Mitsura Ushijima

Mitsura Ushijima was born in Japan in 1887. He joined the Japanese Army and by the outbreak of the Second World War was the commandant of the Japanese Military Academy.

In August in 1940 Ushijima was appointed commander of the 32nd Army on Okinawa. Just before the US Army invasion Ushijima was placed in control of all Japanese troops on the island. Ushijima decided not to put his men on the coast where they would be subjected to US Naval heavy bombardment. Instead they were positioned at the southern end of the 60 mile long island on the volcanic mountain of Shuri.

After a four day bombardment the 1,300 ship invasion forced moved into position off the west coast of Okinawa on 1st April 1945. The landing force, under the leadership of Lieutenant-General Simon Buckner, initially totalled 155,000. However, by the time the battle finished, more than 300,000 soldiers were involved in the fighting. This made it comparable to the Normandy landing in mainland Europe in June, 1944.

On the first day 60,000 troops were put ashore against little opposition at Haguushi. The following day two airfields were captured by the Americans. However when the soldiers reached Shuri they came under heavy fire and suffered large casualties.

On 11th May, Simon Buckner, ordered another offensive on the Shuri defences, and the Japanese were finally forced to withdraw. Buckner was killed on 18th June and was replaced by General Roy Geiger. When it was clear that he had been defeated, U committed ritual suicide (hari-kiri) on 22nd June, 1945.

The capture of Okinawa cost the Americans 49,000 in casualties of whom 12,520 died. More than 110,000 Japanese were killed on the island.