were facing. Tunnel systems connected the island’s caves, and Japanese machine gunners positioned themselves in hidden stone funeral vaults dotting the hills. The Japanese mounted few attacks themselves, conserving all their fire for defending their positions against American infantry advances.

As U.S. troops on Okinawa confronted such challenges, Japanese pilots began a barrage of kamikaze attacks on the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, waiting offshore in support of the invasion. Japan’s giant battleship Yamato even made its own suicide mission, attacking the U.S. fleet on April 7 accompanied by a light cruiser and eight destroyers. Struck by a wave of Allied torpedoes and bombs, Yamato blew up and sank, along with the light cruiser Yahagi, taking with them thousands of Japanese sailors.

Despite such spectacular gestures of futility, the kamikaze tactics used by Japan at Okinawa handed the U.S. Navy their worst losses of World War II. The U.S. fleet in the Pacific had experienced Japanese suicide attacks before, but never on such a scale. By the end of the Okinawa campaign, some 1,465 kamikaze pilots sank 29 U.S. ships and damaged 120 more, killing more than 3,000 sailors and wounding another 6,000 or so more.

By mid-May, U.S. forces had pushed Ushijima’s 32nd Army south to its final line of defenses at Mabuni. Hordes of civilians, whom Japanese soldiers terrified with tales of the brutality of U.S. troops, desperately followed the retreating army, often getting caught in the crossfire. Over some 10 days in mid- to late May, several regiments of U.S. Marines fought to secure Sugar Loaf Hill, a mound of earth barely 50 feet high and some 300 yards long, located on southern Okinawa. Concealed in a network of caves and tunnels with disguised firing positions, the Japanese troops defending Sugar Loaf were able to take out the tanks used to support the advancing Marines with mines, artillery and antitank fire. At the same time, their own positions were difficult to attack due to their camouflage. Many of the Marines who fought at Sugar Loaf never saw the enemy soldiers they faced. They finally secured the hill on May 18, after suffering some 2,662 casualties.

Forced to withdraw from Shuri Castle, Ushijima’s army had been reduced to some 30,000 men, and the battle was drawing to a close. Heavy losses still lay ahead for both sides. On June 18, General Buckner himself was killed by shell splinters while watching an attack by the Second Marine Division. Four days later, as defeat loomed, Ushijima and his subordinate, Lieutenant General Isamu Cho, committed ritual suicide in their command bunker at Mabuni.


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