Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
War and Society
The memory of the battle of Okinawa was shaped by politics. The memory of the battle for Okinawans emphasizes war crimes committed against them and the devastating impact that was inflicted upon their peaceful island. Their emphasis on sole victimization led to other Okinawan narratives being either downplayed or outright denied. To remove American bases off their island, gain recognition for Japanese atrocities plus reparations, the Okinawans portrayed themselves as a peaceful people that were the sole victims of the battle of Okinawa. The United States glossed over the crimes committed by the Japanese on Okinawa and Asia to use Japan as a bulwark against what they perceived as communist aggression in Asia. To solidify this new alliance, the United States promoted reconciliation instead of punishment. In doing so, they willingly forget atrocities committed by the Japanese against Asian nationals. Americans also remember the battle in conjunction with the dropping of two atomic bombs and to justify their morally superior position to the Soviet Union, promote a more complex picture of the decision to use the bombs. This included discussing how Okinawa changed the American leader’s perspectives on a mainland Japan invasion. As a result, has become increasingly difficult to separate Okinawa and the bombs because of their temporal closeness. The Japanese tend to remember the battle as a heroic last stand and emphasize sacrifice to inspire future generations partly out of fear that Japanese youth have gone soft, ultimately demonstrating that Japan has not fully come to terms with her memory of the Second World War.
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Altenberg, Blake, "In the Shadow of Shuri Castle: The Battle of Okinawa in Memory" (2019). War and Society (MA) Theses. 2.
Available for download on Tuesday, October 15, 2019