A Brief History of the Battle of Okinawa
Over fifty years ago on an island in the Pacific, American and Japanese men fought and killed each other as never before. Caught in the crossfire between these warring powers were the native inhabitants of Okinawa. The battle’s significance has been lost despite the unprecedented events that occurred during those eighty-two days.
The loss of life on Okinawa and the many "firsts" that occurred during the battle should, at the very least, give Okinawa equal notoriety with Normandy. Yet few historians have studied it and little has been made of it in comparison with the D-Day invasion. This omission from history is a great disappointment, not least to those who survived the battle.
The Pacific Theater has not been studied on equal footing with the European Theater. The political strategy of "Europe First" relegated war in the Pacific to secondary status. In addition, the places that were being fought for in the Pacific were more remote and unfamiliar sounding to Americans. Few Americans had cultural ties to the Pacific. The languages were strange and the people had black, brown, or yellow skin. There were no familiar reminders of civilization in the jungles of Asia as there were in the countries of Europe. Furthermore, fathers who had participated in the First World War, who had fought in the countryside of France, now followed the young men of the European Theater, their sons, who repeated their fathers’ experiences. Europe was familiar. The Pacific was not.
The Battle of Okinawa is distinguished among battles, yet often unrecognized when referring to the great battles of the Second World War. Over 250,000 people lost their lives.
Approximately 150,000 Okinawans, about a third of the population, perished. At the battle’s end, somewhere between a third and half of all surviving civilians were wounded. No battle during the Second World War, except Stalingrad, had as massive a loss of civilian life. The stakes were high. The Japanese, determined to fight to the last man, almost achieved their objective, but in defeat 100,000 Japanese combatants died rather than surrender. In the end, fewer than 10,000 of General Mitsuri Ushijimas’s 32nd Army were taken prisoner.
United States loss of life was staggering as well. The United States Navy sustained the largest loss of ships in its history with thirty-six lost and 368 damaged. The Navy also sustained the largest loss of life in a single battle with almost 5,000 killed and an equal number wounded. At Okinawa, the United States 10th Army would incur its greatest losses in any campaign against the Japanese.The 10th Army, which initially was made up of 183,000 army, navy, and marine personnel, would suffer massive losses. During those eighty-two days, the 10th Army would lose 7,613 men and over 30,000 men would be evacuated from the front lines for a minimum of a week due to wounds. Moreover, the largest numbers of U.S. combat fatigue cases ever recorded would occur on Okinawa.
A new motivation existed for resistance in the bloody fighting in the Pacific. The stakes had just become higher. Now in the spring of 1945, for the first time, Japan’s military machine began defending home territory. Although the Japanese may not have seen the Okinawans as their equals, or even as Japanese, the island had been their colonial possession. The Satsuma clan, a feudal shoganate, had conquered the island during the seventeenth century and over the centuries had subsequently impoverished the once wealthy kingdom. Everyone involved, the Okinawans, the Japanese, and the Allies, realized that Okinawa, within 350 miles of Kyushu, the southern tip of mainland Japan, would be the stepping-stone for the United States. Okinawa would be a virtual "springboard to victory" for the Allies.14 From Okinawa, the Allies could launch an attack on the mainland by air or sea.
The Battle of Okinawa would generate many "firsts" for the history books beyond the first time that United States troops fought on Japanese soil. The battle occurred during a time of unprecedented historical significance. The two highest-ranking officers to die during the Second World War were the commanders on Okinawa, General Mitsuri Ushijima and General Simon B. Buckner. Furthermore, when General Roy Geiger, a Marine aviator, assumed temporary command until General Joseph W. Stillwell arrived, it was the first time that a Marine would command a fighting force as large as a field army. The operation on Okinawa was named Operation Iceberg. It began on Okinawa on April 1, 1945, Easter Sunday. The landing would be referred to as "L Day" or "Love Day" and perhaps in keeping with April Fools Day, the landing encountered virtually no opposition. This lack of opposition was unexpected and unprecedented. The 10th Army itself was unique. With the combination of Admiral Chester Nimitz and General Douglas MacArthur’s forces, a joint task force had been assembled. Not just a U.S. joint task force, but one that included Great Britain. The British Task Force, commanded by Vice Admiral Sir Bernard Rawlings, turned over operational control to Admiral R.A. Spruance, U.S. Navy, Commander, 5th Fleet. This combining of marines, soldiers, and naval personnel created the largest group of Americans and Allies to land in the Pacific, 548,000, before it was all over.
The U.S. Navy assembled an unprecedented armada in April of 1945, with 1,300 ships lying in wait off the coast of Okinawa. In fact, the effort in the spring offensive of 1945 was far greater than the previous spring offensive in Europe. During the Normandy invasion, the Allies had employed 150,000 troops, 284 ships, and 570,000 tons of supplies, all of which required a very short supply line. On Okinawa, in Japan’s back yard, maintaining the supply line seemed an incomprehensible feat. In the invasion of Okinawa, there were 183,000 troops, 327 ships, and 750,000 tons of supplies.
Events even larger than the life and death struggle on Okinawa occurred during the spring of 1945. All of these events were common knowledge to the troops fighting and those on the home front, and these events did shape contemporary perspective regarding Okinawa. Ironically, because Okinawa is the final battle of the Second World War, the war’s end would obscure the battle’s accomplishments. In 1945, journalist Sid Moody of the Associated Press summarized it best: "Before Hiroshima there was Okinawa. Because of Okinawa, in considerable part there was Hiroshima." Okinawa lost its place in history in part because of Hiroshima.
Other events also contributed to the neglect of Okinawa in the public memory of World War II. In February 1945, the Battle of Iwo Jima raged. The loss of life and the willingness of the Japanese to fight to the last man were beyond the comprehension of most Americans. Trying to grasp the loss of life that bloody spring in the Pacific was just too painful for the American populace. On Iwo Jima by noon, March 2, 1945, Americans had counted 7,127 enemy dead and only thirty-two prisoners were taken. On March 9–10, 1945, the massive bombardment of American incendiary bombs destroyed much of Tokyo. Five days after Love Day, the Soviet Union entered the war and joined the Allies on the Pacific front. Twelve days after Love Day, April 12, 1945, Franklin D. Roosevelt died. Many of the young men fighting could remember no other president. Nor did many of them know anything about their new Commander-in-Chief, Harry S Truman. The famous war correspondent Ernie Pyle, who so captured the hearts of troops in the foxhole and the imaginations of the home front, would be killed early in the battle. On May 8, 1945, while the men of the Sixth prepared to "move out" and relieve the Army on the southern end of Okinawa, the Germans surrendered. On July 2, 1945, while the 6th Marine Division rested, trained, and prepared for the expected invasion of mainland Japan, the first Atomic Bomb would be detonated in New Mexico. Now an alternative to invasion seemed possible. The morning of August 6, 1945, an atomic bomb exploded over Hiroshima. Three days later, Nagasaki suffered a similar fate. Japan finally bowed under the weight of this new technology and in Tokyo Bay, aboard the USS Missouri on September 2, 1945, the Second World War ended.
As with the rest of the world, the men who fought on Okinawa were stunned by and then celebrated Japan’s capitulation. However, their relief quickly diminished with the discovery that, unlike most of the combat-hardened men in Europe, they would not be heading home. Instead, they would become the occupation forces in Japan and liberation forces in China. Some of these soldiers and marines returned over a year later and found a country that had gotten on with life and that proved uninterested in hearing about some little island in the Pacific. In a country where 16 million had served in an unprecedented national effort, the country was war weary. The average citizens either had their own wartime experiences or could not comprehend what these men had lived through. Nor did it seem to matter much by then. The Battle of Okinawa lost its place in history because the history that was being made in 1945 was itself so monumental.
The 6th Marine Division has a unique place in military, especially Marine Corps history. Its place has been under-recognized in part because, unlike most other divisions, the Sixth never reactivated after the Second World War. * See the web article on the Sixth.
The 6th Marine Division did not fight alone. Other military units fought bravely on Okinawa as well. The 10th Army consisted of five Army divisions, the 77th the 96th, the 27th, the 81st, and the 7th. Two other Marine divisions fought on Okinawa, as well, the Second and the First. These divisions were all supported by naval, amphibious, and tactical air forces.
The Japanese on Okinawa were prepared for an invasion. As early as 1943, the Ryukyus, the islands that make up Okinawa, had been part of the Japanese plan of defense, the "Absolute National Defense Zone." Japan’s 32nd Army came into being on March 22, 1944. In the beginning, their mission was just to defend the Ryukyus, build airfields, and help hold the "Tojo Line" in the Central Pacific. As the situation deteriorated for them, so did the infrastructure of the Japanese military machine. Arguments over how to use assets created a situation in which General Ushijima’s loss was unavoidable. For the Japanese the objective of the campaign would never be victory on Okinawa.
The Japanese knew they could not win, therefore their mission, jikyusen, became a battle of attrition. For every man lost he must take ten Americans, for every plane, a boat. The objective would be to destroy or at least delay the U.S. Fleet. This would give the Japanese time to prepare the homeland. The southern end of Okinawa seemed ideal for Ushijima’s battle of attrition. Honeycombed with caves that had for over a year been reinforced to create interlocking defenses (often by conscripted labor), the southern end was easily defended. Ridges and rocky embankments, trees and foliage, made it an easy place to fight a battle of attrition. Delaying tactics and groups to slow the Allies would be employed, but Ushijima’s plan was always was a southern standoff below the Shuri-Yonaburu line. Meanwhile, the U.S. fleet would be supplying the troops on land, leaving them exposed to Japanese air and naval attacks. This, argued Tokyo’s leaders, would further slow the Allies attack on the mainland.
At the beginning of the campaign, Ushijima would command approximately 110,000 men. Twenty thousand consisted of Okinawan Home Guard that supplemented the Japanese Army made up of the 24th Division, 62nd Division, the 44th Independent Mixed Brigade, the First, Second, Third, Twenty-sixth, Twenty-seventh, Twenty-eighth, and the Twenty-ninth Independent Brigades. As a U.S. Special Operations report prior to the invasion predicted, "It can safely be assumed that most of the troops entrusted with the defenses of Okinawa will be Manchurian trained." The 32nd Army consisted of tough combat veterans. Ushijima’s artillery would be the heaviest concentration so far encountered by the Allies in the Pacific. Furthermore, the 32nd Army had naval, amphibious, and air assets at its disposal.
The Battle of Okinawa became an important part of overall U.S. Pacific military strategy. The goal of the Pacific campaign was to reach the "industrial heart of Japan," southern Honshu between Shimonoseki and the Tokyo plain. This strategy entailed taking successive steps towards mainland Japan, which has been called island hopping in the Pacific. One plan, code-named "Operation Causeway, considered Formosa as the next island in the Pacific in the spring of 1945. Allied occupation of Formosa would enable them to provide support to China as well as establish air bases to bomb mainland Japan. "Operation Iceberg," an alternative plan, called for the invasion of the Ryukus, the island chain that contains Okinawa. The Ryukus were within medium bomber range of mainland Japan and would provide airfields for both bombers and fighters. Okinawa would provide good anchorage, and the islands would help establish support positions for the invasion of first, Kyushu, and eventually industrial Honshu.
The Formosa plan was rejected because military planners believed that the island could be neutralized without an invasion. On October 5, 1944, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz advised his command that the plan for Formosa had been deferred and that General Douglas MacArthur would invade Luzon in December of 1944. Then the Pacific forces were to seize Iwo Jima on January 20, 1945 and positions in the Ryukyus by March 1, 1945.
The commanders for "Operation Iceberg" would be Admiral Raymond Spruance and Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher, Task Force 58; Vice Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner, Task Force 51; and Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner, the 10th Army. Major General Roy S. Geiger would lead the 3rd Amphibious Corps with three Marine Divisions, the 1st, 2nd, and 6th, and four Army infantry divisions, the 24th Corps, made up of the 7th, 27th, 77th, and the 96th. The total number of assault troops for the initial landing was estimated at 182,821 men. The landing, Love Day, would be April 1, 1945.
The campaign on Okinawa involved eight U.S. divisions, support units, and naval assets. If one were telling the story of the Navy on Okinawa, the stories would be about kamikazes and the largest loss of life in the U.S. Navy’s history. The Army would recount tales of places called Hacksaw, Ie Shima, the Pinnacle, and Kakazu. The 1st Marine Division would remember Wana Draw, Shuri Castle, and Kunishi.
The 6th Marine Division, which "took" the majority of the island of Okinawa, organized September 7, 1944 and Major General Lemuel C. Shepherd became its commander. Although few marines other than Shepherd knew the destination, the division had been planning and training for a landing for months before their departure from Guadalcanal in March 1945. After a rest and rendezvous stop at the Ulithi atoll, in the Carolines, the division’s briefings and preparation began in earnest.
The fleet began moving into place around the Ryukyu Island chain in March. The first kamikaze assault of the Okinawan campaign occurred on March 18, 1945. The navy began "softening up" the island on March 21 with naval bombardment. The softening up would make the landing easier for the assault troops when they came ashore. Naval bombardments would remove walls, foliage, and other barriers as well as kill troops. The Okinawan came to refer to the bombardment of Okinawa as the "Typhoon of Steel." The Kerama Islands that were off the coast of Okinawa were occupied March 25 through March 28 by members of the tenth Army, which gave the Allies a place for fuel replenishment and pre-invasion bases.
The landing began early on Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945. The first waves went in at 8:30 A.M. The landings were to take place on the west coast of Okinawa on the Hagushi beaches, known as Green Beach and Red Beach by the landing troops. The plan called for U.S. forces to spread out and sever the island in two. The Marines of the 1st and 6th Divisions were to move west to east and then go north. After landing, the Army headed south. On Love Day, the 2nd Marines were to conduct a diversionary operation on the southern end of Okinawa. The expected bloody landing never materialized. The 10th Army strolled onto the island with little opposition.
The left flank of the 10th Army became the Sixth’s zone of action. The 4th, the 22nd, and the 15th Regiments, the lead contingents for the Sixth, achieved their first day’s objective by 10:30 A.M. The 10th Army controlled Yontan and Kadena airfields. By that evening the 29th Regiment, which had been held in reserve and had not anticipated an Easter landing, were on land. Equipment and 60,000 troops were on shore by the end of the first day, which was beyond the scheduled L-2 objective. By L-7, the Marines had secured Nago, Okinawa’s second largest city, and were headed further north. The division would run into resistance on the Motobu Peninsula especially on the well-fortified positions around Mount Yaedake in mid-April. Organized resistance on the northern two-thirds of the island would end April 20. The division thought its job finished.
However, word began to filter back that events were not going smoothly in the south. The Army had mired down. One of the Army units, the 27th already had a reputation for having preformed poorly in previous island fighting. Now the Marines were being ordered to bail them out. In April General Alexander Vandergrift, Marine Corps Commandant, visited the island and discussed an amphibious assault on the southern end of the island rather than Buckner’s plan of continued frontal assault. This has become a major point of debate in the battle’s history. The debate revolves around the contention that a southern assault would have been less costly. Buckner prevailed and at the end of April, the Marines began replacing the Army on the front lines. They were about to run head on into the Shuri-Yonaburu Line.
The Japanese military had been unsure of where the Allies might land next and had removed troops from Okinawa to Formosa. This condemned the 32nd Army to fight a defensive battle. Rather than meeting the 10th Army at the beachhead, as in previous encounters, they would move to the Shuri-Yonburu line, a high ridge that essentially cut the island in two, just north of Naha on the eastern side of the island and its center the pride of the Okinawans, Shuri Castle. The 32nd Army’s goal was to inflict as much damage from that spot as possible. From the walls of Shuri Castle, the 32nd Army’s headquarters, Ushijima and his staff watched the Americans land. They positioned their many guns, the Japanese soldiers dug interconnecting tunnels, and they waited.
A problem for the 10th Army would be the rain, which by May 9 had begun in earnest. Everything became muddy. Moving supplies and equipment proved almost impossible and often had to be accomplished hand-over-hand. Asa Kawa River seemed to be the biggest obstacle between the 6th Marine Division and Naha, the capital of Okinawa. The river would be breeched by the 22nd Regiment a yard at a time. Then all that stood between the division and Naha were three "insignificant" hills, Half Moon, Horseshoe and Sugar Loaf.
May 12 through May 18 would be filled with some of the most savage fighting in Marine Corps lore. The Shuri-line cut the island in half east to west. It consisted of mutually supported defensive positions, which consisted of mortar, artillery, machine guns, and interconnected tunnel complexes. These tunnels, an estimated sixty miles of interconnected passages, made movement and flanking maneuvers easy for the Japanese. In addition, the Marines ran into what they referred to as "spider holes." Flush with the ground and covered with brush or dirt, these hideaways kept the men constantly vigilant about what might be behind them. The Marines had found the flank of Ushijima’s Shuri-line of defense and the Japanese were unwilling to give it up without a tremendous payment. Finally, under the cover of darkness, during a rainstorm, the remnants of the 32nd Army would head farther south. They would prepare for a final stand on the southern tip of Okinawa. They left Sugar Loaf and the Marines of the Sixth to recover their dead and wounded. The Sixth suffered over 2,000 casualties. Sugar Loaf would be assaulted eleven times; some companies would be literally wiped out twice.
Once again, the Marine command staff would attempt to convince Buckner to make an amphibious landing. Finally Buckner concurred. The Marines would have their amphibious assault on the Oroku Peninsula. They had less than thirty-six hours to plan the landing. The Japanese naval forces had made the Oroku Peninsula their base of operation. They were ordered south along with the Army. The naval contingent, under Admiral Ota, chose to stay in their elaborate cave system on the Oroku and fight to the last man. After two days, the Naha airfield fell into American hands and the Sixth secured the peninsula within ten more days. Very few Japanese prisoners were taken.
The land flattened as the men moved south. Cane fields, terrified civilians desperate Japanese, as well as small hills, almost always fortified, made the fighting treacherous and chaotic. The last battle for the Sixth on Okinawa, Mezado Ridge, occurred on June 17. On June 21, 1945, George Company, 22nd Regiment, the same outfit that raised the flag on the northern end, did the honors on the southern end. The Battle for Okinawa was over.
The Sixth Marine Division
The Sixth was formed on Guadalcanal in September of 1944 under the command of Major General Lemuel Shepard, a veteran of the First World War, who had been commanding the 1st Marine Brigade on Guam. The core of the division was made up of battle-hardened Marines, some of whom were veterans of Eniwetok, some of whom had fought on Saipan. These hardened veterans of the Central and Western Pacific were augmented with replacement troops newly arrived from the United States and by special troops such as corpsman, reconnaissance, tanks, engineers, and other auxiliary units.
This combination of the battle-hardened and the untested created a new outfit, the 6th Marine Division. In addition to battle-hardened Marines, the Sixth supplemented its ranks with Marines who had previously held stateside billets. This became possible after 1943 when women Marines, the Women’s Reserve, began taking over clerical and other non-combat positions stateside. Their numbers grew to 18,000, and this substantial expansion freed able-bodied men to go overseas. The Commandant of the Marine Corps from 1944 to 1947, General Alexander A. Vandegrift, said that the addition of women to the Corps accounted for the ability to put "the 6th Marine Division in the field." The division was composed of four regiments: The 15th Marines, which was the artillery regiment and was comprised of artillery units previously attached to other units; the former Raider Battalions, which became the 4th Marine Regiment who once had been the "China Marines"; the 29th Marine Regiment, which was brought up from battalion to regimental strength; the 22nd Marine Regiment, which was the first Marine regiment organized for independent duty after the United States entered the war, completed the 6th Marine Division. After training as a unit on Guadalcanal for five months, they felt ready for the challenges that were in their future.
The Sixth, although a new division, entered the Battle of Okinawa with more combat experience than any of the other Marine divisions in their initial assaults. However, the 6th Division would be a new untested element for General Ushijima’s 32nd Japanese Army. As the "typhoon of steel" rained on Naha, Okinawa’s capital, the local Japanese newspaper finished its final issue, warning, "This 6th Marine Division is a fresh unit. Among the badly mauled enemy it is a tiger cub and their morale is high." The newspaper concluded that defeating the Sixth would be the key to Japan’s victory.
The Sixth Marine Division served on Okinawa with designation, but at great cost. They are credited for taking much of the island and raising the American flag on both ends of the island. By June 21, 1945, the battles end, 8,277 had been killed or wounded. For outstanding service on Okinawa the Sixth Marine Division, Reinforced received the Presidential Unit Citation. Five members of the Sixth received the Medal of Honor, three posthumously.
After the surrender of the Japanese, the Fourth Regiment was one of two units given the distinction of make the first landing on Japanese soil, the first such landing in three thousand years of Japanese history. The remainder of the Sixth Marine Division went to Shantung Peninsula in North China to assist the Chinese with the Japanese surrender and repatriation in Tsingtao. That task completed the Sixth was deactivated April 1, 1946.
The Sixth Marine Division patch, a design suggest by the 6th’s commander Lemuel Shepherd, is a circle of blue with a gold "6" which covers a silver sword. The patch is bordered in red and bears the wording Melanesia, Micronesia, and Orient. The patch is reflective of the places that the Sixth served.
A WWII Marine
A composite picture of the average Marine during the Second World War would be a nineteen-year-old who entered the Corps between 1941 and 1945. He was Caucasian, five-feet-nine inches tall, and weighed about 140 pounds. He most often came from the rural south or the urban north, had two-to-four siblings, a father and mother at home, where the father remained the primary breadwinner. Marines were mostly Protestant, but Catholics were almost equally represented. They did not drink, smoke, or display tattoos. Most of them had spent very little time away from home. Of course, there were both seasoned veterans and newly-recruited Marines, sixteen-year-olds who lied about their age shared the rank of PFC with thirty-four-year old men. Veterans remember many of the older men having served prior to the war in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Some had even been given the choice of "doing time" or joining the Corps. The men came from both "nice" families and from families that were less savory, educated or uneducated.
The men who fought the Second World War were the children of the Great Depression. When Germany began the assault on Europe in 1939, there were still between 8,000,000 and 9,000,000 unemployed in the United States. Not until 1943, two years after Pearl Harbor, did joblessness disappear for most Americans. Hard times were nothing new. A Sixth veteran explained that many of the men he knew had never had indoor plumbing before boot camp. The seasoning of this generation had come long before the first invasion of a Pacific island or before boot camp, whether boot camp took place at Parris Island, South Carolina or San Diego, California. The prospect of a job, any job, shaped this generation. They, writes historian Gerald F. Linderman, "brought with them into the service the values they attached to work." The very ideals of democracy were tested during the thirties in a country founded on the ethic that hard work brings success. The idea that the United States was a land of milk and honey was seriously tested. The Dust Bowl swirled, unemployment skyrocketed, communism momentarily appeared to be an option, and every aspect of society felt the strain. Still, because of the National Origins Act of 1924, a sharp decline in immigration had occurred and resulted in a far more homogeneous group than had existed before in the United States. Without the influx of peoples from different lands, there was a burgeoning sense of national identity, of shared historical experience. Despite hard times, this generation that grew up during the thirties also witnessed a resurgence of patriotism.
Not everyone who lived through the thirties struggled continuously. Although times were difficult, movies became an inexpensive diversion for this generation. In fact, many men mentioned choosing the Marines because of movies they had seen. Movies helped foster patriotism and a preference for the Marine Corps. From the early days of filmmaking, the Marine Corps recognized Hollywood’s potential and used motion pictures as a part of their "public relations operations." Although other branches also used Hollywood to highlight their image, the Marine Corps mastered it. From the Star Spangled Banner (1917) and The Unbeliever (1918), the Marines used movies to help create the images of the Corps as an elite unit. What Price the Glory (1926) was one early movie that made an impression. After the movie appeared in theaters, the Marines reported more recruits than anytime since the First World War. The director, Raoul Walsh, explained that years later a general told him that he had joined the Marines after seeing What Price the Glory. Early movies such as Tell it to the Marines (1927), Devil Dogs of the Air (1935), and The Singing Marine (1937) helped entice many men into the Marine Corps before Pearl Harbor. These pre-war movies "showed the boys having fun and meeting broads."
The Marines on Okinawa, many of whom had been too young to enlist before Pearl Harbor or even during the early war years, would continue to be conditioned with movies such as To the Shores of Tripoli (1942), Wake Island (1942), Guadalcanal Diary (1943), Gung Ho! (1943), and Marine Raiders (1944). Hollywood discovered quickly that even in wartime the industry could combine propaganda, patriotism, and exciting entertainment. Many of the Marines who enlisted went looking for that excitement. These enlistees believed, even prior to boot camp indoctrination, that the Marine Corps was different from the other services.
In April 1945, Ernie Pyle became acquainted with the Pacific marines and tried to describe, "Who they were." He wrote that their battles in the Pacific had been so fierce that his imagination had turned them into men from Mars and that he was almost afraid of them. Instead he found them "confident but neither cocky or smart-aleckey. They had fears, and qualms and hatred for the war the same as anybody else. They want to go home as badly as any soldier I’ve ever met." Pyle tried to understand the minds of the Marines he had chosen to follow. He found them young, sentimental, and compassionate, bowing to Okinawan civilians on the road and adopting animals of all sorts as pets. They were Americans, with all the contradictions that the word implies. He finally concluded that the "marines do not thirst for battles. I’ve read and heard enough about them to have no doubts whatever about the things they can do when they have to. They are o.k. for my money, in battle and out."
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