PHOTOS: GUILIANO QUILICI, PACIFIC THEATRE WW II (COURTESY OF NANCY QUILICI JACOBS)
Those volcanic islands that are on the way to Japan became islands soaked in blood in 1945.
The Americans were determined to take the islands and the Japanese with their iron will were determined to defend the islands to the death because they knew that they were a stepping stones to Japan.
Thus the stage was set for the bloodiest fight in WW11. The Japanese had pulled soldiers from Burma and other fronts to defend Okinawa. They had peppered the island with pillboxes, tunnels and cave hideouts. This, plus their determination to defend the island to the last man made for one of the deadliest defense systems. AND the Japanese had the high ground.
The Americans had to inch their way up against constant enemy fire.
This combination of Japanese iron will and American determination had created hell's own cesspool on Okinawa. And for the Japanese it was a brutal fight for honor.
The Americans had underestimated the strength of the Japanese on Okinawa. The Japanese had established an elaborate pillbox system designed to maime, kill and deter the Americans. Japanese had dug tunnels between the pillboxes. This was to fool the Americans. Americans knew that they had killed Japs but the Japs retrieved the bodies during the night and it was as if ghosts were snatching the bodies. A deadly game was begun and nighttime was the time for killing on Okinawa. The Japanese game was to call corpsmen in perfect English and then they would kill them at night.
The Japanese had no fear of dying. This resulted in the Japanese pilots flying their planes onto aircraft carriers to destroy the carrier and the Japanese pilot. Japanese were very treacherous and extremely brutal. They would cut the private parts of the dead soldiers and put them on top of the soldiers. They carried photographs of the brutality that they had inflicted on the Chinese. My brother, Giuliano found some pictures about the Chinese brutality and turned them over to intellignce.
Horrendous battles occurred. It was kill or be killed. Sugar Loaf Hill changed hands 14 times. After seven days Sugar Loaf Hill was taken.
My brother said that you could not show emotion and survive. It was indeed a miracle that my brother survived. He was a designated flame thrower and infantry man. The life of a flame thrower is short because the Japanese snipers were always targeting flame throwers. At one point he made the decision to take out some pillboxes. Giuliano's thinking was that either he took the pillbox out or they died. God must have been with him bcause he did take out the pillbox. He said that he hated the job but he had to do it. The odor of burning flesh is horrible when you throw the flames into the tunnels.
Giuliano also said that the life cycle was altered, in other words, you didn't eat when you were supposed to, you did not sleep when you were supposed to and often you lived on the chocolate rations.
Mt Suribachi (Iwo Jima) was another miscalulation by the Americans. There were 21,000Japanese ready to defend Mt. Suribachi. It became a fortress. Kurabyashi was the Japanese High Commander.
There existed a bond between the American men that helped them to win. They were fighting against the iron will of the Japanese that made the fighting extremely vicious.
The Japanese became even more incensed when the flag was raised at Mt. Suribachi. Three of the six men who raised the flag were later killed. The area became known as the meat grinder because of the Japanese ferocity in defending it.
My brother, Giuliano said that near the end of the battle there was a ghostly pull from the dead to have you stay with them.
He resisted the pull thinking that far too many men had already died including Ernie Pyle the correspondent.
Because Admiral Turner miscalculated the number of the Japanese it took much longer and many lives to win in Okinawa.
The battle for Shuri Castle was another brutal battle. My brother said that often there were hand to hand combat battles. He somehow managed to survive.
When all was said and done, over 38,000 Americans were wounded and 12,000 killed in battle.
6 weeks after victory at Okinawa bombs exploded over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
There was no sympathy for the enemy that had inflicted so much pain and suffering for so long.
My brother Giuliano was happy because he was being trained for the invasion of Japan when the bombs were dropped.
If you asked my brother why he survived he would credit God never his own abitlities. Just because a person lacks education does not mean that that person is unintelligent.
When my brother died he had his guns behind his bed. I don't think that the WW11 experience ever left him; he was not afraid of dying.
When he left Italy his grandfather said "Fatti coraggio," never knowing the true meaning of courage that his grandson would show in Okinawa!
IVANO SAYS: Two very important dates slipped by us almost without notice. Seventy years ago, September 1,1939, Hitler's German Army invaded Poland and World War II began. Sixty-four years ago, August 15,1945, Japan surrendered, thus ending the War.
Nancy's article above reminds us all of the countless bloody battles that were fought inbetween those years. Thanks Nancy.